Today we have the latest installment of The Advice Column Formerly Known as Heart in a Blender by your pal and mine Max Collins of Eve 6. If you want to send in a question email email@example.com.
We also have an essay by me about flying in a shitty little helicopter and the saga of the infamous submarine ride to hell. It goes in part like this:
This is something I've said before but we're all a lot closer to becoming like those poor migrants lost at sea than we are to being roguish billionaire explorers. It may not feel like it from the relevant comfort of our lives such as they are right now but it's the truth.
You'll need to be a paying subscriber to read those pieces. Here's 25% off a yearly subscription.
Before that though here's something else.
A postal worker in Dallas named Eugene Gates Jr. collapsed and died on his route earlier this week. The heat index that day was 115 degrees which is the highest it has reached in that area since 1980 as NBC DFW reported. Gates had worked for the USPS for forty years his wife said.
His death came just a few days after governor Greg Abbott signed a statewide law that nullifies laws passed by cities like Dallas and Austin that among other things mandated a certain number of water and heat breaks workers who labor outside are entitled to. (A very generous ten minutes every four hours).
“Texas is the state where the most workers die from high temperatures,” the Texas Tribune reported. “At least 42 workers died in Texas between 2011 and 2021 from environmental heat exposure…”
The good news is the removal of protections like these is going to help small businesses (?) according to supporters of the bill like Rep. Dustin Burrows.
"For too long, progressive municipal officials and agencies have made Texas small businesses jump through contradictory and confusing hoops when it comes to the current hodgepodge of onerous and burdensome regulations," he said in a statement earlier this year.
No more hoops! No more water either but definitely no hoops.
Our anonymous Hell World USPS correspondent – who has written before about the experience of delivering the mail during covid and about the attempted destruction of the agency by Trump and his toady Louis DeJoy – was naturally upset and angered by the death of one of his colleagues. Today he shares his thoughts on the grueling conditions that postal workers like him have to labor under in a hot and getting hotter world.
Nothing in the mail more valuable than our safety
USPS's inaction and indifference toward worker safety is continuing to kill my fellow coworkers. Another letter carrier died this week, again of heat illness.
First of all: I've worked for USPS for more than a decade. I have coworkers who have done the job for more than forty years. To a last person, not a single one of us has ever heard of mail delivery being called off, delayed, postponed, or slowed due to heat. Sure, you might think often of the "Neither rain nor snow..." motto that isn't actually our motto, but there is simply no safe way to deliver mail when temperatures reach a certain level, and nothing in the mail more valuable than our safety.
For years, USPS has delayed, put off, or lied about providing training or guidance on how to handle high temperatures. Throughout the country, and in particular the American Southwest, this means many consecutive months of triple digit deliveries, 8-12 hours at a time.
While our union brothers at UPS fight for the right to air conditioned vehicles, presently we remain in a fleet closing in on forty years old, long past its expiration, without air conditioning, or anything more than a small dashboard fan that may or may not even work. Internal temperatures in these vehicles can easily reach 140 degrees on a hot summer day, even as it offers many of us literally the only shade we can often find on our route. Personally, delivering inland of the central coast of California, 110 degree days have become an increasing norm.
Officially we are allowed to refuse any order deemed to be unsafe. Often, we have a fair bit of latitude in dictating what is unsafe. Heat in and of itself, however, is never recognized by management as a safety hazard that rises to such a level. Instead, we are told "in theory" that we are simply entitled to more breaks, more comfort stops, and more hydration time to combat the heat. This, as anyone who has spent any amount of time outdoors can tell you, is not a substitute for escaping the heat entirely.
Additionally, while management routinely pays lip service to the importance of comfort breaks, there is not a letter carrier in the country who does not have a story about overtime requests being denied for frivolous reasons, or about being hassled for a late return time. The promise of more time to cool ourselves down is completely empty if USPS is unwilling to accept longer route times during the summer as a norm. To put aside their clipboard tapping and paper pushing for one day to possibly save a life.
Union grievances can always be issued for burdensome violations of our contract, but much of this won't be enforced or settled upon until well after a carrier has been harassed for slower performance. After the damage is done.
There comes a critical point, more common than ever with climbing temperatures, at which human activity in an outdoor setting, particularly long walks with heavy gear, can not be safe for anyone. Between inadequate vehicles, no cooling systems, poor consideration for adequate breaks, and no sun gear or water provided in most offices, and little or no training, the burden for not dying on the job is always placed upon the carrier.
Carriers throughout the country have also reported that trainings related to heat injury prevention have never been given, even as their online personnel folders are falsified to reflect that they have been. Meetings that are supposed to take place never do. Gear that could help is never provided. And the cost continues to grow. Eugene Gates of Dallas is only the latest in a line of carriers to die in the heat. And the failure of USPS as an organization to take the threat seriously, or to simply stop harassing carriers for their street times, is unacceptable. Far too many of us have paid the ultimate price for their inaction.
I wish I could say what needs to be done, and I know the matter is being pressed, perhaps too slowly, by our own union, but there needs to be a sustained campaign of pressure upon USPS from inside and outside to force their hand. To recognize we are more important than the mail.
And if you see a letter carrier struggling, please, for the love of God, offer a bottle of water. You could literally save a life that USPS neglected.
Read more from @dumbmailguy on Twitter.
Keep sending me your favorites pages and parts from A Creature Wanting Form. Thanks in particular to Honey Barbecue Werewolf for this astute review.
Oh wow oh wow there's new Slowdive music. The song and the video are predictably gorgeous.
One of the stupidest things I ever did in my life was climb inside of this tiny little helicopter to do research for a travel magazine story. The concept was you could sign up to take a guided air tour of Paul Revere's ride and glide over the sites of some of the earliest battles of the Revolutionary War. I don't recall too much about it anymore because I was basically shitting my pants the entire time and half-blacking out. That’s where you started shooting back at us I remember the pilot laughing at one point nodding toward some historic field or other. He was a retired British soldier and I thought that seemed a little weird. It would be like having Derek Jeter give you a tour of Fenway Park.
If you ever catch me in a helicopter again it better be because they're saving my ass from a natural disaster.
Maybe it feels different in a bigger helicopter but this one could fit three people tops and not comfortably. Leonardo da Vinci ass helicopter.
It's not so much that I'm scared of flying it's that I'm scared of only kind of flying if that makes sense. I do ok on planes but it's the taking off that gets me. Being high up enough that you'd be absolutely fucked if anything went wrong but not yet high up enough that there would be time for the pilot to do something to forestall crashing.
Speeding through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour is something most of us have done enough times now that it's sort of like whatever but just kind of dinking around there a thousand feet in the air hovering is novel enough to feel unnatural. I do not belong here. Humans do not belong here.
I did my best to engage my writer brain though in the midst of the panic attack. Jotting down observations in my notebook and smearing the ink with my sweaty palms. Man the piece I was going to write! Poetry and history and the marvels of science. Get me I'm the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of the sky!
Well not even the sky. Just pretty high up. Where does the sky actually begin?
"It’s an informative, if a bit tense trip for those of us with a fear of heights," I wrote "but the distance of history, much like a bird’s eye view of the landscape, has a way of changing one’s perspective."
God being a writer is so dumb. The kind of shit you have to say.