03 July 2018

The B-word

B is for Bitches, but today it's for Bomb.....

It's only my second day back to work after a pretty sweet vacation in the Caribbean. The first day back was a jam packed ten hours. Today was proving itself to be an even bigger beast.

I started working as a rural carrier about 7 years ago.
I promised myself I'd go and get my college degree if I didn't get hired at the USPS.
It was one of the only career paths that made sense for someone like me. With 4 young children, daycare can be hard to find. It's an even bigger task if you're only making minimum wage. Carrying mail would allow me to work outside of the home and still make a decent wage even after the
babysitting fees were deducted. Starting pay was $18/hour plus the vehicle allowance for your gas. I accepted the position the second they offered it to me. I've never regretted my choice and love many aspects of my job. With my schedule and support of my Postmasters I've also managed to go to college full time.
I now have a surplus of postal stories.
These are impossible to make up.

A few years back the Federal government was pushing the "See something, Say something!" initiative. Telling the public that with their help, eyes and ears, they could aide us in catching crimes or illegal acts in progress.
If there's one thing you learn quicker than anything else in the post office it's that you NEVER EVER say the B-word.
 B stands for bomb. And we don't mess with that.
Even the mention of it is like walking into the bank with a black ski mask on. You don't even have to make a threat. The word itself scares people shitless. We are all routinely trained and reminded of the things that warrant cause for concern or when red flags should be raised.
The public seems to be even more sensitive about mail tampering.
In the winter months I wear blue latex gloves because they actually keep my fingertips from freezing off. Much better than their fleece competition. It always catches me off guard when people ask if it's because,"I know something they don't" or "Anthrax is back".
They put things together that I can't even fathom.

I was pulling into my second office of the day. Many mail routes and offices had to merge together when the USPS started losing volume due to the increase of things like email and UPS. So, many routes consolidated to also include any small neighboring town's mail.
I have to go into my second office, case the mail and packages, lock up and start delivering again. It is fairly simple and rhythmic once you get a routine down.
 I'm already behind time because it's Monday. Upon trying to pull in I have to maneuver around a couple pick-up trucks. I know I shouldn't be irritated by something so minor, but it hasn't been my day.
I park and do my usual dismount anyways. One of the older gentlemen stops me before I can get to my office keys....

"Ma'am, I've been here about a half hour now and I've already called 9-1-1. I noticed the package shortly after the window clerk left and didn't want anyone to get hurt! They're sending the Bomb Squad. It's right there by your door!"

I am initially disoriented. I'm trying to internally process the situation, "Shit. He said the B-word. There is a "suspicious package" ten feet away. There are people all over the parking lot. The office closed an hour ago so there's no other employee here. Keep it cool. Keep it cool. You've been trained to deal with this......Shit!"

I inhale deep and assess the situation for myself.

I then notice that the "bomb" is in fact the door stopper that the office workers use to get the mail carts in and out of the building. It is typically left right inside of the heavy door. Our clerk is somewhat new and unfortunately his habits are different than those of the girl that worked the office before him. One of these habits is leaving the door stopper outside. (Shit)
A simple mistake. I would show you what it looked like, but of course this all had to happen on the one day I'm not carrying my cell phone. (It took a dip in the Caribbean Sea)
It is the size and weight of a cement block. A bit uneven though because it's filled with metal slat dividers and then wrapped like crazy with red and white postal tape that says "Priority mail" all over it. There is no address on it and is a beaming example of exactly what a danger package looks like as described by the US Government.
Today is not my day.
Certain of the fact that someone just left the door stopper outside, I (semi-embarrassed) grab the suspected bomb and rush into the office. Of course it is lunch hour at my main office and I didn't have my phone to text my traditional Post Masters. I called the nearest clerk with management experience and sought out her advice and made the situation known. I think she thought I was joking at first. She took care of the other phone calls for me. I'm trying to call my family (that has scanners) to let them know I'm not in any trouble since I can't answer anyone's text messages. Before I can make my call, the huge siren down the road starts to blast the sound of it's people. Emergency Services are in route.
 It doesn't matter if there's an emergency or not...
We are raised on the notion that siren=bad. I was starting to feel bad.
To save myself the pain of customer questions I remained behind my locked office door until the State Troopers came knocking. They needed to see the "device" and all employees...there was only me. They seemed somewhat skeptical of my door stopper story. Somehow the 9-1-1 dispatched the emergency as if it was called in by a postal employee and a confirmed bomb.
I didn't even have a phone, and the clerk had been gone for at least an hour. Something they were able to pull up and see that it was in fact called in by a civilian. They watched as I took the corner off of the thing. Just as I thought....a bunch of wrapped up case dividers. We fill out the necessary paperwork and exchange the necessary numbers. I call management...who's instructed me to make sure that thing never sees the light of day again. I'm pretty sure everyone ended up with an email about what constitutes a proper door wedge.

There's another light tap at the door. The people who called it in were waiting for the explanation they deserved. While I instantly knew what the object was, they did not. And they were right to call it in. It's exactly what they've been asked to do.
It looked so believable that two men stayed over a half an hour in 90 degree heat just to keep any customers that showed up away from it.
I explained it all to them in the most delicate way possible. It was a simple error on our part, but we would always rather have people looking out for each other than turning a blind eye.
"Keep up the attentiveness and thank you for all of your time!!"
There wasn't much else I could say to make it all seem worth their efforts. The crowd starts to disperse once they share the news that the door stopper isn't going to be exploding anytime soon.
I'm finally back inside. Alone. Safe. And very late.
If chaos is a necessary step in the organization of one's universe, then I am well on my way.

15 April 2018

I am Sam: Piece Four

           There were horse ranches of immense size all around us. I never would've guessed crop farming and animal husbandry would be such a big theme outside of upstate New York. Small side roads cut in between the agricultural masses. Curvy and cracked, we manuevered our way to the designated coordinates on the GPS. We affectionately call her "Karen". At times Karen tells us to, "....get out of your vehicle and finish walking to your destinaton". That's either a really good or really bad thing to hear. Dependent upon which kind of adventure we're having of course.
This morning isn't one of those adventures.
 I've got very little information to go on. An online website, two addresses and some input from Eric was about all I needed to deem it worthy of at least, an attempt.
   The last driveway at the top of the hill was where we needed to park. I am sweating bullets inside. No matter how skilled you are at small talk; convincing strangers ~that do not know you're arriving, to share personal information with you, is a bit intimidating.
 I will start with what I know best, "I am Sam." Eric convinces me that exactly that will be enough. We turn the jeep off and head for the door.
   At one time I think someone loved the property. There is evidence all around of gardening and typical miscellenous home projects left unfinished. Bird feeders hang sideways from willow trees.  All appear empty. A wood splitter hiding under blue tarps, ripped and frayed. Such a cute little home, drenched in abandon. After the initial walk up nerves, I finally settle into my skin after no-one answered the door. Eric, a bit more cautious, advices me to get out of the windows.
Still, he asks what I see inside. It looks as if someone had vacated the place back in 1980. There are shades of brown on everything. The floor, the couch, the wallpaper. It's all super retro. "This" would be the perfect house for a single cat lady.
Interestly enough though, that's the exact opposite of what I am looking for. I am seeking an aged man. Big stature and about 60 years of age. His parents were immigrants from Poland. I had found the records from Ellis Island. An attribute only rare names can offer.
I traveled a long ways to find an abondoned house with a "bird sanctuary" surronding it. Adjusting from the varying levels of anxiety and curiousties, we both plop a spot on the steps of the failed house. There's something okay about taking this break. Maybe while we sit someone will come along and claim the property. At this point I'd even take a tresspassing risk to get another lead. Stubbornly defeated, I rise to make my departure. I feel somewhat at a loss. Eric again- ever so clever, has a last ditch attempt to make sure someone knows we were here and what we are looking for. Even though we don't know who will find our note of desperation, I attach it to the squeeky front door. Head down, I take a big breath and clear my mind for the next address on my list.
         This time we are looking for a woman. I have no idea what she looks like, nor how old she should be. I have only a name...which indicates to me that she is married and a news article about events in the area that she lived in. The drive is not far. Maybe 20 minutes from our current location. We are coming down from horse land into what appears to be a more developed area. Churches stand ornate and strong, on many of the street corners. I wonder if this is how everyone feels when they're searching for something.
An unexpected sadness creeps in.
I do not know these places. I have never been to this state.
But, it feels as if I've missed them.
People would say that you can never miss that which you never knew. I disagree. With enough subconcoius proof now to back my beliefs up, I will find everything that's been buried here. In college once a professor told me that, "...a lie stuck to, is as good as any truth." Getting to this point has been like seperating salt from ocean water. I believe that as long as you're in control of the lies, you can shape them into whatver you like. But, it takes only one other person to unbind it all. Human error can be vile and atrocious. At the right time however, this will lead to something beautiful and tragic. This time the stories are me.

03 April 2018

Petty Payment

Today, I'm dwelling on my own stupidity and the only way to make any good sense of it seems to be to share it.....Let's start where I should have.

~~~~A prenuptial agreement can be obtained at almost any law office and is defined as an agreement made by a couple, together, BEFORE they marry, concerning the ownership of ALL respective assets should the marriage fail.~~~~

Boom! Plain and Simple.
It's a preplanned divorce! No surprises, no big burns!
Mature Sam loves this idea!
(Young and dumb Sam would've asked what the sense in getting married was if we were already betting on divorce and gotten defensive.)
Big..Big.. slip on my part at 18.
But don't mark me down as being bitter and spiteful just yet!
 I LOVE weddings!! The excitement, the emotion, the flowers, the food..the chance of uniting a relationship meant to last. It's big stuff! For two years now I've been an ordained minister and I've enjoyed EVERY wedding.
My only personal advice I can give to couples though, that is without a doubt- tried and true is that if you do get married; get a pre-nup as well. It's not about not loving that person at that time. It's not even about money. It's about having the safety and security of a document that states how you'll dissolve your marriage while you still have a SHRED of respect for that person. I promise you, no matter how well you can think you know someone....divorcing that same someone could be hell on earth. There was enough tension at any one of my court appearances that even the judge needs therapy afterward. There's a reason so many people applaud the survivors of a contested divorce.

This isn't necessarily a "fun" discussion to have but----

 #1 - if this person really is your "true love" neither of you should have to worry about this pre-nup            ever coming up again!
#2 - if you really plan to go through the entire rest of your life with this person then one awkward              discussion about break-up technicalities isn't going to through a wrench in your plan.

Pre-nuptials can also give a clear and land out plan for any existing assets and any new ones that may come. Men will say their ex-wives "took them to the cleaners", but never once did they think of using this simple piece of paper for the "what-if" protection. Women will say they were left high and dry by an irresponsible ex-husband but, it was those women that didn't need a pre-nup because they'd never "need" a divorce.
I know people and situations are each unique.....I promise my divorce was not the norm regarding the demands put on the woman, but it was worth every penny to get that "Freedom Decree".
It can cost as little as $100.00 to file one of these agreements together. Without it you could pay thousands for years to come.
(If you want to get really in depth, technically, you can put things like "cheating" or "excessive weight gain" clauses in the document as well. The world is your oyster BEFORE the wedding. After the vows, that freedom of simplicity is all taken away by governmental garb.)

Oddly enough I am a believer in the human heart and all things love and gush, but I've also seen the dark side of someone you think you know and I wouldn't wish that shit show on anyone....
While I sit here filling out my FINAL alimony payment, I am as disgusted with myself as I am relieved to not have to write another one of these checks. After this blog post, this requirement will be dead and gone to me.
It's about time.

You are not weird for needing a pre-nup. It doesn't make your love any less or your wedding a complete flop.
 Love yourself enough to know that a nasty divorce is in NO-ONES best interest. Life's not always fair and sometimes people just suck.

I didn't have anyone's advice when I was 18 and signed that one paper. I wished so badly that I had.
So for any of my local friends that need a connection but don't know where to start:

My divorce attorney, Krystal was one of the best. I highly recommend her as a lawyer and as a person. You can even use my name as a reference! I know she does Pre-nups because she lectured me on them after every nasty courtroom battle we had to go to! Use my bad examples as the reason you are there PRE-wedding. She'll applaud your decision.

The Rupert Law Firm is located in Lowville, NY and her phone number is 315-874-4173.

27 March 2018

I Am Sam: Piece Two

I haven't seen my father in months. Seasons and holidays have come and gone. Strangers show up at the door more than my kin. The last day was a hot summer evening in August. Unannouced, but always welcome, he showed up while Eric's family was visiting and roasting marshmallows in the fire pit. The kids always enjoy the antics he encourages, but before he could leave one of the girls had snatched, and broken, a small piece off of his sunglasses. We searched and searched but, the tiny part was never found. He was awfully upset. Part of me felt guilt. It was like being five years old again, I might as well have done it myself for how bad I felt. He left without the piece. The girls didn't understand. I wasn't sure how to explain it.
My little sister is a lot like my dad. Even though she's on the other side of the country their traits they carry are eerily similar. Not that these were bad. I've had to learn and adjust over time to the fact that we're just different. They need their own space. They don't need people, and desire very minimal social interaction. The more commitments they feel pressure from, the more unhappy they are. It's funny. I don't think they see it from each other. Only from the outside looking in, could you tell how identically they choose to live. For years I have been the bridge between the two, passing bits of information here and there. Letting one know that the other is alive and well when I talk to them. At first I'd think it odd to not see a (living) father for more than half a year. Then I start to realize it's probably been 2 years or more since he's seen my sister. Her moving out of state even put me down to just a beach vacation with her once a year. I grew up with an immediate family that preferred to be the exact opposite. The less immediate we all were, the better everyone's lives seemed to be.

I had always felt like the sponge placed in between them all. I was the only one absorbing anything. And anything I retained, had no other place to go. I have years of useless information banked away. I am in the game, but I was never one of the main players. Something more like a silent referee. Watching everyone's choices and keeping a tallied score. I prefered it this way. I am not an active part in the story, I am simply the story teller. Out of all the traits my family members got that I did not, I was the only one given words.
Everyone else values the actions (or lack thereof). I value the story.
 It wasn't until my 23rd year that I realized I was more than an absorbant center piece between all of these people. I needed to learn their stories to learn my story. Without these big pieces and the reasons people did what they decided to do, the little pieces never would've made sense. Unlike many, I had to dig for the truth behind mine. A lie stuck to well, is no different than the truth. I had my work cut out for me.
If you could know the exact way you will die, would you want to know?
It's kind of like that.....
If you could know exactly who you are and how slim the likelyhood of your existence was, would you want to know?
For years I could not tell you much. I am Sam. I am here and I enjoy living. I am a teller of stories, and a seeker of truths. I fought harder for my truth than any one person should ever have to. My journey has given me a respect for all. The good, the bad and the ugly. It's all of value and it's all necessary. Life is similtanously more complex and more simple than you could ever imagine. Digging for skeletons that aren't your own may very well lead to your destructive ruin.
This didn't bother me anymore. Constantly turning a blind eye led to a rattling in my heart.
I needed to know who these people were. I needed to know what they've done.
It's on me to take over and carry the story. These will be my discoveries, cruel and beautiful. I can't look away. Like witnessing a fatal car crash, you know there's a good chance someone has died, but you can't bring yourself to turn away. You need to understand. You're personally invested in the disaster now. The outcome of everyone involved will have an effect on all of the bystanders.
Maybe you should go inside and close the drapes....

I wake Eric gently. We slept in the jeep again. It's never easy on the human back. Fairly normal when we are on a non traditional adventure though. He packed the survival snacks and hunting knives, I pack the data and information necessary for what we are trying to find. We drove all night through a mountainous region we could only imagine. The massiveness of it hid well in the darkness. We parked ourselves near some type of water. Only when the sun rose did we get to see the lake beside us. I was too anxious to sleep well. This time we needed to use a different skill set. We weren't hunting waterfalls. We were hunting people. People that could very well end up being ghosts. Armed with nothing more than a few papers and the names I had memorized we began my search. To find the stories I desired I needed to find elders. The closer somebody was to the truth in "real time", the more accurate the information would be. For the first time in years, I felt what it was to be truly nervous. I lacked my typical confidence. In exchange for the new information I was seeking, I had to leave my old perspectives on the waterbank. I had to let go of the rhyme so that I could find the reason.
The next 12 hours would change many peoples lives.
Regardless of anything cooked up, I had to stir the pot.

11 March 2018

At the Mouth of a Monster

I was only a girl. Maybe about six years old. My grandparents would kick me out into the mud and fresh air, only to come back when called in for dinner. I had been claimed by a mother killdeer this week. She had five healthy, happy babies, who traveled behind her as well. Up until this time my memory remains somewhat neutral as to the potential evil in the world. There was nothing that provoked ill feelings in me. Somewhat confused about the end goal of life sometimes, I was genuinely content.
 Until this day.
I was following behind my adoptive family. There was a whole forest to cover. Halfway through our trek we circled my grandfather's three ponds. He had each pond dug for a type of fish. A particular habitat for particular creatures. We were on the banks of "Trout Pond". The dry heat of summer made for thirsty babies.

Without notice, a giant head gulped out of the water and into the air.
It took one of her babies. One swallow.
Tachycardia immediately took hold in my little heart.
There was nothing I could do.
I waited and waited to see bubbles, signs of a fight, or even a way to grab that baby eating demon and yank the bird from its belly.
The surface again grew still. Momma killdeer had finally seemed to understand that her baby was gone. It felt like an eternity, but after about five minutes she seemed ready to trudge on with the surviving offspring.
In my afterthoughts, I began to wonder if grandpa could come save my friend. I then worried that he would blame me for being with the animals in the first place.
Or worse, he wouldn't even be hurt by what happened to baby bird.
That's if I could even get him to believe me that a giant mouth came out of the water and on to the bank just to eat that baby in one gulp. I was  mortified.
I spent the rest of the day on the bank of that pond, alone.
 What good was a world where the babies get eaten and the monsters are real?
To this day my developed adult brain cannot fathom the true identity of the killer. Giant trout, rouge muskie, homicidal turtle....I couldn't pick him out of a line-up. This small afternoon occurrence scarred me for life though. It's something I'll never really let go of and it was my first instance of realizing how terribly wrong things can go. 
My heart was broken and nobody understood. Best to work through it myself than babble nonsense to my elders. (They were savage. My grandpa had been in the war and traveled the world. I'm pretty sure they'd eat the dog if they had to. I can't throw a rock at a nuisance squirrel.) I wasn't upset that the bird had to die, I was upset that I could do nothing to change what happened.
A horrifying realization, but a necessary truth. Fast forward twenty or so years.

Another year has gone by and my struggle of dealing with small minds, continues to grow. Complacency makes me ill. My eternal patience grows thin.
People who see no deficiencies in themselves, are not my kind of people. I myself am fully flawed.
Regardless of your god or belief system, you must know by now that negative people and negative interactions are as toxic as drinking a self made poison.
If I do not guard my weak spots, the rot will get in. I have gotten good at this over the past few years. What I thought was a phase of life, has actually turned out to be an immense period of growth.
I am "shedding skin" again.
 I can feel it.
While I am no fan of constant change, I do believe in necessary change. My life is best when I embrace it, rather than fight the pull.

But there's a nagging realization that I am just a baby on the shore, and there's monsters just waiting to pull me in.
My absense would only be noticed temporarily. While the belly of my enemy will be full. Everyone else around the pond will say,
"That's the price you pay...."

Inner strength creates the outer foundation and I'm in the midst of a big build. Ironically after all the things I've seen, I do not fear death.
The fact that I am mortal gives me no anxiety.
There is clarity in permanance.
This is part of the fuel for my drive.
I have no time to waste.
 Adventure is calling and I must go.
And for the first time in all of my years, I know my head and my heart are in the right place.
If  I am to be swallowed, I hope it's in one gulp.