Post Office, by Charles Bukowski, has a vibrancy that has faded somewhat from American consciousness. Some sections are vile, but not all. If it weren’t for the stories I’d heard from workers over the years, some of the vignettes in this fictionalized tale of what it was like for Bukowski to work in the postal system in the 70s might have been obscured to time. It is telling, then, how immediate it feels even today.
Rating: ★★★★★ [5/5]
GG’s story is the one that will stay with me forever.
GG was a representation of the ideal company man. Here was an individual that gave his all to his employer, acting with complete faith that the employer could do no wrong, as long as he was diligent. For years, GG worked and worked, only for something to happen to him. The paragraph concluding GG’s career at Bukowski’s fictional representation of his postal employment shows a corporate brutality that hasn’t gone away with human resource teams, management seminars, and the shift from unions to flexible employment. Rather, it’s morphed into something more insidious. While we can’t say certain things or act in certain ways, there are things that can be done that prevent success, sometimes.
I’ve met many GGs over the years.
I’ve been a GG myself, multiple times, including now, mostly. It’s easy to get caught up in the corporate mentality. During the first week of one contract I had, our corporate contact encouraged us to find our “passion” within an email that used “y’all” in four of five paragraphs. I quit the next week. If I’d been years younger, such an opportunity would have encouraged me to give up my own passion for theirs. Instead, I thought, “well, I like writing more.” Bukowski is more curmudgeonly than most, but this was out of a lark. His character, Chinaski and perhaps he as well, had no grand career ambitions. He was just seeking an easy job.
Aren’t we all?
A job where we can go in, do our work with minimal hassle, and get enough money to get what we want? We may want more money, but the more often we gravitate toward that, the more hassle we get in exchange. The extra dollar or few cents added to our paycheck results in additional responsibilities that could cause us much more stress than they’re worth. In a way, Post Office is a call out to all the corporate bullshitters that pretend to be passionate about their jobs at everyone else’s expenses, but in another way, it is a cautionary tale. If it weren’t for me hearing about stories of how back in the old emergency room days, where patients would be body-slammed with mattresses if they were too crazed, then some of the stories in this fictional tale would seem too farfetched, especially in our day and age of prim and proper processes, polite professionals, and career permanent records. Those are all just suggestions.
Post Office has an approachable, raw, re-readable reading style.
|Sources: My personal and professional experiences.|
|Inspirations: Reading the book.|
|Related: Other Book Reviews with the Downsizing Zeal angle being that if you have a bunch of expensive shit, you have to pay for it. Sell it so you don’t have to work jobs you hate. Please.|
|Photos: I took a special trip to the post office to take this shot, and check my mail. The mailing box was serendipitously there. I may have moved it slightly, but I’m a writer not a photographer.|
|Written On: October 6th [16 minutes, from 1:32am to 1:49am with two breaks at “well, I like writing more” and “in additional responsibilities”]|
|Last Edited: October 10th [Insubstantial edits. Second draft; final draft for the Internet.]|