The U.S. Postal Service had a doozy of a year.
It endured a period of chaos during the presidential election, in which an unprecedented 46 percent of Americans voted by mail, according to the Pew Research Center. Now, the federal agency is slammed by a “historic record” of mail and packages, according to a Dec. 14 news release. The reason? A huge rise in online shopping during the pandemic.
Vancouver has felt the effects.
“We’re about 64 percent (more parcels) over the same period last year,” said acting Postmaster of Vancouver Trisha Adams. “It’s big. We didn’t get extra staffing for that extra volume. We didn’t get holiday help.”
Adams said the hands they do have are all on deck. That includes 79-year-old Cody Hershaw, a 50-year post office employee in Vancouver who has a nationally recognized safety record.
Though he has heard murmurs from fellow employees wanting to leave during the chaos, Hershaw has a motto of his own: “I always say, ‘I’m here, and I’m loving it.'”
He started his job on Aug. 6, 1969, just after serving in the Vietnam War as a mechanic and machine gunner between 1967 and 1968, he said.
“There was a guy over in Vietnam. He said he worked for the post office. He said, ‘When you get back, take a (post office) test; it’s a good job.’ That’s what I did. I took the test at Bonneville Power, then the post office called.”
Since then, Hershaw has seen many changes to the U.S. Postal Service.
Early on, he said, some carriers drove a three-wheeled scooter to deliver mail. Then, he used a Jeep. Now, residents on Hershaw’s usual 14-mile route will find him in a white Mercedes Metris van. Working a typical five-day week, no matter the weather, Hershaw delivers parcels to 1,051 homes, including residents at Touchmark at Fairway Village, he said.
“This Christmas, I see people mailing a lot more cards than they have in years,” he said. “They can’t go see anybody. I suppose they can do it on the internet, but a card is more personal than the internet.”
Hershaw had no worry about the rise in mail. He also didn’t fret about the election.
“You know we’ve been doing it for years here, and we never had a problem. I think more people would vote if the whole country voted by mail. It’s more convenient. You don’t have to wait in line,” Hershaw said. “People, they come and ask, ‘Is the mail safe?’ I say it’s safer than you going down somewhere else. I think it’s all a bunch of crap. Somebody’s a sore loser I guess and has to create problems.”
As for the future, Hershaw said he “could have retired 20 years ago.”
“Outside of going to the casino once in a while, not much (planned),” he said. “Do a slot machine and have a couple beers. I don’t have a house in Southern California or Arizona or wherever. I’ll work as long as I’m able to.”
The future for postal carrier work is a bit bleak with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting a 14-percent decline in employment due to automation and installation of cluster mailboxes, something Hershaw has taken notice to over his years with the agency. But he doesn’t think it will cease to exist.
“I think it’s an essential thing; there should always be a post office,” he said. “I know automation will take a lot of things, but it’s still a useful tool, especially for people getting medicine. I deal with a lot of medicine by mail. Fairway Village is a 55-and-older community. I deliver a lot of pills by mail. I think it’s essential.”
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