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Oh the stairs did creak and the walls did groan throughout that hallowed old hulk known as the Port Gamble Hall. A man in a top hat had been sighted on numerous occasions by people seeking a glimpse of the theater upstairs. He usually exited stage center. Our brave heroine thought nothing of it, pressed to enter alone into that cavernous place in the pre-dawn hours. The mail must go on, afterall. She felt sinfully lucky.
Yet the ghost had not finished with her, oh no.
She ignored him. Not only did she have a ton of stuff to learn, but her newfound boss was so oddly unprepared to be a Postmaster, herself. Samantha, still gorgeous at fifty, had sixteen years under her belt at USPS. But she had never done anything related to Postmaster work. For the past five years, she'd been a receptionist. A very bored one. And so the two sorry ladies muddled on through as best they could, frantically learning ream upon ream of postal procedure while the ghost had only begun to snigger.
Teacher's first surprise dawned but gradually. Her new boss had promised that there would be "OVER 40/hr weeks!!" to work, once Samantha had alerted the other Postmasters in the county of a new Postmaster Relief person. When nothing seemed to be happening there, Samantha waxed evasive, so Teacher finally took herself all over the county, to canvass the other Postmasters. What she learned sent her home, sickened.
There WAS no other work. Postmaster Relief people were obsolete. Only union employees were used anymore, and the Postmasters had all closed rank on Port Gamble's new Postmaster, for mysterious reasons. Which meant that Teach was now surviving on anywhere from two to sixteen hours a week at $9.00/hr. Her bank account dried up. When she pleaded homelessness to her boss, she was told, "I've got a camper we're selling. Let you have it for $3,000!" Teacher didn't have thirty bucks. When she urged her boss to start training a new helper NOW, for when she found work, the response was, "Oh. No, you're fine." She simply assumed priority. It was rather strange. It resembled communication with cement.
Teacher's second surprise came via the previous Port Gamble Postmaster, a beloved old fellow who was fond of dropping in for chat, whenever he picked up his mail. He had been the soul of the town for years, and was sorely missed. As it turned out, there was much more to the story of his "retirement" than had met most ears.
Tom had been FIRED very suddenly. After years of dedication, his expertise and folksy magnetism had come to naught--axed to make way for Samantha. Old Tom told Teacher about a cozy flirtation that had gone on for years between Samantha (now divorced) and Chuck Copper, who was some higher-up at USPS. To be sure, Teacher had overheard her Postmaster on the phone with Copper, generally ribbing him or ordering him around; it was obvious that they were old friends.
According to Tom, four other highly qualified USPS employees had applied for the job that Samantha now held, and all had been rejected inexplicably, while the girl hadn't even needed an interview. When Teacher protested that somebody should have reported the business, Tom only shook his head and said, "Nobody crosses Copper, no sirree." ("Wehll!" thought Teach. "We'll just see about that!")
Gossip is gossip, of course...good therapy for the gossipers regardless of accuracy. But Teach needed to keep her nose out of it until The Boss Herself chose to discuss it, which she never did. What Teacher was far more alarmed about, by then (besides cardboard housing), was the number of postal customers now fleeing the Port Gamble Post Office. They were dropping out in droves. The little Office's revenues plummeted disastrously. Communication with cement evidently goes down poorly with the public, and the new Postmaster was proving disastrously screw-up prone as well as brutally tactless. The normally solid Teacher began to wonder, had a witches' coven taken over Port Gamble, or something?
The ghost was beginning to chuckle rather audibly.
After false starts at three other jobs,Teacher finally managed to land full-time work at The Home Depot, starting at $12.50/hr. By now, she had few regrets about venturing from the "safety" of a government job, into the wilds of corporate America.
The bomb dropped on Christmas Eve Day. Our weary heroine had just settled in at the computer to upload the day's accounts into the USPS central database. She had already begun work at The Home Depot, but Samantha still needed her on Saturdays because she hadn't yet bothered with a replacement. (What didn't she UNDERSTAND about the word, "Mbuh-bye?") Teacher booted up the computer, then navigated through the requisite codes and screens to the USPS employees' homepage. There, she found a friendly holiday greeting and family photos from Chuck Copper, wife Carol and kids. Mr. Copper bore an eerie resemblance to Samantha. She stared dumbly at the screen. Then she went numb. There weren't...any witches in Port Gamble.
Samantha was Monica Lewinsky II.
The Ghost BELLY-ROARED.
He roared all day long, reveling in the sight of this Goodie-2-Shoes AWOL as she staggered in shock, blurting an occasional, "I'm in shock! I am in SHOCK!" to nobody in particular. By Christmas Day, her mantra had mellowed into a deeper groan of, "I am in horror." The ghost's mirth never stopped. She had gotten her just due, at last.
No WONDER it had all been so CONFUSING! Her own "interview" with the District Postmaster
Now, there are those who, in our heroine's shoes, would have found a vicarious thrill, a sense of pride in the position. It's called Getting Ahead. Teacher was less interested in Getting Ahead than she was in Getting a Life. Her poor, confused boss couldn't cope with a single day without doctors and pharmacists for support. Our noble champion sympathized wretchedly, but in true Capitalist Looking-Out-For-#1 spirit, she opted out of that golden opportunity to become powerful and messed-up.
Next: PART 4! We always save the best for last.