Posted tagged ‘trouble’

The country must be in trouble when the post office has just one counter employee the week before Christmas

December 17, 2010

I think it’s fair to say that this is one of the busiest letter-, card-, and package-mailing times of the year. Everyone’s trying to make sure his items arrive before Christmas Eve. So it really shocked me when I showed up at the Porter Square post office (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) yesterday to discover just one person was working the counter. It was about 4 p.m., and there must have been 20 people ahead of me in line.

I wouldn’t have minded the crowd so much if several of the transactions hadn’t taken five-plus minutes (the first one I witnessed surely lasted more than 10 minutes). I don’t necessarily blame the individual customers or the guy behind the counter, but I do blame the post office for not having had another employee working. But maybe it’s all due to Americans’ non-willingness to pay higher taxes. Maybe it’s partially my fault. Either way, it took nearly an hour for me to buy a couple books of stamps.

Another real pity is this particular post office no longer has stamp-dispensing machines. A couple of people in line besides myself just needed stamps as well, and publicly lamented there wasn’t this technology available. The guy behind the counter just responded: “We used to have it (the machine); now we don’t.” What more was he going to say anyway? It’d probably just make him angry explaining why they had to get rid of the machine. He was already experiencing a stressful enough day and didn’t need that added annoyance.

I was impressed with the man’s calmness when I arrived at the front of the line. The label-printing machine wasn’t working for a minute, but instead of getting upset he jokingly said “Wow, this is a great day for this to happen.” He kept his cool, adjusted the machine, and it started working again. He was quite polite, and I tried to be as nice as possible, too, knowing he has a difficult job (Did you know that the term “going postal” actually came about following a series of incidents involving postal workers shooting and killing fellow employees and others?).

Anyway, I’m saddened the federal government doesn’t have enough money to staff the counter of this post office with more than one employee on one of the busiest mailing days of the year (that is, if that was the reason for just one employee working), but am glad the one who was there was quite kind.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/sushiesque/68524998

Reminiscing about reporting

April 7, 2010

Now that I am no longer reporting the news I’m starting to reminisce about my reporting experiences. There were certainly many of them, but recently I’ve been thinking about some of the experiences that got me in trouble.

Lots of times they were over seemingly little things, but for whatever reason my actions really upset people. Now I realize I could have been more sensitive to the people I was writing about while still conveying the truth.

For example:

1. One time I wrote a story about a group of village residents who opposed a proposed housing development. They ended up suing the village planning board, claiming it gave the project an insufficient environmental review.  The residents won the suit, though that wasn’t enough to keep the project from happening. At a meeting where the planning board approved the project a second time residents expressed their disdain. Some yelled, some stormed out of the room, and some cried. Well, I mentioned that one specific woman rushed out of the room crying. She had been very vocal about the lawsuit. I ended up getting an angry letter from her a few days later saying I had humiliated her. She hadn’t left her home in days. Looking back, I suppose I should have instead written that she was “visibly upset,” or at least not singled her out.

2. One time I wrote a story about how the mayor was threatening to lay off a group of village employees who wanted to unionize. He said it publicly at a village board meeting. Well, my mistake was that I used the word “fire” in my article instead of the words “lay off.” At the time I thought that a layoff was a type of firing. Well technically it is, but the problem is that many people interpret “firing someone” to mean the person was dismissed for doing something wrong. Even though that’s not the dictionary definition, it’s the association that people make.  A layoff, on the other hand, typically results from financial pressure. So I was suggesting that the mayor was threatening to let go village employees for something bad they did, when it really was because increased village salaries would force him to do so. Boy was the mayor mad at me. He publicly humiliated me for months. But at least I learned my lesson. (more…)