An Unrelenting Cold

Not a picture for the ages: Here are our deck lights, a blurry reflection of our bubble lights, our neighbors’ outside tree, and a sliver of all-natural moon.

While the rest of the country has hunkered down from subzero temperatures and blowing snow, we here in the Nation’s Cold Spot — although local weather watcher Bruce Bartleson was at recent pains to show us how we are not, by any metric, the coldest spot, merely in the top 10 — enjoyed a balmy holiday. No snow, little wind, and nothing approaching a subzero temperature.

To be sure, we were all about our minuses in the days leading up to the National Big Chill, but once it set upon all of you, we arrived in the 30s, even the 40s yesterday and today (Fahrenheit — we have yet to reach the point where we measure our heat in Celsius). Denver, four hours away on the normally warm side of the state, got cold, and its airport may win the vaunted award for “worst airport in the nation” due to the number of cancelled flights. Denver CBS reported this morning that many people have been stuck at the airport since Dec. 23, and the lines at 6 this morning looked like just another day in paradise for travelers.

Lynn and I made no effort to go anywhere, and our anticipated house guest, Rose from Denver, had to cancel not due to weather but instead to kitten, the newly-acquired Newton, a five-month-old foundling from the streets of Houston who has Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Fine in his own home, he can’t bring it to our cats, particularly Ki’o with his host of health issues, and Rose couldn’t find a cat-sitter, which might have scared Newton anyway. So we did Christmas the old-fashioned pandemic way, virtually, but that gave us a chance to meet cutie Newtie in his natural habitat of spoiled cathood, with toys and cat trees in abundance.

Other than that, and taking Bear on a few balmy strolls around the neighborhood, Lynn and I have spent the holiday weekend sleeping.

Lynn, who hasn’t paid an ounce of attention to me when I tell people — or her — that she’s been sick since the beginning of November, was quite surprised to look at a bill from the hospital’s urgent care clinic to discover she sought treatment in early November. “I’ve been dealing with this that long?” was her reaction. Why yes, yes you have.

She has had phlegm lodged in her sore throat since November got underway. Nothing — not two trips to urgent care, not antibiotics, not Mucinex, not some tincture heartily endorsed by a postal patron, not much of anything — has resolved her squeaky voice. The phlegm hasn’t gone into her head; it hasn’t dropped to her chest. She has passed all her covid tests, and no one at urgent care suggested RSV or flu. Without a diagnosis, the one piece of advice she was offered that might have helped was, of course, the one she ignored completely: take three days off from work.

Well, now she’s finally getting around to that, and it may be making her feel and perhaps sound better. Huh. Medical science, eh?

In Lynn’s squeaky defense, leaving the Post Office even more short-handed would not have helped much. I believe I’ve covered this already, but here’s how things “work” in the postal world: If you’re a full-time employee, you work 40 hours each week and no more. If you’re a part-time employee, they think nothing of having you work 60 hours a week. If you’re a brand-new employee with one whole month’s experience and one week of training, you get left entirely by yourself to run the post office in Almont.

Up until a week or so ago, Almont was Lynn’s bailiwick, one she enjoyed very much, but since she was made a career postal employee in September (still classified as part-time), she was overqualified for the job, and it has to go to a non-career employee. That makes perfect sense, right? So Laurie, an Almont resident, has taken over and Lynn, who can barely talk, spends her lunch break on the phone with Laurie, talking her through the job. (Lynn’s supervisor has compensated her for these “training” sessions.)

In the meantime Lynn has been reassigned to Gunnison, where she works with full-time career people who think nothing of saying this out loud: “If we work fast now, they’ll expect us to do it all the time.” Lynn’s still starting her day at 6 a.m.; now it appears that her new schedule will routinely have her ending at 6 p.m. Or 8, because it’s package-o-rama and no one has applied for the available carrier positions so carriers are taking on two routes. In the meantime, Crested Butte, Gunnison and Lake City are all functioning without postmasters.

A month before Thanksgiving, the Gunnison postmaster told Lynn he just needed to stick it out for two more years. Two weeks later, working seven days a week at two administrative jobs plus some of the carrier/clerical work, he gave his notice and he was gone at Thanksgiving. A temporary duty person has come over from Salida, and her workload might get slimmed down if the replacement carrier supervisor ever arrives, but just as the clerks were feeling like they were in good shape one has volunteered for the temporary duty assignment in Lake City until a postmaster can be found.

Thus the post office remains overworked and understaffed, which appears to be the national plan moving forward. Lynn is already looking ahead to Wednesday, when planned absences mean there will just be two clerks on duty for most of the day, and she will get an entire half-hour for lunch on a day that starts at 6 and probably ends 12 hours later.

She’s still phlegmy, and the more she tries to talk the worse it often gets. She keeps thinking she’s getting better, but the next morning she’s still whispering, downing bone broth and the “Throat Coat” tea I found for her at the health food store, wondering if this is ever going to clear up.

Given the workload, and the part where on Day Three of her holiday home rest (if you don’t count the three hours she worked Saturday morning) she has done everything but rest, I’m going to guess the answer is “not any time soon.”

Here’s the reason Rose couldn’t join us for Christmas. As reasons go, he’s pretty cute, right? An overzealous vet, who was supposed to notch his ear once he was neutered, instead lopped the whole top off.

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