Why postal workers?

Why is there that huge stereotype that postal workers are time bombs who could explode at any moment and, well…“go postal?”

I know that this conception is not as prevalent as we joke, but there are many affirmed cases.

It seems to me that postal workers would be some of the happiest people. They get plenty of exercise, plenty of sunshine.

What gives?

I don’t know who first said “everyone’s a critic,” but I think it’s a really stupid saying.

When we think of postal workers going, well, postal, the friendly neighborhood mailman is not usually the culprit. Usually, it is one off the guys who sorts mail in the back of the post office. I don’t know how they do it now, what with comuter advances and new OCR technologies being unveiled all the time, but back in the day, mail was sorted by a process by which a machine zipped a letter to a spot directly in front of some poor slob whose job it was to key in the first three digits of the zip code. He had exactly one second to do this before the letter was zipped off again, and replaced with another. The pressure to do it right must have been enormous, since you have no way of knowing just how important that envelope is, and since the first three digits of a zip code designate the “sectional center” of a particular region, a slip of the fingers could mean the difference between Detroit and Seattle. If that wasn’t your job, it was probably some other stressful, tedious, repetitive, and automatonic task that would make you wonder if the robots had a better union than you did.

Under these circumstances, the number of postal employees who came back with an AK-47 is not as surprising as it would at first appear.

Plus, there are a lot of postal workers.

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)



That can’t be it.

There are many jobs with that kind of pressure. And more. Split second decisions with property or even human lives at risk.

It’s probably more to do with overstating these events.

Postal workers were respected at one time. They were up there with your kid’s teacher and the neighborhood cop on the beat.

When a couple of these “postal” shootings happened in the space of a short time, it weirded everyone out.
Hey, these are posties. Government employees. They’re not supposed to do that!

Then a couple more occured, probably feeding off the previous hysteria, in copy-cat fashion.

And a cultural perception was born.

Ya think?

According to the Pope, a woman can be a saint, but not a priest.

It’s been many years since I was a letter carrier–24, in fact–so my experiences are dated, but it was the management style of the PO that finally made me look for other work (and have a ceremonial uniform-burning with friends when I did leave). The operating principle for the first level managers was that all workers were liars, cheats, or thieves, or all three. Every morning was a debilitating struggle to have management adhere to its own policies, where I was continually confronted with folks who just couldn’t bring themselves to believe thatI was being straight with them about the status of my route. Having had good role models for hard work and personal honor in my father and my grandfathers, and trying to emulate them, it was frustrating and depressing to be thought of as pond scum. One time when I did protest statements I felt were personally insulting, I was rewarded by having my work analyzed for a week, with daily counts of my mail pieces checked against my time to “case” my mail, and a supervisor walking the route with me, armed with stopwatch and clipboard.

So when I think of Post Office supervisors I thinks of sneers and insults. I wonder how different it is now.

I don’t have any substantiation for this, but I once read speculation that one of the factors was the Post Office has a policy of hiring disabled military veterans.

This included the mentally disabled, so you had a pool of workers who were both unstable and knew how to use guns.

A friend of mine, a psychiatrist who’s studied the issue, substantiates what UncaStuart says. According to her, mail sorters, etc., are under constant visual supervision (i.e., they’re being watched all the time).

Also, the Post Office brass like to “test” mail handlers by doing things like putting into the mail stream an unsealed birthday card with an undeliverable address, no return address and a $20 bill inside, to see what they will do with it.

Couple all this with a Big Government Beuraucracy from Hell, and it’s a wonder things aren’t worse. My friend’s data are ~5 years old now, so things may have improved since then. I doubt it, though.

The Cat In The Hat

I’ve often wondered about this too. My personal theory has to do with ex military personel. The post office is a big draw for people coming out of the armed services. You get extra points on the application for having service time. You also get to keep your seniority. Pretty alluring for people with no specific skills. Most of the shootings (IIRC) involve ex military of an age which put them with combat service. Post traumatic stress can play hell with your mental state. I can’t prove any of this. It’s just a theory I have.

“If you stick your finger in a pie, whatever is in the pie will be on your finger, and whatever is on your finger will be in the pie…unless you wear a rubber glove”----some demented old lady

I think White-Ho, oops I mean Whitetho has hit the nail on the head. You’re dealing with a proportionately larger number of x-military personell. Why? Because of veterens preferences on postal tests. Gee so much for equal opportunity. Before I went to college, being a USPS worker was the job to get. A job that paid very well, and required no specific education except what they provided you. (Plus cool perks. A USPS friend of mine worked in package sorting. You could name any zip code in the USA, and he could tell you the city. It was a really kewl bar bet.)