New Job for FedEx

I’m now working full-time as a delivery agent for a FedEx Ground contractor. It’s for a largely rural route about 1.5 hours south/southwest of Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, but including very scenic stretches along Lake Erie. I get to drive a fancy, almost-new Mercedes Benz Sprinter cargo van and use an excellent package route phone app. I also get benefits (including retirement savings) and a raise after a three-month probationary period. Thanks to Ryan and to Gerry (who put me in touch).

After over a year of getting nowhere, I got tired of working for Canada Post as an on-call relief (OCRE) rural and suburban mail carrier (RSMC). I had only occasional full-time work, no guarantee of continuing part-time work (which they told me I’d have until the end of August), no benefits, no pension, and no way to pay off the used mini-van I needed to do the job much of the time. Other times, I had to drive 20-30 year old, corporate-provided right-hand drive vehicles: Grumman LLV step-vans (which I called “ice-cream trucks”) and a rusty old Honda CRV. That FedEx can be run so much better makes me seriously question a bunch of socio-economic and political issues.

Postal Carrying Update

I’m in the middle of a two-week vacation fill-in on a nearby rural route. It pays for 5.5 hours per day, but there are so many flyers (which have to be collated with the letter mail) that it’s averaging 7.5 hours, which also includes parcels. Then, I found out yesterday that I won’t be back on my usual 4-hour suburban route next week, and I was supposed to be on that one until August. They apparently want me to “reach out” to other post offices to find more assignments. I have no idea what they’re doing, have been doing this for about ten months, and still have no permanent status, benefits, pension, or route of my own.

Graduate School and Alternative Career Paths

I find it amazing that academia abandons tens of thousands of people every year and that some fields have almost no contexts for other types of career paths. I wish I had pursued an alternative career path as much as twenty years ago. In addition, if I had never pursued graduate school at all, I could have started working as a Customer Service Representative for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, an Order Support Agent for a call centre, or a Rural & Suburban Mail Carrier for Canada Post in my twenties and been approaching early retirement by now. I also wish I had continued composing music to a much greater extent after my twenties. I’m 56, have a Ph.D., and have accomplished a great deal, but I have never had any kind of continuing full-time job that pays a living wage.

Alternative-academic and non-academic career paths—and ways to collaborate both with other scholars and with those outside academia—should be discussed and enabled. Those considerations should begin during the time-frame when doctoral candidates have traditionally worked on remarkably narrow concerns in their doctoral seminars, research and teaching assistantships, exams, and dissertations. Fewer people should complete doctorates and attempt to become professors. Post-secondary education usefully establishes and consolidates one’s interests, as well as the ability for critical thinking. However, pursuing it beyond a bachelor’s or master’s degree is unnecessary. I wish I had realized that a long time ago.

A Reflective Canada Day

I’m glad that many Canadians are finding Canada Day to be a reflective moment about truth and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples. Mass graves of what will probably end up being thousands of residential school children have been discovered. These children were not only stolen from their families, but considered savages and allowed to die (possibly sometimes even directly killed) by members of the Christian denominations running these schools. These things were done with the knowledge and support of various Canadian governments, and the last such school closed in 1996.

The Catholic Church was the worst offender, and it should own up to it and use its considerable financial resources to do something about it. Meanwhile, Canada should at least immediately make sure that every indigenous community has access to clean drinking water and to other things that the rest of us take for granted.

My own Swiss-American ancestors settled about two hundred years ago on part of the Haldimand Tract, land that was granted to the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River, within the territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples. 60,000 acres of Block 2 in what is now the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario area was purchased in 1805 by Mennonite settlers who had moved there from Pennsylvania, but the area was supposed to be granted in perpetuity to the Anishinaabe people. So, these issues have been around for a very long time.

Vaccines and Politicians

People with certain pre-existing medical conditions are three or more times as likely as the general public to die from COVID-19 once infected. (Don’t worry: I’m not infected.) All levels of government in Canada are doing terribly at dealing with the vaccines.

I get that seniors need to be the priority after frontline health-care workers and long-term care residents. However, Pfizer and Moderna have flagrantly reneged on signed agreements for delivery schedules, and things are now being delayed by weeks or months, especially for the rest of us.

So, politicians need to do something about the unexpected changes to the vaccine roll-out. I’ve been led to believe that some of them were even trained as lawyers, but I’m now guessing they became politicians because they were actually pretty bad at it.

Follow-up: It took until April 20, 2021 to get a vaccine, which was dose 1 of AstraZeneca.

The Piranha Scholar

[With all due apologies to Monty Python!:]

Denied the opportunity to use his talents in the paid service of his profession, the unaffiliated musicologist began to operate what he called ‘The Operation’… He would select a book or journal editor and then threaten not to send in his chapter or article if they paid him. Four months later, he started another operation, which he called ‘The Other Operation.’ In this racket, he selected another victim and threatened to send in his work if they didn’t pay him. One month later, he hit upon ‘The Other Other Operation’. In this, the victim was threatened that if they didn’t pay him, he wouldn’t send in his work. This, for the unaffiliated musicologist, was the turning point.

The Piranha Brothers (Monty Python, 1970)
The Piranha Brothers (“Ethel the Frog,” Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 1970)

Is It Time for a Guaranteed Annual Income?

With millions of people applying for government support and millions more (like me) still earning non-living wages to provide “essential” services, it is time for Canada to have a guaranteed annual income. Give every adult $2000 a month from now on. Make it taxable, so people who already earn a lot don’t get to keep much of it. Cut the red tape. Cut the bureaucracy. Easily cover the cost by cutting the costs of having to run so many different government programs (EI, CPP, OAS, GIS, CERB, CESB, provincial welfare and disability systems, etc.).

Replacing Phoenix

I’m glad that the Canadian government is finally replacing the Phoenix pay system. On my eight-month Master of Library & Information Science co-op placement at the Parks Canada National Library in 2017, it seriously messed up my pay. They’re replacing it with something from Germany-based company SAP. However, as someone who now uses SAP’s incredibly complex main product every day at work, I have to wonder if they can really build a system that will make sense. Part of the problem with Phoenix is that the necessary training by IBM to use it correctly was simply never done. Hopefully, SAP can build something that won’t require much training and that will just work.

Meta Plow

Hilariously, these several plow-dudes plowed their way to work this morning in their snow-plow-fitted pickup trucks and then switched over to their industrial-strength snow plows.

“Meta Plow, that’s their name; that name again is Meta Plow.”