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November 16, 2016

Ask Hickey: Is the job I start next week the best job in the world?

Got something you want to ask? Send me your questions through FacebookTwitter or email (with "Ask Hickey" in the subject line). Your anonymity is guaranteed — if that’s how you want it — so feel free to send them via private/direct message.


And now, this week’s questions...

Going Postal

Wouldn't being a postal carrier be the best job in the world? 

It’s like you’re “Fletch.” You might be a sarcastic ass, but you deliver. When you deliver, you are good and when you are good, you keep your job. If you do this continuously, you have a job forever.

Everyone loves the mailman and everyone, when they were a kid, wanted to be the mailman. Everyone. You knew his name, you could count on him and you depended on him. He was awesome, wore shorts and a visor in the summer, and a parka with that pith helmet when he wanted to.

He always smiled and said hello, and watched you grow up. He was a member of the community that helped it grow and function on every working level, and was 100 percent reliable. He got presents at Christmas, and lemonade or iced tea in the summer. He had the most rewarding job in the world, and was acknowledged and loved. 

This is a hard job. Rain. Sleet. Snow. Heat. Night. But the mail has to be delivered, no matter what. No excuses.

I start my route on Monday. I’ve been applying for 15 years but no one gives it up because it is the most rewarding job in the world. (Brendan D., Facebook)

I am so happy to hear you found employment in this tenuous age, and I hope you find the job as personally and professionally fulfilling as possible.

You painted an elegant picture of the life of a letter carrier. I should know. Many in my family plied that trade. This includes my father, Dan, who is now retired from the parcel-delivery beat. 

I, too, remember, letter carriers who weren’t related to me, and there was an element of stoic dependability that one finds in the troops, police and firefighters. You are right: They are an integral part of the community and, without them, the world would devolve into a dystopian thunderdome.

But the troops, police and fire didn’t deliver your check. Or your "Highlights" magazine. (Goofus says the mailman is bad; Gallant respects the profession inherently).

While I found the mailman garb appealing enough to wear for Halloween one year – just happened to be the same year that me and my college pals all got locked up in Delaware for petty vandalism, but I digress, for that was expunged and my bosses will see this – I need to offer a little reality check, Brendan. It’s of the grass-is-always-greener variety.

I called my dad and presented your question to him. He said you "need a Plan B, because if you’re not a career employee – and even if you are, to some extent – there’s no job security.”

Uh oh. You thought about this, right? 

The cutbacks

The threats of curtailing service

The whole “people use email and pay bills electronically” thing? 

Sorry to be a wet blanket here, but here’s some more real talk:

“I would have to say no,” he noted in direct response to your query in 2016 America, “because the Postal Service as we know it today won’t be around in 10 years.”

But I asked him to hearken back to a headier day, when his workday was over by the time I was walking home from Strawbridge Elementary School.

It was a wondrous time, when everybody had a cup of lemonade for their letter carrier, and people still paid the electric bill via check and stamped envelope. It’s what I hope you find when you set out on the route with your pith helmet next week, Brendan.

“Back in the day, yeah, I liked it a lot,” reminisced my dad, who walked a route for 18 years upon returning home from Vietnam, and before making his way into management. “The first two hours, give or take, you were in the office, and that was OK. But then the next six hours, you’re out on the street by yourself, no one on your ass. There was a sense of freedom.”

These are harsh words, but they are true words. But best of luck in your new trade. The world needs more dependable people like you. 

And remember, if the Yellow Pages can survive, so can the United States Postal Service.


When does a roll become a loaf? (James D., via Facebook)

Whoa. That's some "is the dress blue or black?" type stuff there, J.D. In fact, it's heavier, as it's something I'd never contemplated before. So, what does Hickey think? He has no clue.

Reached out to a couple noteworthy local bread makers with this question. Since I buy into that whole "Atlantic City has the best bread in the world because of the water" thing (it's true), I trust Formica Brothers Bakery implicitly. Ducktown, represent!

Michelle Giampaolo, the bakery's director of sales and marketing, was kind enough to field my call on this urgent matter.

"Well, that's quite simple," she said.

Go on, Michelle, for I didn't think it was simple at all.

Loaves, she said, are larger-sized breads made in pans while rolls are smaller.

The difference between loaves and rolls (or buns) isn't so much about "the slicing as it is the use of the bread. You can't make a sandwich out of a big loaf without slicing." (She added the caveat that they have made "elephant breads" in the past, but those are giant-check-like exceptions to the culinary rules.)

Drilling deeper into the size implications of your query, she noted that it's "in the eye of the beholder. It all depends on who you talk to. A small brioche bun to someone might be a loaf to someone else."

So, basically, there is no specific point where a roll becomes a loaf, for a loaf to you might be a roll to someone else. Let's not turn this into a BuzzFeed clickbait jawn, k?

And if you're ever down in A.C., do grab some rolls or loaves or whatever at Formica's. It's on the same block of Arctic Avenue as the White House Sub Shop. You. Will. Not. Regret. It.

RTJ All Day

Who really run this? (Dennis C., via Facebook)

Thanks for this question, Dennis. No, it's not President-elect Donald Trump.

For your answer, you’ll need to not only figure out who say they run this but, additionally, who say they fund this. I’m pretty sure this investigation will lead you to the man behind the man behind the man behind the throne.

If you have difficulty tracking down that individual, try the Electric Factory on January 11, 2017. I suspect he’ll be there, or at least mentioned on stage by Killer Mike and El-P (both of whom I hope to interview before said show without s-s-s-stuttering or talking scared).

See you there.