Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I Was a Deaf Fork-Lift Driver

I used to work for the Post office, before Hubby and I decided to start a family. I started as a mail handler (sorting the mail before it gets to the letter carriers who then deliver it to you). Inside, there are huge letter sorting machines that read the barcodes on the letters and magazines and then people take those and plop them into bins or trays, and then into hampers or pushcarts. There are fork-lift drivers or power ox (sort of like a go-cart on steroids) drivers that take the mail and drop them off to other locations in the building. From the very first day I started, I wanted to be a driver on the power ox. How nice it must be to "travel" through the building and not be stuck in the same spot all day working the mail. I asked about driving one, and I knew being Deaf shouldn't make a difference, but there were no other Deaf drivers that I knew of. First, I was told that I had to wait until I was a regular-- meaning a full time, permanent employee. But I noticed there were other workers who started on the same day as me and at the same level as me, driving the power equipment. I asked a different supervisor and again I was told the same thing, wait until I was a regular.

Some time went by, and I was made a regular. Once again, I asked about driving and was given the run-around. I went to the union this time, to see if being Deaf had anything to do with it and they said that it should be fine. So I went to a different supervisor. You needed a supervisor's signature on a training form to get the training for the power equipment. At the time, I had a supervisor that I didn't get along with very well. I felt very intimidated around him and I don't know what his problem was with me, because I was Deaf, female or what, but to put it nicely, I didn't like him. He would take the form (I hunted around for a form instead of waiting for him to get it) and tell me he would get around to it later. Of course, later comes and goes and still no signed form. By now, I had been working at the Post Office for 3 years. I asked other supervisors, but they couldn't help because they weren't my supervisor.

Finally, my supervisor transferred out and I got a supervisor that I liked and I wasted no time in getting a form for training. He signed it!!! I did the required training, which consisted of watching training videos (they were sub-titled) and reading instructions, took a few quizzes and then actual, physical training on the ox, then fork-lift. It seemed like forever before I finally got my training, and I had to wait until the weekend when there were less people working, and less mail coming in. As I thought, my Deafness didn't prevent me from being able to operate the machines, I think it was more a matter of discrimination against ME, not my Deafness.

I LOVED being a driver. I wasn't able to do it everyday, as the Post Office relies heavily on seniority, which I didn't think was always fair, but I was driving almost everyday by the time I quit. I was even told that I was one of the best drivers, but I think that was only because I returned right away after dropping off a load instead of straying and talking with other workers. In that case, being Deaf was an advantage because I didn't socialize very much with the other workers. I found out later on, that because of me, there have been a few other Deaf people who got trained to drive the fork-lift and power ox. When one Deaf person can break the barrier and show that it can be done, more barriers fall down. Deaf people as a whole need to remain consistent in proving our worth, and even though we might have to work harder at it sometimes, it pays off in the long run for future generations.


Lantana said...

Go Girl! You are a trail blazer!

Wish there were more like you.

Mr said...

Good for you. I agree-- it sucks, but sometimes someone has to be first. If we all rush to the security of Deaf-friendly jobs and locations, then no one blazes a path for others to follow.

lady macleod said...

It is amaZING to me the numerous jobs that I don't even know exist! We know the mail arrives, that it goes from that place to me, but the process of moving huge bundles of mail?

I have worked in fields where men were dominant for all my life; you just do the one foot in front of the other. Or wait out the supervisor. I like that one!

Drunk Mummy said...

Hi Jenny!
Thanks for the link - I am more than happy to reciprocate.
Your blog is fascinating - you are obviously a very tenacious person and certainly not someone to be messed with!
I am green with envy about where you live in the mountains - it must be fantastic having so much space!

Krissie said...

I'm admiring you a little more each day. And not because you're Deaf and fighting for your self but because you're fighting for yourself period.

Lisa C. said...

Way to go, Girl!

I had been fighting with the manager to let me take the laptop repair technican courses till he gave up and let me take it. He was amazed that I had replaced and upgraded the 150 harddrives a day which no one was able do to that. Also I was able to repair the 6-8 laptops a day (troubleshooting takes time) and hearing person each did 2-4 a day.