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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Apparently this guy is managing my neighborhood post office.

And this guy is one of my letter carriers.

So's this one.

So I just met the real life Neuman! I didn't meet him in person. I don't know if he looks like Wayne Knight, but it had to be the mail guy on whom that character was based.

I didn't get any mail today. Some of you might consider that a good thing, if all you were expecting were bills or Dear John/Jane letters. I was expecting money...from someone else to me. So, at least on this day, I was looking forward to my always on time, there every day, usually in the neighborhood United States Postal Service letter carrier.

But he didn't show. And more important than him bringing me money that may or may not have arrived today anyway, he didn't take my outgoing mail, which included a bill, along the way.

So I called the post office, and Neuman answered the phone.

Neuman: Yeeeeees?

Me: Is this the (yada yada) Street Post Office?

Neuman: Yeeeeees. (Seriously, picture or imagine that guy who used to do the annoying train conductor's and department store salesman's voice on the old Jack Benny Radio Show and you'll get the voice.)

Me: Well, I'm calling from the 1900 block of (yada yada) Street. And I don't think we got mail delivery today.

Neuman: Hold on.

Me: OK.

Neuman, five minutes later: He went home already.

Me: Why? He didn't come to our block.

Neuman: Weeeell, why would you say that?

Me: Well, because it's after 5 p.m., I know the post office is now closed for the day, and the only thing in my mailbox is the bill my wife placed in it early this morning to be picked up.

Neuman: Hmmm. So you'd like me to assume that because a letter of yours wasn't picked up that your whole block was skipped?

Me: Well, if our whole block wasn't skipped - and assuming the letter carrier didn't just innocently, accidentally overlook us - then you guys have some 'splainin' to do.

Neuman: No we don't!

Me: Don't snap at me. I've kept a civil tone with you. But since we're playing semantics, if you want me to assume the rest of my block was serviced today, then should I also assume the letter carrier purposely skipped just me?

Neuman: Noooooooo.

Me: OK, so I should assume he skipped the whole block?

Neuman: Nooooooo.

Me: Who are you, Gary Cooper? (Actually, I didn't say this. But I really wanted to.)

Me, for real: OK, so maybe he just forgot and missed us. If that's the case, then no worries. But you can't blame me for calling out of concern, 'cause this isn't the first time we "apparently" haven't gotten mail service.

Neuman: Noooooo. That's not fair of you either. This is a veteran letter carrier who had your route today. He's very familiar with your route. There's no way he forgot to deliver anything.

Me: OK, so back to my original point. I should assume he skipped me or the whole block?

Neuman: Nooooooo, neither. But he maybe he came to your neighborhood and just decided to not take your outgoing mail today.

Me: Why? Was the envelope too heavy or something? It's been picked up every other day.

Neuman: Sooooooo. Postal regulations say that a letter carrier doesn't have to take your outgoing mail if he doesn't want to, unless your mailbox is curbside.

Me: You're familiar with this neighborhood, considering this block is just four blocks from your post office?

Neuman: Yeeeeees.

Me: Then you know the layout is such that there is a grassy swale lining all the sidewalks, so we can't have curbside mailboxes. They have to be "inland" a few feet, next to our houses.

Neuman: Yeeeeees.

Me: And that doesn't matter?

Neuman: Nope!

Popcorn break: At this point, I'm no longer annoyed that my mail didn't get picked up. I won't assume it didn't get delivered, 'cause maybe I didn't have anything.

Me: Listen, I'm not blaming you for my mail not getting picked up. But regardless of this curbside regulation every time I've placed an outgoing piece of mail in my box in the nearly two years I've lived here it got picked up. And that was probably because the letter carriers on this route realize that we can't put our boxes on the curb, so it's not fair to apply that regulation to us. So if you're right, and today's letter carrier was a veteran who knows this neighborhood, then just admit it. He forgot! Or he skipped us! Maybe it was an accident. But quit trying to be coy, and deal with it.

Neuman: I told you, he's gone home for the day. But that's what you get when your route doesn't have a permanent letter carrier. If you're not happy with the service you can always rent a P.O. box. But it could be like this another couple of months.

Me: I'm not paying you guys to hold my mail. You get tax bucks to deliver it for "free." And that permanent letter carrier excuse is bogus. Our letter carrier retired about six months ago, before Christmas.

Neuman: His paperwork hasn't officially gone through the system yet, so we can't say his job is available until it does. And that means we can't fill his job.

Me: You're kidding. This is the efficiency of the postal service? He hasn't delivered anything in six months. He's retired. We've had a different substitute letter carrier almost every day of the week since then. And you guys can't hire someone yet, even though the old guy is probably laying on the beach somewhere (good for him) sipping a cold one?

Neuman: That's the way it goes.

Me: Unbelievable. If I want to write a letter to someone at your neighborhood post office, to whom should I address it?

Neuman: Manager.

Me: Is that his first or last name?

Neuman: I'm not telling you who. Just address it to manager.

Me: Thanks for your help. Mumble. Hope the letter gets delivered.

Neuman: What?

Me: Nothing. Thanks for your help.

Neuman: Surrrrrre. Thanks for calling the post office!


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  • When it comes to civil servants, 10% if them are doing most of the work; the rest are usually just skating.

    By Blogger BobG, at 8:54 PM  

  • No one would blame you if you went um, postal.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 10:02 PM  

  • Thanks for your commment. I don't have time right now to read your blog, so I will come back later (prob. while I am working) and read! I love the Shield too, I just started watching Season's so addictive!

    By Blogger Jenny!, at 10:35 PM  

  • Freaks, most of them.

    By Anonymous og, at 11:33 PM  

  • This isn't all that hard to figure out there James. Your mail carrier had high hopes of scoring with paris hilton whom got thrown in jail at which you laughed hysterically. Karma? payback? I dont know, but sounds good to me. Hmmm, judging from the comment a few back you are a fellow shield watcher. I myself have season five disc one sitting right in front of me from the good folks over at netflix. I will be watching it tomorrow(presuming I don't get called in to work). Love that show


    By Blogger briliantdonkey, at 12:55 AM  

  • What a jerk! You managed to keep your cool though, which is far more than I would have done.
    Postal workers must be the same the world over...I may get mail through my door, but it usually belongs to someone who doesn't actually live here :)

    By Blogger Miss Understood, at 2:41 AM  

  • And yet the bills always find us, don't they?

    Am I the only one who finds the "curbside mailbox rule" to be a load o' bull? It's not like you have yours hidden in a tunnel beneath the property or anything...although there's a thought for you if you aren't busy this weekend ;)

    Anyway, I do empathize, as I live in Italy where Poste Italiane, is, um, well, it's Sunday so I shouldn't curse.

    Hope your check arrives soon!

    By Blogger sognatrice, at 6:00 AM  

  • Ha!

    Funny post. Not surprising, but funny anyway.

    Thanks for stopping by. People are idiots and assholes the world over and I think we should band together on calling them out.


    By Blogger ADW, at 8:41 AM  

  • James, James, James - There are rules about postal workers you know. Never complain, and never look them in the eye. After all, they know where you live.

    By Blogger Lee, at 8:48 AM  

  • giggles. Sorry you had that call, but it was funny. There are Neumans all over the post office. I had to call them to get a years worth of hours for postal worker (client at the office) and it took 1 month to find where to send the request for it. Upon follow up I was told HR moved to one of the Carolinas and they are not allowed to give out that information. 2 weeks later we got all the records from somewhere in Hartford.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:23 AM  

  • aaaaaaaaahhhh ..... I don't know if I'd want to eff with the only business in town that will pickup/deliver my mail. Maybe someone with an unusual sense of humor lowered your flag?

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 10:44 AM  

  • James,

    I can identify with the back-and-forth there. Yesterday, I got into a ten-minute argument w/ the manager of a gas station after having apparently caught a "jump charge" scam where the pump charged me $2.05 before pumping any gas. I wouldn't have caught it if the pump hadn't made an error and ended the transaction, printing out a credit card receipt as I was still trying to pump gas.

    It's a dog-eat-dog world.

    By Blogger Matt, at 11:25 AM  

  • I would have DEMANDED that he tell me the name of the manager. That ain't right. How do you stay so calm?

    I've always thought that if I was a black man I'd be wearing a suit w/ a bow tie.

    By Blogger Matt, at 11:26 AM  

  • A co-worker and I were just commenting on how government jobs are the best to have because you pretty have to be a slacker to be in the government.

    By Blogger C, at 2:44 PM  

  • Loved the mumbled part.

    By Blogger Freddie, at 4:02 PM  

  • That is VERY aggravating!!!! It makes me sad to know that our government works this way. and 41 cents? BOOOOOO

    By Anonymous Karmyn R, at 5:01 PM  

  • I've been very lucky. So many people that I knwo have had so many bad experiences dealing with the post office. Other than the annoying waiting in line I have not had these problems. YET!

    Hopefully it will stay that way.

    By Blogger Jay, at 9:53 PM  

  • You know arguing with those people is always a loosing proposition.

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 10:45 PM  

  • i don't know how your mail system works but if the postal delivery guy didn't have anything to deliver to you then he had no reason to even look in your mailbox, unless you have a little flag thingo you stand up when there's something inside, so the outgoing mail would still be sitting there.

    By Anonymous insomniac, at 11:12 PM  

  • dude... i would turn that jackass in for his attitude. totally. jackasses. wow. eewww i hated neuman.

    By Blogger Yas, at 11:32 PM  

  • Fought with my own neuman for 4 years. finally got a good carrier.

    I'm always sure to thank him personally for his service.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 12:17 AM  

  • The chicken man from Toy Story is sorting your mail, ahahhaa, I love that.

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 2:11 AM  

  • Sorry to hear about the ordeal -- that phone must've been quite frustrating, though you've made it entertaining for the rest of us.

    And now that it matters... but before I moved a week or two ago, I had several packages that were never delivered. They're presumed stolen.

    But that was UPS, believe it or not.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 10:44 AM  

  • James, you do know you're not supposed to use your home mailbox for outgoing mail, don't you? That's prime identity-theft bait.

    Not that excuses the mailman (I'm not politically correct enough to call them 'letter carriers') from picking up mail.

    My public service announcement is done!

    By Blogger SWF41, at 10:44 AM  

  • bobG, I worked a civil service job to pay for college, and I swear some of my older co-workers used to tell me on a regular basis, "Slow down! That's good enough for government work."

    HeartsinSanFran, it crossed my mind...but only for a sec.

    Jenny, thanks for the visit. See you back here, and I'll be checking out more of your posts too.

    Og, I always picture the angry kid I went to school with.

    Briliant, your explanation makes as much sense as anyone else's. And I'm enjoying the new season of the Shield. Gritty stuff. But well-written, I think.

    Miss Understood, I think P.W.'s probably speak a universal "language."

    Sognatrice, I thought that was bull too. I'll stop by later and gather that thought from you.

    adw, thanks. I consider this blog a means of therapy.

    lee, thought of that too. but if he ain't armed, he'd better forget where i live when his shift ends each day.

    myreflectingpool, based on my conversation, your experience w/them sounds about right. tsk tsk.

    sarc, my neighbors know me as the guy who looks nice but has the temperament of a grumpy old man and has cops as friends - cops who periodically make a show of their presence by stopping by to say hello and share a laugh outside where the rest of the block can see them. nobody would mess with the flag on my mailbox. besides, when i got home from running errands earlier in the day the flag was still up.

    matt, that gas pump thing is frustrating. i was tired of talking to the guy. i figured i'd have better luck trying to find the boss on my own. as for the look, i've always liked bowties, but a) i've never been good at tying them, b) at my last job when i seriously considered wearing them with my suits i met another guy - he was in management - who wore 'em, and he was so vain about his appearance i didn't want to give him excuse to accuse me of copying him, and c) the once or twice i've experimented with wearing bowtie and suit i got confused with a nation of islam guy and had people thinking i was trying to sell them copies of "the final call (the nat. of islam's newspaper)."

    c, like i said above i had old co-workers at my govt. job in college whose favorite line was "...good enough for government work."

    freddie, i lost my nerve at that moment - even though i was certain the guy didn't know me and couldn't necessarily track me down.

    karmyn r, based on that guy's definition of quality service, stamps should be 10 cents each.

    jay, you have been lucky. better hope my guy doesn't get transferred to your kneck of the woods.

    grizz, i know. but the argument is so therapeutic.

    insomniac, my mailbox has a flag on it. and it was up.

    yas, soon as i figure out who the manager is i am going to share a few words about this guy.

    hammer, on those rare days that i'm around when they show up, i always thank the letter carriers - even the substitutes. mrs. b thinks it's weird, but i want them to know i understand having a thankless job (not my current job, of course, in case my bosses are reading).

    cazzie, yeah, that's right! i had to ask a co-worker w/small children who had watched toy story about that reference. but they explained. you are correct!

    thirdworst, that is messed up. i've never had mail stolen - not that i know of anyway. ups is good though. i'll bet they replace it or pay you for it.

    swf41, you make a good point. as paranoid as i am, maybe mrs. b and me should start taking our outgoing stuff directly to the mailbox, the real mail box.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:00 PM  

  • You should let up on your mailman. My moms works for the PO and you wouldn't believe the crap they have to put up with for their pay. Lots of overtime and no one appreciates your job when it is being done extremely well.

    Face it, most mail and postal service works pretty damn well in this country, considering at least 300 million pieces of paper or parcels a day make it to their intended interstate, intrastate and international destinations within 5 days.

    I know it may be hard for some of you to fathom that the postman (or woman) has a difficult job (I mean, how hard can it be to stop at each and every address or APO and make the correct pickup and delivery six days per week, right?), but they have to contend with weather, animals, heat, poor penmanship, and being seriously underappreciated. I realize that your beef is that your particular postman forgot his credor and that his superiors didn't seem to mind, but lighten up, JB.

    Do you realize that for only $0.39, you can send a message of almost inexhaustable length (about 6 pages) to anyone in the USA. The taxes alone on an inter- or intra- state long distance call exceed this amount. Faxes cost money for both sender and receiver (paper, modem time, phone taxes and fees). You can send unlimited messages on e-mail for about $1.30 per day (plan for $33 per month plus taxes and fees), spend ungodly sums on text messaging or crackberry ($0.10-20 per message after plan minutes expire) or satellite phones.

    Which leaves us with the good old $0.39 stamp (which will go up to $0.41 soon). Right now, you can't even make a pay phone call for less than $0.50. Again, a great bargain considering the volume and mass of mail sent in the US. This amount goes down if you send a postcard or mail in bulk. And what's worse--junk mail, junk phone calls or spam? Junk mail never has to get into your house, unlike spam and junk calls.

    So JB, if your mailman didn't pick up your letter and you were too lazy or stubborn to drive the four blocks to the PO and put the letter in the box (which is the best way to avoid ID thieves), then it should sit there for another day. True, the PO should get it together on your block, but that is not indicative of postal service in this region. Most mail sent in the tri county region reaches its destination within 2 days. Amazing when you think of all 6-7 million down here people sending in their FPL bill or paying their mortgage and none of it is late.

    BTW, if someone is sending you money in the mail (only by check, bank draft or money order--never cash), you should tell them to invest a little extra cash and send it registered mail, return receipt requested. That way you have to sign for it when you get it and they get a postcard telling them you got it.

    It's either that or use Express Mail or Western Union you cheap bastard.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 12:04 PM  

  • BD, bite me. On second thought, I wouldn't like that. But let me help you down off the soap box. You and I both know I wasn't knocking all gun-toters, I mean letter carriers. I was talking about the one(s) who aren't getting it right on my block, and about their chowder-headed weekend manager who thought we were playing a 20-questions-like semantics game on the phone. Sure, they get a lot of mail delivered where it should. But this bozo I talked to shouldn't have been a flippant jerk about it. And BTW, I don't send my bills out late, so there's no need for Western Union. I send my stuff early. If the P.O. wants to cover the $14 or $16 or whatever it is, then I'll bypass them and start using Western Union.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:58 PM  

  • Bawhaha tell 'em, James!

    By Blogger Christina_the_wench, at 2:04 PM  

  • James,

    My husband used to be a letter carrier and a supervisor at the post office and, unfortunately, most of what this guy told you is true. Except he could have given you the manager's name. You can call there during daytime hours and ask for the manager and get his name and his postmaster's name. You can also file a complaint at

    You got really bad customer service, and if you know Neuman's real name, you can file a complaint against him.

    Fact is, if you weren't getting any mail that day, the letter carrier had no reason to visit your box. Pick-up is apparently a courtesy, but I don't think most of us civilians know that. At least I didn't until I shared this with my husband.

    By Blogger katrice, at 10:01 PM  

  • Christina, I try. I don't think I'll win this one though.

    Katrice, I understand the rules. But we agree that Neuman's attitude is what took the cake here. It wasn't necessary. I'll get his name.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:18 AM  

  • 27 سال در جهت افزودن به کیسه سرمایه داران کارگر ایرانی در حاشیه قرار داده شد و نجس های افغانی با یک سوم دستمزد در ایران استخدام و پول نفت ایران در حلقوم کثیف افغان سرازیر شد.

    سنده خوکهای آمریکائی تو کس ننه افغانستانیهای مقیم ایران.
    Go outside of Iran Afghanian workers! Urine of Iranian will strew in your mother's mouth.We are fucking Afghanian BLOODSUCKERs.
    All Afghani workers in Iran are MotherFucker.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:40 AM  

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