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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hey Y'all, down here!

Greetings upon you all as this Tuesday unfolds to the sounds of train horns announcing a crossing, and birds fussing about the lack of birdseed in the feeder.

They were preceded by the nerve jangling sound of a telephone call from an old man, lonely in a sea of others, who wanted change of some kind to break the boredom of sameness. Reassurances that his pills were OK and toilet paper would be provided, scuttled his hopes of an impromptu shopping excursion. On to the next challenge.

The weather for beautiful downtown Fallon will be a bit unsettled as the sun peeks through the clouds and we hope to attain the low 60's even though only 59F has been promised. Rain has a ten cents on the dollar chance during the day, but jumps like gasoline to triple that by evening. Winds will have you looking for the cat and don't drop the mail or 40 mph breezes will have you getting your exercise.

Hurricane Jessi was certainly proud of herself last night as she came up to me with a mouth full of purple and black feathers. I was not amused. The victim was Anna's beautiful steampunk feather boa, which that the little monster found when attention was diverted from her whereabouts. I can just see this dog getting shot for raiding the chicken coop in an old black & white movie. Where is that doggie valium?

The inspiration for writing today's story was very simple; I had just written a piece set in 1969, then the next in 1979, so why not 1989? 

Hey Y'all, down here!

On November 29th of 1989 I was delivering the mail on an already overloaded and still growing city route. Being relatively new to the Post Service and newer still to having my own route, I was pushing the limits of physical endurance. The fact that my Postmaster was relentlessly dogging my every move didn't help. He was trying to squeeze more out of every employee to avoid paying overtime, or doing what he should have been doing, adding another employee.

So there I was on that day, overloaded with mail in both my satchel and on my left arm, trying to extend the walking section that I was delivering by not returning to the truck in between loops. I was nearly at a run knowing that I had hundreds of addresses and miles to walk ahead of me, and I felt like I was behind the power curve already.

I had "hit" the mailbox at the far end of the loop and turned for the return leg, accelerating with every step. I was actually talking out loud to myself at that point, admonishing myself to "get my lazy butt in gear, or I wouldn't make it in before dark," and I really hated being on the street in the dark. Bad things happen to you delivering mail house to house in the dark.

I was at full stride and nearly breaking into a run, when my foot kicked a board about four inches high, buried horizontally in the grass as a border. I kicked it really hard, but it didn't give. My back did however, telling me so with a searing pain on one side that felt like a knife that was on fire was being shoved into me. The wise thing to do at that point would have been to fall, and my karate and military training said to do so, but I had an arm loaded with mail and if I fell everyone's mail would fall and scatter. I had to "protect" it, people's retirement checks were in there, etc. So as I fell forward I "caught myself" on the other leg brought forward quickly, tearing the other side of my back too. In the end I fell anyway, landing below a small tree with a little bit of shade.

It was two hours before I could move, and that was excruciatingly painful. I managed to get my right arm up and wave at a passerby for help, but could not manage to speak as just breathing took everything that I could stand. The people going by waved back and kept going down the road, later telling me that they thought that I was taking a rest beneath the tree. You know it is funny when laughing hurts like being kicked, but you have to laugh anyway. I must have looked like the stereotype lazy mailman chilling out under the tree! Ouch!

Realizing that no one was going to help me, I dragged myself across the grass, scraping my legs on the dry grass and rocks as I was unable to use my legs or stand at that point. Breaking the rules was sweet at that juncture, because I had left the door to my truck open (not allowed) and was able to very slowly crawl and pull myself, into the truck seat. Had the door been closed and locked I could not have gotten in. 

"OK, now what?" I thought. Waving at people only brought friendly waves in return, the thought of which made me giggle, and then cringe as the movement brought on another spasm. "Can I drive?" was bouncing around in my head. The keys were in my pants pocket and getting back out to shove my hand in after them seemed like too much of an ordeal at that moment, but maybe I could after I rested a minute. 

Thinking back on it, I know that driving would have been a very bad idea and probably would have lead to a crash. At that time I was trying to decide how to get help and driving seemed like an option. Just like when someone is drunk and think that they can just "go slow and be careful" and everything will be OK.

This was before I even owned a cell phone, (and the main reason that I have carried one since, starting with a nokia bag phone), so I couldn't call for help.

While I was sitting in my truck seat breathing between muscle spasms that crushed my lungs repeatedly, a beautiful apparition appeared, in the form of Donna, another carrier who was working inside as a clerk at that time. She had been sent out to find where I was "F-ing off," to quote the Postmaster, as he had been getting calls from my customers who were expecting their checks and I was late delivering them. She started at where I should have been at that time, and worked backwards until she spotted the mail truck with me sitting in it.

Donna and I were good friends and she was very laid back and just talked to me as she tried to figure out what was going on. I could only speak in two or three word bursts between spasms, but it didn't take long before she said wait here, and giggled, (knowing that I couldn't go anywhere), and started to go to her truck. 

She turned around and came back to me and said, "You weren't thinking of driving were you?" I nodded my head yes. She said, "Where are your keys?" I said "Pants pocket." Giggling again she shoved her hand in my pocket and fished out my truck keys and said, "Not on my watch your not!" and left me with tears running down my face as I suffered through another bought of laughter, as she drove off to the Post Office for help. 

Within a very few minutes the Postmaster, the delivery supervisor, and Donna were back. The Postmaster walked up to me and asked me with a straight face and in all seriousness, if I could finish my route. If I could have hit him at that point, I would have. Donna was already organizing my truck and preparing to take over my route. Unlike the boss, she was intelligent and could see that I was seriously hurt.

My supervisor loaded me up in his car and took me back to the Post Office to fill out forms for having had an accident. The Postmaster came in and asked me if I was alright, "now that I didn't have to deliver the route." It was obvious that my health and welfare was not uppermost in their minds.

As the latest spasm eased up and I could breathe and speak briefly I said, "I need to go to the Emergency Room." The PM asked me if I could drive myself. Before I could speak the supervisor said, "I'll take him", and we very, very slowly walked back to his car. The pain and spasm frequency were both increasing.

At the Emergency Room, the medical professionals didn't hesitate; I was taken in immediately, my clothes removed, and placed on a gurney face down. They wheeled me into the treatment area and the doctor started working on me. As he examined me, I curled up backwards from the strength of the spasms and he barked out orders that sent nurses scrambling for needles and meds.

I was so glad that I was there and Dr vH was on duty. This guy was a body builder, massively muscled and extremely knowledgeable about these kinds of injuries. For the first time that day I felt like I would be OK.

The doctor had just given me the first of several injections as he worked on each muscle of my back. In walks the Postmaster, right into the ER treatment area without getting permission, and starts getting in the big man's face. "So," he says, "can this guy get back to work after you give him some painkiller? I have a girl on his route that is going to run into overtime if he doesn't get back out there and help her."

I have another big spasm and the doc holds me on the table to prevent me from rolling off and says over his shoulder to the PM, "If you are still here when this man relaxes and I can let go of him, I am going to rip your ignorant head off and kick it out the door." The nurse looks at my boss and says, "Run, he means it!"

The hospital staff grabbed the Postmaster and escorted him out of the building and instructed him to leave the hospital grounds. He did so and went out to find Donna and tell her to "hurry every chance she gets." He has no idea how lucky he was, Dr vH did go looking for him and he was red faced and fuming mad. The nurses told me that they had never even seen him frown before, and he never joked about hurting anyone, so it scared them to see him so mad.

I spent the worst four months of my career recovering from the damage done that day and have had back problems since, where I never had any previously. 

The Postmaster and I continued to have a, shall we say, "rocky relationship", until he retired many years later and I waved good bye to him. You can guess how many fingers I saluted him with as he departed.

Donna sadly is not with us any longer, having been killed by an ex-boyfriend who couldn't live without her and afterward killed himself when he quit running.

It still makes me chuckle in a head-shaking way when I think of the people who waved back at me, thinking that I was napping under a tree as lay in that yard needing assistance and trying to say, "Hey y'all, down here!" which is a round-a-bout southern speak way of asking for help, but in a polite way. It was funny!

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