Wednesday, January 06, 2010

This And That
The wildly unsafe USPS LLV
...with a Grumman aluminum body and multiple blind spots.

If you value your life....Do not drive faster than 35!
Photograph from Wikipedia

Mailman Talk
The heater fan in my LLV ("Long Life Vehicle" or, the typical postal truck) stopped working consistently three or four weeks ago. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't. I reported the situation one morning to our VMF (Vehicle Maintenance Facility) on a USPS vehicle repair tag 4570 since it is very uncomfortable driving around all day with the window open delivering mail in the Maine winter without a heater.
After "casing" up my route that day I checked to see if my truck had been fixed and found the repair tag with my keys in the anointed holding place. The tag was endorsed "OK". I loaded my truck and drove off to deliver the route. After a few minutes the heater fan stopped working again. Evidently the mechanic had checked the fan and decided that since it worked when he checked it there was no problem. Maybe he didn't understand the word 'intermittent' which I had written on the 4570 to describe the situation.
I soon found that by wiggling the fan switch several hundred times the fan might consent to start again. This went on for the rest of the day. After long thought I determined that I would describe the fan as "sometimes works" instead of "works intermittently" on my next vehicle repair tag 4570.
It happened to be Friday and I was off for the weekend. I was in a hurry to get out of work and forgot to write up the vehicle for repair again. (I am one of those lucky letter carriers with a business route with a scheduled day off on Saturday. I have lots of seniority.)
I blithely returned to work Monday and continued to forget that I had a sketchy heater fan in my truck. I worked that day without much heat. That night I filled out my second tag 4570 and contemplated filling out a Postal Form 1767 "Report of Hazard, Unsafe Condition or Practice" which releases the Demons Of Hell (extra work) on your supervisor. I decided to wait and see if they could fix the fan. Of course that morning the fan worked for a few minutes and stopped. I returned to the office and told my supervisor I needed a different truck until my truck was fixed and babbled about filling out the dreaded PS Form 1767. My supervisor (not a bad guy by the way) told me to drive my truck across the street to the VMF and ask them to repair it, which is what I did.
The mechanic who looked at my truck that morning wrote on the repair tag that he couldn't isolate the problem since the heater sometimes worked. Now let me say that the mechanics at the VMF are generally good guys who try their best. Having said that (Don't you love Curb Your Enthusiasm?), here is the solution I was presented to resolve the fact that I had heat 15% of the day (a high estimate). The facility supervisor looked at the fan and noticed that by wiggling the wires into the fan housing it would activate the recalcitrant fan. He said just do that. He also said that when it just refuses to work at all no matter what just drive back on in and they would give me tip top service.
OK, I thought, I'm game. I'll try that.
And you know what? It worked pretty well for a couple of weeks. I only had to jiggle the wires two or three times a day to make the fan work. I didn't think too much about electrical shock hazard. How much juice does the heater fan take anyway?
Last week the wire jiggling routine stopped impressing the fan. I went into a bit of a rage and struck the fan housing with a handy dandy blunt object which I shall not name, which is found in the possession of every letter carrier. The fan worked magnificently all the rest of the day. Now I find a maintenance routine of two whacks a day keeps the thing in line, and resolves a little anger problem I sometimes experience. I thought I should communicate this idiosyncrasy to anyone who uses my truck when I am not working so I made a little sign and put it on the dashboard:
"The heater fan doesn't always work. The VMF said that since the problem is intermittant they can't fix it. I have found that if you beat the fan housing with a blunt instrument, it will work for a while. If it doesn't work, go back to the VMF for repairs."

written January 20, 2010
Great Success!
Finally, last week, after making a royal pain in the ass of myself, they replaced the heater fan.
The "smash the fan housing with a blunt instrument" trick ceased to work very well anymore. Maybe smashing the fan housing isn't a good solution to the "fan doesn't work" problem. Maybe smashing the fan housing broke the damn thing enough so that they finally had to fix it. I don't care. Not my problem any more. Oh, one more thing, that handy dandy blunt instrument that every letter carrier has to carry around is one of the most durable pains in the ass ever designed.

Quote of the Day
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." Dr. Samuel Johnson, from Boswell's Life of Johnson


Tina Munroe said...

Great story. Have you seen the new LLV's? I've only seen one on the road but it's about time the old ones were replaced. I wonder if there have been any improvements.

John said...

I retired happily November 30, 2010. A few times I used the newer style CRV which came into service several years ago in Portland Maine. They ride a bit better and have better acceleration and stability on the road but there is less room in the vehicle. Also it is easier to bang a part of your body getting in and out or loading up this truck. The visibility is better thanks to positioning of the mirrors and the left side rear window.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...
I found this article at Federal Times that tells us that the USPS has no contingency plan to replace their aging fleet. What else is new?