Yesterday I had to go to the post office to purchase stamps because I had finished off my roll of first-class stamps and many of the assorted denominations I keep on hand for business mailings. I got to the post office early and there was already a long line of patrons with a single post office employee to handle the ever-growing line. It was the last Saturday before the Christmas holiday. I thought, “what the heck is going on here? Who put this schedule together?” I looked at the man, who when each customer stepped up to the window greet them and then got down to business to move them along as soon as possible. Not rude, not chatty, just a cordial business atmosphere.
Watching that man do his job in a crummy situation, I had this sudden epiphany; he is like so many other on-the-ground workers who work for the US government who are part of the ever shrinking government we all claim we want. This postal worker surely did not ask to be the only one working at that hour, on that day alone. It was a result of there being less money to pay on-the-ground workers. We don’t often think about this, but it is going on all the time. Just this last week RangerSir, a government employee, was out in the field twice alone, doing his job alone. In years past there would have been enough employees to partner up. It was a good safety measure and they could cover twice as much ground, checking on remote restrooms used by back country skiers and snowmobilers, warming huts, rental cabins, ski and snowmobile trail maintenance/safety and swing gates on out of bounds areas. Instead now days he picks the day or area of least risk and goes out there and does his job alone, knowing full well that if something goes wrong he is miles and hours from some coming out to help him. It is the reality of being an on-the-ground worker in the US government, there are less of them but the public expectation for service has not changed. He does the best job possible with the tools and people he has been given, just like this lonely postal worker. It was then that I mentally cheered this man on with each person he helped. I also was grateful that no one pointed out the obvious that he was alone and where were the other employees. This man had no control, he was trying to do the best with he was given.
When I got to the front of the line I rattled off the stamps I needed. I did not grouse, because once again there were no $2 stamps one of my most used denominations, I saved that for the postmaster on another day. My time is valuable, but it was not his fault that my wait in line was long, I would save that too for the postmaster (though I suspect that was out of their control as well). The postal work was doing his job the very best he could, in unenviable circumstances. I finished quickly and then smiled thanked him and wish him a wonderful holiday season, truly meaning those words for this man who had a long day ahead of him.