Ma vie friggeure pt 2

As 2007 dawned I was overjoyed to be returning to Halifax after a challenging 4 months in Victoria BC. But I had a big uphill battle in front of me.

The last person I saw before getting on the shuttle to the Victoria airport: my roommate. Peace out Rick.

I had completely shattered my left elbow only weeks earlier, undergoing an intense 4 hour surgery to piece it together again. As a result my left arm was basically useless to me for many weeks while it healed. So I had to pack, organize and ship all my belongings essentially as a one-armed man. Expecting to be living in Victoria for at least a few years, I had foolishly shipped every last one of my vinyl records there (by bus)- some 2000 records in all, and now I had to send them all back again. Not to mention the fact that in Victoria I’d purchased a new 4 color screen press, another pricey item to send back across the country. It was a shit show. But I made it back to the east coast in one piece, staying at my Mom’s in Saint John NB for a short while before heading down to Halifax to (re-)start my new (old) life.

When I destroyed my elbow I hadn’t yet worked enough to qualify for any kind of medical leave from employment insurance. Luckily my last check had been a good one, but the move hoovered up most of that. So I was really swinging without a net by the time I got to Halifax, having to borrow money off my mom in order to secure an apartment for my son and I. After the accident and the decision to return to the east coast, I had been lucky enough to get a transfer to the Halifax post office and was told I could start as soon as I felt ready. Well, it had still only been a month since the accident and the doctor had urged that I wait at least 6 weeks before returning to work. But I was running out of money and there was a very well-paying job waiting for me just a few blocks from where I lived. So despite the fact that I knew my left arm hadn’t yet fully healed, I reported for duty to the Almon postal depot for my first shift.

Suffice to say, that move was a mistake. Not only was my lame arm slowing me down, I soon discovered a dirty little secret about the Halifax postal depot. Believe it or not, it actually had the reputation as one of the worst depots, if not THE worst depot, in the entire country to work out of. The reason? Most of the walks were incredibly long- ridiculously long. I was stunned. It was taking me up to 9 or 10 hours some days of walking with a heavy satchel over my shoulders to get through just the walking portion of one route. And walking, as any letter carrier will tell you, is only one part of the job. You also have to sort your letters in the morning, a job that could take up to 3 hours sometimes, and then after finishing your mail often prepare your flyers for the next day, which could be another 2 hours or more. And so I immediately found myself in a situation where I was working an incredibly physically demanding job for at least 10 and often up to 12 hours a day, 5 days a week.

This is a burned out postie right here.

Somehow, I kept it up for the rest of that winter, though it just completely took over my life. I had no energy left for anything- my son Jonah, ZBQ, or even a social life. Since I had to work so late on weekdays, I started seeing Jonah only on weekends, which meant I had to forget about going out for most social activities. Somehow, I slowly started doing some printing again. My homies from ECLips- Nigel, Hammer and Fischer- had kept the print shop we’d shared running at the same spot, so they let me come in and do a few shirts here and there, and I started selling some of them online again.

The job was still pretty brutal, but at least the mail got a little lighter during the warm months, and not having to trudge through snow and slush made it easier. But my body was slowly starting to crack. I told you about the sheer length of these walks, but I forgot to mention that for those who don’t know, Halifax NS can be a very HILLY city in certain neighborhoods. And the hills, they are steep. My arm had mostly recovered by that point, but the job was starting to really do a number on my knees, hips and back, and the long hours were just grinding me down to nothing. By September, I needed to take a week off to try and let my body heal a bit.

I had endured a fairly high impact, destructive accident, and too quickly jumped into an intense physical regimen that I was in no way prepared for. In addition to that, there was a secret problem that I was unaware of at the time that was causing a lot of the issues I was dealing with. As I learned only too late, several years after this, I have very high arches on my feet. Walking without orthotic support for all those hours, day in and day out, was absolutely punishing my knees, hips and back nearly to the point of no return.

I did a bunch of screen prints on card stock around March of that year. Sold quite a few of them on the site. Still have the rest of them actually….

So a week off wasn’t going to be enough. Within a few days of being back on the street, I was finding the pain and discomfort unbearable yet again. So I took another 2 weeks off. I still remember the first day back: I was assigned for a week on a full walk in Rockingham. Everyone knew it was the worst walk in the depot: incredibly long, incredibly hilly, incredibly steep. Upon assigning me the walk, my supervisor laughed out loud: she knew quite well how tough that walk was, and she knew that I’d been having a lot of physical issues with the job. But she’d never been a letter carrier, so her attitude was “Suck it up, it can’t be that bad.” I will never forget that.

In October I set up a table at a local university for the day and actually sold a ton of stuff. Super fun.

Well, you can imagine how that worked out. And so it went on: for the following several months, the pattern would repeat itself: I’d attempt to return to work, only to be thwarted again and again, needing more and more time off. It seemed almost degenerative in a way: I was starting to find it difficult and painful to do even simple things like walk to the grocery store and back. At only 37 years old, I was feeling more like 77.

Luckily, I was selling a few things here and there and getting the odd custom print job, plus I had employment insurance benefits to help me through these months. But by the end of 2007, even those were about to run out. It was time to make a decision: I had to piss or get off the pot. Was I really cut out to be a mailman?

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