R.I.P. Jocks

R.I.P. Jocks

Check ´em again, doc

Dimly lit hotel room. Overturned furniture. Four corpses on the floor, covered with sheets. Who´re the stiffs? Tailpipe asks.

A wizened CSI, cigarette smoldering in the corner of his mouth, pulls back the sheet.

¨Pro sports,¨ he says.

What?

¨Pro sports. You know, South Florida pro teams.¨ He pulls back a sheet. ¨Been dying a year or so. Somebody finished them off last night.¨

No way. The´Pipe knows better. Check their pulse.

The CSI laughs out of the side of his mouth. ¨Dead, all right,¨ he says. ¨I´ve done the tests. All the symptoms. Read my report.¨

He hands Tailpipe a paper form on a clipboard. The´Pipe struggles to understand the written scrawl.

Indisputable signs of death:

· Dead Man Walking. Thirty-year-old quarterback Daunte Culpepper still hangs on, haunting his fragile 37-year-old replacement, Trent Green, on the downwardly mobile Dolphins.

· Joe Versus the Mendoza. Sub-.200 hot prospect Joe Borchard tangles with the infamous Mendoza Line (the line beneath which no baseball prospect is supposed to sink) for hopelessly mired fourth-place Marlins.

· Goalie Nostalgia. No playoffs, no all-star goalie Roberto Luongo, who was traded to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi. The injury-plagued Bertuzzi lasted all of seven games, and the Panthers stink.

· Draft to Nowhere. Daequan Who? Daequan Cook. Try to remember the name. Give the former Ohio State guard a seat on the bench and, yo, Dorell Wright, get him an appointment at the tattoo parlor. Riley don´t play no rookies.

The´Pipe reaches for his flask. Murder?

¨Nah. A rare quadruple suicide.¨

C´mon. Maybe it´s just summer doldrums. Check their pulse one more time.

Hoods in Mailmen´s Clothing

That´s no mailman. That´s some hoodlum in a smoke-spewing car, driving down the wrong side of the street. It´s a new nonpostal employee, shoving letters in your mailbox and, according to the real-deal mailmen, maybe even dropping your precious credit card offers and supermarket coupons into a Dumpster somewhere. Should we worry about this dude? Hell, yes, says Don McMahon, who was picketing, along with about 100 other blue-uniformed mailpeople, in front of the new Artesia condominiums in Sunrise last Wednesday. ¨It could be the demise of the postal service!¨

He´s talking about the first glimmerings of a privatized U.S. Postal Service.

The USPS has been quietly using contractors instead of career-track, federally employed letter carriers to deliver some of the mail. Although the practice has been going on for decades in rural areas, the National Association of Letter Carriers is upset to see it growing in cities and towns. NALC spokesperson Tammy Cadwell says that, since 2002, there´s been a 34 percent increase in what´s known as the Contract Delivery Service. In Broward County, she says, contract workers are already operating out of at least three postal stations.

Postal Service spokesperson Debra Fetterly doesn´t understand all the fuss. She says contractors serve only 9,300 delivery points from Pompano Beach to Key West. Compare that with 2 million points served by regular letter carriers (none of whom are being laid off) in the same area, who deliver only three percent of the mail nationwide.

Fetterly says contract workers are required to pass the same hurdles as regular letter carriers: criminal history reviews, fingerprinting, prior employment verification, a driving background check. Drug screening is set to begin July 31. ¨The Postal Service appreciates the great job that letter carriers and rural carriers are doing,¨ Fetterly adds. ¨We´re very proud of our employees.¨

Yeah, your appreciation and a buck-fifty is worth a cold cup of coffee, the protesters say.

Ski (he wouldn´t give his full name), stylishly dressed in a post office-brand floppy hat and shorts, has delivered in sleet, been bitten by a German shepherd, and once even faced a snake that came through a mail slot. Delivering the mail is challenging, he says. He arrives at work at 7 a.m., sorts mail by hand (it´s not all automated, people!), and then has to complete his route by a certain time. Not everyone can hack it -- and not everyone should be allowed to try, he says.

Most drivers, Ski and his friends note, work 56 hours a week over six days. Overtime? Sure, they make overtime. And with a starting salary of $19.00 per hour, that adds up to well over $40,000 a year. So it´s a job worth protecting. Maybe the protesters exaggerate a little. But let the privatizers get a foot in the door and who knows what will follow? Workers with seniority are already seeing desirable routes -- dense ones with little walking or condos with air conditioning -- go to newbie contract workers.

The disgruntled mailmen know what this is really all about. ¨The government doesn´t want to pay middle-class Americans a living wage,¨ said one man who asked not to be named.

If there´s any satisfaction to be found, the mailmen will find it in one place: Washington (Zip Code 20510), where Congress may soon consider the Mail Delivery Protection Act of 2007. Don´t hold your breath. Tailpipe, for one, isn´t optimistic about the prospects of a bill to make working people a little less expendable.

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