Archives for December 2013

Keeping the Endangered Alive at the Post Office

At the Schuyler Street Post Office, a mailing unit (that’s me) has time to watch other mailing units in their happy and un-happy incarnations. I will not do business in several of the other nearby postal stations. I especially avoid Rose City Park Station where the workers specialize in causing line-backup and frustration.

But at Schuyler Street Station, the workers have done a one-eighty on Rose City Station’s philosophy of service. At Schulyer Street, they know how to keep the customers coming back and the U.S. Postal Service in business. They are single-handedly going to keep the Postal Service from failure.

The tall African-American woman, the main postal service worker here, sets the tone. She flashes the most dis-arming smile. She searches for ways to make your package safe, your visit positive and your mail arrive on time. You don’t have the right tape? She’s got it, and helps you apply it. You don’t have the right form? She supplies it and tells you that as soon as you’ve filled it out, you are again the front of the line.

And every customer in line is willing to wait for her kind of service. The customers range from the guy tattooed with Nazi symbols and three packages going to Ohio to the lady with the tennis racket in her backpack, white skirt over snow pants and twenty boxes to mail to Indochina. I’m waiting to mail a book to one of my middle school students who has a short story published in the book. I’ve got the lightest load here.

One postal worker at Schuyler Street has injured her arm. Can’t do the work? Won’t get paid? Naw! At Schuyler Street, the management has found the perfect job for her. Expedite the line by asking the questions and putting the needed stickers on packages. Saves time and energy when you finally get to the mailing window. She’s happy to have the work while she recovers. We’re happy to have her speed the process.

This is the best place to do this necessary waiting at holiday time. There is tiredness, there is looking at watches, but there isn’t any blustery huffing and puffing in this post office. No huffing from the mailing units about bad service and no puffing from the postal workers about ungrateful clients.

The customers come here because they appreciate the service and they apply the Schuyler Street philosophy of patience and service to each other. This is clearly a neighborhood post office, where people greet each other and the postal workers by name. An older woman sporting a long gray braid is greeted with a hug by the spikey-haired youngster whose iffy parking skills I watched out the Schuyler Street window. As she tried to park her (moms?) van, other drivers sat and waited, When she had boogied and back-filled into the parallel parking, waiting drivers, (without honking) went on to spaces farther away. (She had taken the space of two). (Baltimore and Detroit, note the lack of impatient honking here).Save the Faux! 095845.jpg

However, I must admit that I am put off by one woman ahead of me in line. I’m counting the number of animals worn by this single mailing unit: Faux rabbit vest, Faux cattle boots, Faux Palomino purse, Faux onyx-eye buttons on vest. Where is the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Faux?

Maybe the SPCF should have a PO Box at Schuyler Street Station. And the endangered Faux still in existence should find sanctuary in the mail room.

Mr. Bulging Tattoo emerges as Mr. Pin Striped Suit

At Weidler Street Gym, we have timid tattoos, bold tattoos and the vicious. Some vicious images appear on the mildest folks. Snarling cougars cover the guy now smiling at the old lady. He steps aside so that she can use the Cybex that is next on his To-Do list.

Some permanent inks fit the wearer. At Weidler Street, we’ve seen a beautiful design of roses entwined with thorns. These appear on the lady who can’t look anyone in the eye, the one so engrossed in self and image that she sees only the mirror. All else around her might be phantoms. She knows not one name of fellow iron pumpers, and recognizes only the general shape and hair type of those who get in her way.

On the other side of the room, sweat rolls from the Iris, who, as beautiful as her image, watches for others, notices when someone fragile has been gone for a time. Asks after the missing and the injured.

free_dragon_tattoo_01sThe gentleman, whose dragon tattoo bulges as he grunts to lift the heaviest of weights, is known to have timed others at the stair-stepper and then told them it was his turn. They had had their ten minutes. His excuse for not using the second stair-stepper? “It doesn’t keep track of calories accurately.”

After workout, Mr. Bulging Tattoo emerges from the men’s locker room as Mr. Pin Striped Suit. Nice try. We know the demon inside.

Interviews: People Living Life Fully

I get a charge out of taSeeing the world in reflection.lking to someone about the things they love. When we meet someone who does a difficult job, we’re privileged. People generously share what they know. So join me as I interview those who take risks, solve problems, help others and live exciting lives.

 Ideas for people to interview grow out of the stories I hope to tell.

 During several years, I had the privilege of working with wonderful historians as we collected the history and the present-day stories of one of the Northwest’s oldest and largest social service organization. We heard stories from clients and their families, from administrators and front-line workers. We also collected information told in photos and in the written archives, where you can listen between the lines of historical record. Those stories became To Serve Those Most in Need, the history I wrote to celebrate nearly a century of work with orphans, the abused and the abandoned.

 More recent interviews are about climbing, mountain rescues, and hospital emergency practices. These interviews were for the writing of my novel, Uncharted Territory. The people who shared their expertise with me are people you will want to meet, too.