Mis-sorted Miracle

[This is a little long, contains too much detail about USPS work, and might be frustrating toward the end because of federal law constraints, but once I started writing I am bound/unbound and determined/pre-determined to finish it.]

It is, really, one miracle. But, it manifests in myriad mis-sorted mysteries throughout these days. It is mis-sorted because it comes outside time, like mail out of sequence.

Let me explain: I do some of the sorting of mail “in the office”, which means on “Office Time” (a postal term for when we are at the station, as opposed to “Street Time” when we are not). It is hardly an office; the large warehouse-like facility is divided into areas for storage, extra equipment, places for parcels and their containers, and then places for each of the routes. Some entire towns may have just a few routes, but my station alone has nearly fifty. Each route has a case, a three sided area with a bench (you’d call it a table) and shelves. The shelves, as I said, are three-sided like a display board, and they have slots in them, one for every address on the route. While in the office, I will sort all of the mail that has not been sorted by machine, and place each piece in it’s slot. When that is all done, I will get the parcels and mark them by shelf number, sometimes putting in a reminder card in the slot for the address of the parcel.

The case is arranged so that the beginning of the route is at the bottome left (first slot, first address), and ends at the top right (last address, last slot). When all the sorting is done, I will “pull down”, another postal term meaning that I remove all the sorted mail and place it into “flat trays” in order. Most carriers start at the bottom left and pull the mail down in route order. I do not; instead I pull down backwards, starting at the end of the route, stacking the mail in the cradle of my right arm until I have enough to put into a tray. [I keep doing that until a) the tray is full, or b) I reach a point in the route where I know that it is a good place to stop and switch trays, like under a tree in the event it is raining, or like behind a business where it is safe, or like near a restroom so I can pray before continuing on.] Then I fill another tray, and another, and so on until all the mail that I have sorted is in trays. I will fill at least five, usually six or seven, because I also “case in” “chunks” and “spurs”, ugh, more postal terms for sorting into the slots small packages and envelopes–anything that will fit into a mail box. It takes up more room in the trays that way, but I do not have to think about chunks and spurs again until I see them when I am at your house with your Amazon envelope or your mail-order medication or your little packet of herbs and who-the-heck-knows-what from China. Why would anyone want to think about chunks and spurs anyway, when there are more lofty matters? Well . . . a chunk of chocolate laced with copious, copious quantities of almonds perhaps, or for a boot-wearing cowboy/girl a pair of actual spurs–those could be thoughts to have, but you get the idea.

Okay, all of that is sorted and pulled down and transported in multiple trips to my truck and loaded (holy cow, what a load it is these holy days), and then I go to the dock and get the DPS (delivery point sequence) mail that has been sorted by machines. These are all of the letter-sized mail, the post cards, the cards and letters of various sizes, and sometimes an infernal flyer for a business that is printed on slippery/slick card stock. There will be thousands of those pieces in however many trays it takes, at 350-400 pieces per tray. So, on an average day I will have five trays, or fourteen (once), depending on volume, and the thickness of the pieces. The machines do a good job and the DPS is in order and I load my first tray of DPS next to the first flat tray and then I go pray and hit a departure scan and I am on the street, finally. I turn on the radio, note the time, and pull out of the station.

All day I deliver all of it, hopping out and back into my truck as required, rolling my sleeves up or down depending on the weather, turning the heat on or off accordingly, eating as I drive or taking a break and switching trays, matching up the sequence each time, and so on. All of this is accompanied by glorious music that is often a soundtrack for mail and more that is incoming/outgoing and for my own thoughts and truck prayers and what I am thinking/feeling/doing/wishing/wanting.

It is all very fast-paced, of course, once I hit the street. Often I do not even come to a full stop at a mail box, just rolling slowly and timing the opening, inserting the mail, and closing the box on the move. In between boxes I safely look ahead and then look at the mail for the next box. I slow down, speed up, slow down, sometimes stop reluctantly, and then speed up, slow down all day to the end.

I have gone fast, slow, fast/slow, paused, stopped when I must, and it seems as if time is as fluid as the flow, regardless of the current, and just now the radio announcer has told me what is coming next. It is this:


As soon as I hear the title I am also looking down at the mail for the next address and there nestled in among all of the perfectly sorted mail is a piece of God-only-knows-how-it-got-there mail. It is not for the next address. I immediately notice because I have the next address already in my mind since I am growing both fond and familiar with my route, Shade, and this mail is not going to any house on this route. It is not even in either zip-code from my station. It is not even from this time. It is just for me, I know, as a gift from the most creative, bizarre, funny, joyful, and kind-oh-so-kind creator, and it perfectly exemplifies and personifies my days of beauty. I have stopped now, just to stare at it and what it written on it, and I have pulled it out of the tray and placed it in my hat where I had placed some fresh rosemary earlier. It is all too perfect, and I have stopped.

Oh my God, is all that I can say . . . before laughing with joy as “Days of Beauty” washes over me and through me, and I move on to the next box.

I cannot tell you more about the piece of mail except what follows. Perhaps face-to-face sometime I could tell you, but I cannot write much because I’d be breaking federal law, like FERPA or HIPAA for U.S. mail. I can only tell you this much:

  • I have never before seen a piece of mail in any of my trays that was this mis-sorted. It was not in my zones, as I said, and that very rarely happens. Sure, I get mail for other routes occasionally, but they are rare and they are always from my own post office. It is a practical impossibilty and especially so in this case.
  • The information on the piece of mail was quite visible because it was an announcment of sorts on card stock about something that is not from this time. It was from the past, the present, and the future. Believe me, I’d like to write more, but I only break the law of probability, not federal law. It contained printed words that literally cover all the facets of the flow of what we call time.
  • It was so specific and perfectly timed that it is actually true that God only knows how and when it got there, but it shouted to me about the beauty that comes to me from that same God. Again and again this beauty speaks in myriad ways, and never with words, but now here is a word on a piece of mail that I cannot write about (about which I cannot write:).

Oh, well, frustrating maybe, like I said, but you have stuck with me this far it seems, so to make it worth your while here are some other miracles, intentionally mis-sorted. BTW, things like this happen so often that I cannot keep track of them all, and they are out of sequence and mis-sorted to a degree that no longer matters at all. It only matters that I remember. The rosemary helps with that.

The edge of Christmas, the light of true dawn, and the first thing I saw after I got my morning coffee on a fine day off (a miracle in itself–I mean a day off in December for a mailman who is on the overtime list, it just doesn’t happen).
Something I saw the other day on someone’s porch. Gorgeous.
What I saw today after I had my morning coffee, a hearty breakfast, and just before I called Mom while out for a walk.

It is all a mis-sorted miracle, one beautiful out-of-sequence miracle . . .