Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Postie Life

If you have been following along you probably know at least two things about me.
  1. I haven't written anything in yonks.
  2. I have been 'working freelance' (aka unemployed) for the past, and I can't believe this part, two years.
Well I can believe the first year because I engineered a 12 month sabbatical quite purposefully, yet I never suspected that it might indeed extend into a fully two years leave of absence of 'working for the man' and yet here we are, or here I am. Quite strangely, at around that two year point ago now, I applied for a job that made me think, "hell that would be different, and I might really enjoy it". And here we are, almost exactly two years later, started thinking about a proper job again, when I get the call from a HR manager offering me a role with Australia Post part time, as a motorcycle postie. I snorted tea out of my nose at that point, then after recovering politely suggested that sounded like something I'd still be interested in.

Riding motorcycles for a living

Living the dream! That phone call was almost three months ago now, and for those few months I've gone through the whole process, the interviews, the background checks, the police checks, the medical, the reference checks, the training and finally, starting the actual job. It's quite a thorough process to get in.

Danger, danger everywhere

And here I am. Still alive, although it turns out that it is a pretty freaking insanely dangerous job to do, ride a mechanically retarded 110cc step through scooter on Aussie streets alongside B doubles, cages and other motoring enthusiasts. Just the other day a dude got eaten by a dog (okay it bit him, but he defensively rose his arm to cover the thing from literally eating his face), and then on the same day but a bit later a few blocks down the road from me, a guy got king hit clean off his bike by an ice addict who feigned to be lost and after asking directions, king hit the poor Postie who went to the ground and said ice addict stole his bike, smartphone and the mail et al. Like I said, dangerous shit. Sitting here now, a few months on, reflecting on my first few weeks as a postie it has been quite a hoot to be honest. At first I thought I might die, then I thought I have taken on more than I can, then I realised I just needed to give it some time and learn the 'run' before making rash decisions.

Postie Talk

So you are up with the lingo, here's a bit about the terminology of the moto-postie. Some are made up words, so just pronounce them phonetically.
  • Run - a selected number of streets in a sequential order that you deliver mail to.
  • Reggie - a registered letter. Often a registered letter means you need to stop the bike, get off and knock on the door of a house for a customer signature. If there is no customer, then a red card is left for the customer and you drop the letter/parcel off at the Post Office nearest to the customer.
  • Re-dies - all redirected mail. When a customer moves home, then can purchase this service from Australia Post and we will redirect all of your incoming mail from address A to address B.
  • Dead run - a part of your 'run' that has either no mail stops, or has stops you have already done but you need to retrace your steps to get to the next stop.
  • Throwing off - this is the process of taking your mail from the night sorters and allotting it to your run.
  • Stem - this is an upright filing system of sorts that you put your mail into by 'throwing it off'. Each postie generally has two or three stems depending on their run and employment type, full time or part time etc
  • Night sorters - these guys come in during the night and sort mail into suburbs so that we can throw them off at 6am.
  • Bundling - taking sorted mail from stem and bundling it up into small manageable bundles that can be put into your panniers (called Safe Packs)
  • Set up - the act of setting up has two phases. Setting up your bike with the bundles, and then on arrival at your run, setting up the bike by taking the bundles out and putting them into Safe Packs ready to do your run.
  • Householders - these are the pamphlets you get in your mailbox every day, well some days. Companies pay AusPost to have posties deliver these to every single house on a run. Yes, Junk Mail!
  • Points - each mailbox at a place of residence is worth one point. My part time run has roughly 700 points, a full time run, double that.
  • Postie - an Australia Post employee who delivers mail either my motorcycle, electric pushbike or on shanks pony (via foot eg walking a run).
That should do it for now, there is probably plenty more but I can't think of 'em right now.

Stranger Things

So here's the strangest thing about all of this, I thought I knew about riding motorcycles before I became a postie. Turns out I knew a little, but as always, there is much more to learn. The strangest thing I learned was that to stop from sliding down a hill you need to apply your rear brake, not your front. Of course, right? Not strange at all, just never thought about it before until someone said it out loud. Anyway, stuff. I have learned stuff. Much stuff, and the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Stuff about riding in all conditions on all surface types, stuff about maneuverability, stuff about throttle control and stuff about riding a bike with an automatic clutch. The throttle control thing is really cool, took a while to get used to, blipping the throttle while holding the front brake to gear down - this engages the automatic clutch on the little Honda NBC110. Turns out it works on normal bikes too. In many a way, it is overwhelmingly good fun and nothing like anything I have ever done before. In other ways it is incredibly repetitive and mind numbing after just a few weeks in a row. It can seem like ground hog day, each step, repeating over and over. But in a good undetectable kind of way. 

The Process Guy

However there is something process and goal oriented about throwing off the mail, that I quite enjoy. It's a consistency and speed based activity that requires concentration and accuracy which ticks a lot of my boxes. The better you setup and throw off, the easier it is to deliver on your run. Get things out of order, even just 1 letter not in sequence and it can be incredibly frustrating having to go backwards. Posties don't go backwards, just so you know. Enough for now. So my work life balance has just had a major shift and it all feels really pretty positive, I'm enjoying the camaraderie of having work mates again, and the biggest shift from being an office working button pushing monkey to being someone who works predominantly outdoors is pretty huge for me. I've never done anything so manually intensive in my life before. Not that it is a hugely physical role but again, I usually just push buttons for a living so this is big for me. Oh and on the bike front, a lot has changed too. Well, not a lot, shrunk maybe? But expanded in another way.

Even Stranger Things*

I swapped my DRZ for a Honda Grom.

But that's a whole other story for another day. Good to be back, say something in the comments below 😃 PS - did you know a postie bike has three kick stands? One on each side and a centre stand. Fascinating.

*Also, check out Netflix Original TV series, Stranger Things, if you get the chance, really good story and great for a binge session, or Netflix and Chill.