Oral History Interview with Alison Stankrauff, 2023 January 23

« Postal Workwear

Stankrauff, Alison
Letter Carrier

Recording

Oral History Interview with Alison Stankrauff

23 January 2023 • 1:01:13

Summary Keywords

uniform, Detroit, people, workwear, station, allowance, civilian clothing, neighborhoods, city, coworkers, pants, job, customers, postal, boots, months, route, clerks, academy

Preface

The following oral history transcript is the result of a recorded interview with Alison Stankrauff on January 23, 2023. The interview took place on zoom in which the narrator was in Detroit, Michigan and the interviewer was in Washington, DC. and was conducted by Alison Bazylinski for the National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution. This interview is part of the National Postal Museum's Postal Workwear Oral History Project. This transcript of spoken word has been lightly edited for readability by the National Postal Museum.

Interview

NARRATOR: Alison Stankrauff
INTERVIEWER: Alison Bazylinski

[00:00:00]

ALISON BAZYLINSKI: Hi, this is Alison Bazylinski and I am facilitating an oral history of Alison Stankrauff for the postal Workwear Oral History Project. Today's date is Monday, January 23, 2023. We're doing this interview remotely using Zoom. This interview will be available for public access through the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. We will start with a discussion of your background and then talk about your experiences with postal workwear. So do you mind just starting off saying where you're from and how you ended up where you are now?

[00:00:43]

ALISON STANKRAUFF: Sure. Um, so I am in Detroit, Michigan. I'm from Southeast Michigan. I've moved around a lot. And I've been a postal carrier here in the city of Detroit for almost two years. I started in April 2021. Time gets strange. But previous to that, I was for, almost 18 years, I was in higher education, and I was an archivist, I was a librarian first at American Jewish archives in Cincinnati, and then at Indiana University's South Bend campus for 13 years. And then I finished up at my alma mater, at Wayne State University. That contract ended when in the middle of COVID and there were cuts at the university, which continued to, like most higher education, institutions in general, right now, and

particularly in the heart of COVID. And so, I at that point, it was not an employee's bonanza in terms like it is now in terms of finding jobs, I was sort of scrambling. And I knew that I could go back to school and get another master's [degree] if I wanted, but I wanted to do something immediately to pay the bills and have a pretty good living wage and good benefits and I didn't want to go back to school. So I tried the Detroit Police Academy for four months out of the six-month training program. And that was in the wake, obviously, of George Floyd and his murder and police murders that keep happening across America and wanted to be a different kind of officer. Lots of stories there. Just suffice to say, I found the culture of policing to not match my personal ethos and so I dropped out. I tend to stick with things to the bitter end, this was one thing that — I'm 48 now, and I want something that could hold me through to retirement and I did not see myself as a police officer for the rest of my working life.

[00:04:03]

STANKRAUFF: US Postal Service actually had hired me before, around the same time that I was looking for jobs, and I got hired into the, ostensibly, the police force here in Detroit. When I first got hired with USPS, it was for a clerk position indoors, and it was going to pay a little bit less than what I would be making as a police officer. And I liked the idea, I liked the idea of service. And what drew me to being for, you know, 18 plus years in higher education as an information professional is I feel like I want to do something that matters, makes a difference. And so, you know, at the time, I just sort of did the math and, and the higher purpose plus the economics wasn't filling the bill for USPS, but then I came back to it after I was, you know, left the police academy, and I just, I mean, I kept Detroit's obviously a large city with a lot of positions. And then, I mean, the metro areas include the suburbs, I just kept applying, I kept getting hired for everything that I was, like, every day, I kept getting emails covering me in, and I finally got one for the station that's literally blocks from my apartment here. And I was like, well, here we go.

So then I, you know, went into the postal academy, and started and in, I guess I started the postal Academy in the end of April. So I guess I started officially working in the station and training in the station in May, directly after.

[00:06:36]

BAZYLINSKI: What was the academy like? Like, what kind of what kind of stuff do they go over? [00:06:42]

STANKRAUFF: Um, so that's out in the suburbs at one of the huge stations. And so you've got people from like, all over Southeast Michigan, and we're all going to be popping out to different stations, you know, very different populations, different neighborhoods, and sort of different, you know, work days. But, of course, there's all. You know, we all have the same training. You start, well, actually, we started

downtown Detroit, which is, you know, also a huge post office. And that was also with people from all over, that was with folks who were going to be carriers, but also people who are going to be clerks doing a lot of different things on the inside that are critical to the operation. So that was more general. And then, and then, I want to say that was maybe three or four days, and then the rest of the training, I think it was two weeks, two or three weeks in the academy. And then the rest, the time in the academy is up in the suburban station. And it's only with carriers. Again, with folks who are going to be all over, not so much rural carriers, they have their own academy, which makes sense, because their craft is very different than ours. But this is for all the folks who are, you know, walking neighborhoods. So, I'd say its a mix of like, teaching you the ethics, the legalities of mail and packages. There's a little bit of customer relations. Because that's a huge part of what you do every day is — you know, hopefully you like people because it's definitely a people job. And then a lot of it is logistics. And trying to do things as fast as possible, which is one of the one things that I am not in love with for the job but you have to be fast.

And then there's vehicle training as well. [00:09:41]

BAZYLINSKI: Interesting. Yeah, I have a couple of post offices close to me and I have one that I like because I like the woman who works there. She's always very nice. So when you started on, did you, I guess how did they introduce sort of the idea of uniforms. Did you get a uniform allowance right away? What was sort of that process and introduction like?

[00:10:10]

STANKRAUFF: I'm trying to think if there was anything in the academy that was covered was what we were. I think there might well have been, I don't remember explicitly. I trained initially, it took a while for me to get an allowance, and so for a good while, and I can't remember how long at least a month I was just in civilian clothing.

[00:10:49] BAZYLINSKI: Okay. [00:10:51]

STANKRAUFF: Then, gosh, it must have been, it must have been more than a month. And I only think of this because I'm so, you know, like I say if I'm thinking it out timewise when I started out training on the street, was, must have been May. And here in you know, the Upper Midwest, it was still cold. Yeah, I was in a jacket, and I had gloves. But I was in civilian clothing well into the warm months. It might have

even been through the summer, because I wore, you know, T shirts, and I had like tennis shoes for all of the walking and then I just wore like, kind of three quarter — what would those be called, three quarter pants, like workout pants?

[00:11:57]

BAZYLINSKI: Yeah, like capris?

STANKRAUFF: Right, yeah, like, you know, kind of covering you over the knees. Yeah, and then, I mean, I do remember eventually getting the like, just a photocopy, you know, of a form - a voucher - to take to the uniform store. And going from there and buying what I could. I did have some coworkers who were great and the kind of the long timer coworkers that I have, who, because we get an annual allowance every year and they've been there for a long time, they just accrue a lot of uniform and about my size. And so for example, one of my coworkers, she's awesome and I couldn't have made it through last winter without them, she gave me a pair of the All Weather pants that are like snow pants.

BAZYLINSKI: Yeah.

STANKRUAFF: And those have been my one pair through the cold months. And then I had another — and she's still working, she keeps talking about wanting to retire but we'll see about that. And actually some of her family is on the route, my regular route — so you know, Detroit's a big city, but it's — the postal community is kind of a small one. And then another coworker gave me — she retired last March- and she gave me a bunch of clothing that has also been indispensable. Like I wouldn't have had shorts this past summer without her.

[00:14:29] BAZYLINSKI: Really? STANKRAUFF: Yeah. [00:14:32]

BAZYLINSKI: Oh, I guess so — you wouldn't have had shorts because you didn't have the allowance yet? Or was it due to demand?

[00:14:39]

STANKRAUFF: Yeah. And I actually have had this fight before I finally got it. Right. So I'm off on medical leave right now because I got frostbite. I got it on Christmas Eve eve, so December 23, so I've been off work since December 24 and the doctors have given me through the end of February. So, I got my allowance right before the holidays, basically.

[00:15:18]

BAZYLINSKI: Ok. It took several months then. [00:15:21]

STANKRAUFF: Yeah. And that was frustrating, because I started probably around April, and said, I know this, from everything I'm hearing from my coworkers, I know this is gonna take a long time. And can we get the paperwork rolling right now? And I think maybe the first few times it like, didn't happen. And there's always a fire to put out at the post office, multiple fires every day it's just chaos and pandemonium. And it's just so much, you know, and I think the supervisors always had something jump in front of them, literally, you know, on their desk. And eventually, eventually, I got that that card in the mail, you know, the credit card that you get from the federal government?

[00:16:29]

BAZYLINSKI: Yeah. Did you— were there any issues with your supervisors that you didn't - I guess, because there was a time you're talking you were in civilian clothing, was that an issue at all? Or is that pretty common?

[00:16:43]

STANKRAUFF: That's pretty common. I had a, like, a vest that, like you see with, particularly like construction workers, a lightweight mesh vest that, you know, has velcro fasteners that I could put on, and sometimes I did put on, especially, you know, it’s obviously a very physical job. And when it was really hot, I didn't want to wear one more layer. So I actually went without it. And I had a couple of coworkers be like, well, I’d watch out for that, you know, and, frankly, I, you know, I don't want to be too— what do I want to say, cavalier about it, but they really need people. And I think some of it you know, if you're not egregious, with your behavior, and your uniform, they're probably going to look the other way. And they're going to really look for real, you know, faults, I think. And there have been a couple of folks. I don't get surprised by much, but there have been a couple of trainees in the past few months that have gotten fired. And I, I did get surprised about that. Because we need people so bad.

[00:18:30]

BAZYLINSKI: Mmmhmm, interesting. So, what were the first things—[cough] What were the first things that you purchased once you did get your allowance?

[00:18:40]

STANKRAUFF: Yeah, definitely. Two pairs of pants. And my coworkers told me, the women told me, you know, here's what we do, and we've done for years, we get the men's and the uniform store that I go to is right in the neighborhood. It's a few blocks from, you know, the station, from my apartment. Oddly, well not oddly but it just feels a little odd, I went there when I was in the police academy as well, because, of course, they serve all levels of federal and municipal workers. So it was a place that was familiar to me. It's been there an age. The team is great and like, they tailor things for you right in the shop while you're waiting and they're fast and they do a beautiful job. And so, I got the pants, they tailored them right away for me. I did have one pair of pants from my one coworker that had given me shorts. And those were the women's style, which they're the only women's pants that I have. And I'm not sure why they do it, but as far as I can see, and I might be wrong, the men's hands don't have elastic, the women's pants do. Which is strange because we all have expanding and contracting waistlines, so I'm not quite sure what the deal is there. I like men's better just because they sort of have a cleaner, straight line. And they're, at least on me, they're a little more — that there's no elastic, so there's no sort of bunch waistline. It's just all, yea uniform. A uniform look.

[00:21:06]

BAZYLINSKI: And you mentioned that other women had recommended this to you, so do most of the women that you're at least talking to you and friends with, they all pretty much all buy the men's pants as well?

[00:21:18]

STANKRAUFF: Maybe? I haven't really asked all around so I'm not positive of that. The other thing that I bought, which is, you know, cost me the most out of that initial allowance that I got was, it's gonna last me a lifetime, is my winter coat. And, you know, I liked it a lot. It's like a bomber jacket. And it’s got good lines, and it's incredibly warm. And I mean, I can put it through anything and everything and it just comes out looking clean as a whistle every day. We get filthy.

[00:22:19]

BAZYLINSKI: Yea, I’m sure. Do you have much snow right now? [00:22:24]

STANKRAUFF: Uh, it just snowed? Um, uh, yes. Days get weird when you're off work. It was yesterday. And we're supposed to, like have a snowstorm on Wednesday.

[00:22:44]

BAZYLINSKI: I’m actually, I'm flying to Des Moines on Thursday. I'm going back to see my mom. But I think I'm flying through St. Louis, not Chicago or Detroit— And I now I need to check that in case.

[00:22:58]

STANKRAUFF: Yeah, well, fingers crossed. [00:23:00]

BAZYLINSKI: I know. Yeah, well I know that it would be colder in Michigan that it is in Iowa but I am familiar with the Midwest cold so I can appreciate that, the need for a good jacket. Yeah, what I want to pack.

[00:23:15]

STANKRUAFF: Something I like about the jacket too, is that it's got a liner that you can, you know, zip out. And so I wear it— and like all of the clothing is all union made, is made in the US. With ethical, you know, and ethical labor. And it all of it is really tough. And, you know, if, of course, because of that it costs more. So you get a fair amount for your allowance, But you know, it's not like going to a, you know, whatever, a Target, getting a crazy amount for the — what's in your wallet, you have to think carefully. But what you get lasts literally a lifetime. So with this jacket, like I'm able to wear it in super cold temperatures. And then even, in a workday, if it's like in the spring or the fall where if the day starts out real cold and gets warmer, I can just - and I'm having to work really quickly - I can just zip the landing out and take it out and then if I have to put it in again in the morning for the next day, I can do that really easily.

[00:24:50]

BAZYLINSKI: That's nice, convenient.

[00:24:54]

STANKRAUFF: Lots of pockets. Which is critical [00:25:04]

BAZYLINSKI: Can I just back up for one second? Could I get the name of the the uniform store in your neighborhood?

[00:25:10]

STANKRAUFF: Sure, um, gosh, Enterprise. Enterprise Uniform. And it's on what we call in Detroit, the Boulevard. So, so, Grand Boulevard, and basically, you know, Detroit is an East- West Side city, whereas, you know, a lot of other cities are like, south side, north side. There is a certain amount of that, obviously — Southwest Detroit, northwest Detroit, etc. But like it's really divided by the main artery Woodward. And so the boulevard cuts through and goes for miles and miles, both on the east side and the west side, and then out into the suburbs. And our station is one wait is that one block? Yeah, it's

181. block east of, of Woodward. So my station is 60 East Milwaukee Street. And that's to blocks south of the boulevard. The uniform store is also on the east, east side of Woodward. So it's East Grand Boulevard. And it's probably like, four blocks, three or four blocks from the station.

[00:26:41]

BAZYLINSKI: I'm trying to. I was actually — I was in Detroit in September, I went to Wayne State to do some research for work so I like try — I didn't rent a car. So I tried to do a lot of walking to sort of like, figure out where things were.

[00:27:00]

STANKRAUFF: You were doing research on the NALC? [00:27:02]

BAZYLINSKI: Yes. Yeah. [00:27:26]

STANKRAUFF: So when I was a student worker, and I worked in the archives at Wayne State, I got my master's in library science at Wayne State, and I worked at the archives as a student worker, one of the things, I mean, it's ironic now that I'm a postal carrier, because one of the things that I did while I was there was, it was the first time that Wayne State and the Reuther — You know, labor archives, where you did your research — made the connection with what is now my union, to get all of the materials from DC, and it came on s big semi, and my job was to help unload that semi. And then I did a crazy, you know, crazy amounts of stuff. And obviously, stuff has come, you know, for several years after that, so it just grows. But I did a very rough inventory of what came in. And then I did a more, still a rough inventory, but I sat through hours and hours and hours of videotapes of Union [NALC] , um, their annual conventions.

[00:28:37]

BAZYLINSKI: I didn't realize there were videotapes. I think - I'm interested in pre probably pre video, but um, that's really funny that you ended up coming full circle. And then yeah, and then the current archivist slash librarian at the NALC in Washington, DC is also named Alison. It gets very confusing in my email sometime. The funny coincidence, huh? Just gonna see what other— trying to get my mind back as I'm thinking about all of these things. After you started working and you kind of you used your first allowance, were there any adjustments that you made or like, things that you noticed and kind of fixed along the way?

[00:29:32]

STANKRAUFF: Well, yeah, I'd say one of them was along—In that first set of money that I got— the like I say, probably the biggest expense was the winter coat, and that was money well spent. The other thing that I got was a pair of boots and I thought they were going to be fantastic. Thorogood [boot company]- not to throw shade on them, cuz I'm sure they make great stuff. But, you know, they've been around forever. And they also are, I believe they’re union made, they're made in Milwaukee. They hurt my feet really bad. You know, I'm, I'm a lady of a certain age, I've always been very athletic and very active. But, you know, I need something that's, that's gonna work and, and I want to say it was like a day or two in these, in these boots, just murdered my feet, they were horrible. And so, and they, they were the same brand of these shoes that I wore for the police academy, that were real different. I mean, those were— in the police academy, the men and the women, we basically all wore the same shoe. And they had to be, you know, spit shined to high gloss every day. And that's a whole different thing that's— thank God, the Postal Service has a lot more— It just suits me so much better, psychologically and both in what I wear as well. But so, so unfortunately, these boots didn't work out.

[00:32:03]

And I'm trying to remember, like, what, what I did. You know, here, here's now that I'm talking about it, I think it's helping me with kind of the time frame, because I do think that it was probably like, through the entire summer that I didn’t get my allowance. And because I was able, it was like maybe late August or early September when the weather would start maybe switching a little bit. But I was able to, you know, because basically the only caveat is that we have to wear all black shoes. And, you know, ideally, you wear something like a heavy-duty work boot. And I don't know if some stations are more strict about that, maybe. But, I mean, and I definitely have a whole lot of coworkers who wear kind of like any anything they want on their feet, because we're walking all day. And I think especially if they have to switch them out. So you know, hot pink shoes or whatever. But people you know, really do you tend to stick to the all-black shoe. So I think I was, when these boots didn't work out I just wore — because I'm working all the time. I mean it's like finding time to like make a special trip to the store to try out something else. You have to carve that time out on time off. So I think I was like just went back to wearing my all-black athletic shoes.

[00:34:14]

STANKRAUFF: But I did find — basically I go to an army surplus store and there's a particular brand of boots that I like that I had the luck of buying them, you know after those boots from the uniform store didn't work out. And I just kind of lucked out with these boots and bought a second pair this season. And they're also Union made and they're, apparently, they're designed by women. Not everything in this brand is but they— this particular model, they've asked some of their customers who are like first responders and et. cetera, to design boots and they're exceptional. Yeah. And I mean, like, my own route is eight and a half miles. Now five or six days a week, and then because we're chronically short, I'm always doing overtime, every day. So, I can walk up to, like, 11 and a half miles every day, and they never hurt my feet.

[00:35:47]

BAZYLINSKI: That's a lot of walking. [00:35:50]

STANKRAUFF: Yeah. It's one of the things that I miss about, like being off of work, I have to say is lovely in a lot of ways. Pros and cons, you know, but I do miss the exercise. Yeah, I've been going to the gym, but it's, it's not quite the same as like, you know, walking for literally, like, you know, nine to 12 hours every day.

[00:36:25]

BAZYLINSKI: Yeah. Were you familiar with the area that your route is in before you got that route? Because you said it was close to your apartment or the station was close to your apartment?

[00:36:35]

STANKRAUFF: Yeah, the station is close to my apartment. My route is— let's see, it's maybe like I start probably about two and a half miles or so from here. I have to get on the—Of course, also, because time is of the essence with the job. I have to get on the the Lodge in City Expressway, get on the expressway to get up there. I could go through the neighborhoods, but it would you know, a lot of stuff. Youknow, it would take me longer. Yeah. So it takes me probably about five minutes from the station to get up to my route. So it's a little bit aways away. We, our station is the biggest station in the city of Detroit, which is saying something. And we have four zip codes. And it's both East Side and west side. And the neighborhoods are very different from each other and it's one of the things I enjoy about the job. And if I'm going to have overtime, it's kind of fun, because like we cover downtown, which of course is, you know, its own kind of, you know, set of neighborhoods, there's always stuff going on, you know, ballgames and huge concerts and, you know, rallies and events—.you know, the clientele the customers are real different down there. Now with Detroit, there's luxury homes down there, which blows my mind because it never used to be that way. My neighborhood is definitely— for sure Working class, there's a few streets that are a little more middle class. And Detroit, of course, is the— what we call the blackest city in America, so my, my neighborhoods are all African American. And I can count probably, on one hand maybe to all of the households out of all of the dozens of households, both apartments and houses that I deliver to that are not African American. So downtown is real different than that. That's more of a mix. And then a lot of times my overtime is out on the east side. And I can choose it, I like to do it just because of the contrast and I like to deliver in a a city within the city is Hamtramck. And it's heavily Yemeni. And so I love it. Because if my overtime, usually by the time I get out here, it's in the five o'clock hour. And it's when the call to prayer comes on. And the city has it by city decree, they have it on the loudspeaker. Just kind of reverberates through the city, and it's very beautiful. And it's, it's real interesting, you know, to deliver in that part of the city. Just, I love both, because it's just this huge compare and contrast. Yea.

[00:40:55]

BAZYLINSKI: When you— shifting sort of shifting topics a little bit, um, I want to ask, I guess sort of your personal—I want to ask about your personal style, like, if that's something that you spend time thinking about, like, are you are you a shopper in your free time? And then how is that influenced or like, is that something you consider when you're picking up pieces for work? Or are they two totally separate things?

[00:41:28]

STANKRAUFF: Um, I tend to not be a shopper, I kind of hate shopping. When I was a kid, and through my 20s—and when I think when I did shop more, and when I was finding my own personal style, etc, I think I started in high school and absolutely through college, I loved thrifting. Like, that's where I would go shopping. Both, for sure, with my friends, particularly when I was in college. That was, you know, one of our kind of fun things to do together was to pile up in a car, and I went to college in a small college in rural Ohio. So we’d pile up in a car and go, you know, a couple of towns over to this massive, like Value Village, which is run— it's like a charity for veterans, you know. And we were just, you know, blew our minds that we could fill up garbage bags with, you know, amazing stuff for nothing. So that was kind of like my heyday, of enjoying shopping. I don't really anymore. And I haven't bought anything, I did buy a couple of things right before the new year, because I was going to visit friends. But I haven't bought new clothing, civilian clothing, like in an age. Pretty much the only thing that I did do was when I had to dress for the office, you know, every day, as you know, in higher education. I have a lot of kind of office wear.

[00:43:35]

STANKRAUFF: I did, I did have another—someone else who gave me a bunch of, of clothing that has kind of in terms of kind of making the uniform be a little individualized to myself. One of my customers, I have a lot of several, both current postal workers in various respects, whether they're clerks, or— one of my favorite customers, she works now partly from home and they put her back in in the office. So she's part time working from home and then back in the in the post office, but then she's a former carrier herself. Super cool. But she does phone Customer service, bless her heart, a that would be thankless job. Yeah. And so, so I, I've had one or two customers give me stuff. So I have one of my customers. He retired from the post office like— it's now probably four years ago. He gave me a bunch of shirts and he's a, he's a dude and he's, you know, much bigger than me. But I, I like that because I kind of like I tuck the shirts into my waistband, and I roll the sleeves up. And it's kind of a—like, not exactly tailored, but it's whatever that look would be that women take a man's shirt and make it somehow feminine a little bit?

[00:45:31]

BAZYLINSKI: Yeah. Like, what is like boyfriend? Like boyfriend style, sort of, where it's like a bit oversized?

[00:45:39]

STANKRAUFF: Yeah, I enjoy that. [00:45:42]

BAZYLINSKI: Do people tend to on to keep their things once they retire, generally? Or do like what? Yeah, I guess, what do people tend to do with their stuff?

[00:45:54]

STANKRAUFF: I think, from what I'm seeing some of my coworkers, like my coworker, Margaret, retired last year and gave me a bunch of stuff, tend to give away. And, or if they're close to retirement, sort of shedding stuff. We also have, oh, and I, I maybe should have mentioned that before. We also have in the back of the station, we've got a back staircase that goes up to - we have locker rooms for women and men. Which lots of folks, I think some people use them, but probably not so much. I do have a locker that I haven't opened in months. But we've got, we've got a coat rack back there. And it's kind of a, the community, you know, get the, the free area. So there's uniform stuff, a lot of it's pretty beat up. But there's every, of course, it varies what may or may not be there, but you know, pants, shirts, sweaters, delivery bags. And, and some, like, civilian stuff that can pass. I think maybe sometimes, some coworkers kind of put stuff there that is— kind of has nothing to do with postal wear, but they, you know, they’re just putting stuff up, like, hey, if one is up on a coat hanger up here.

[00:47:53]

BAZYLINSKI: That sounds similar to what people in DC do, which is putting stuff out in a box on the street and like a sign that says free. And there's a lot of groups where people sort of message each other. I've never lived in a city where that was so prevalent before, but I've gotten a lot of good stuff. So, that’s nice. I’ve enjoyed that. What was I just going to ask? Do you have preferences—I guess are there, sorry I’m trying to think how to phrase everything. For mailbags, do you get different options for what you're carrying? Is it all sort of standard? Do people consider that part of the uniform?

[00:48:42]

STANKRAUFF: Oh, yeah, for sure. You can't not have it. For one thing, one of the things that I don't love about the job is that we're tracked and traced. I mean, we've got these scanners, you know, that, you know, track every literally every step we take. I I think I'm not overstepping to say that I resent it. All my coworkers resent it, a lot of great things about the job, I'm not going to talk smack but that is something that I do not love. And some people could— so like, you know, it has a holster basically. And the so, you know, we just get hammered into our minds all the time, they tell us you know, you must wear your

scanner all the time. And we're tracked for our, you know, an NDI which I don't even know what that stands for. But it's like basically when you're quote on quote not moving, which I never don't move. And then, of course, every station is all numbers. So, you know, they track every worker every day, literally every minute. And then, of course, you know, us being the largest station, we've got, I forget, it's 30 something routes, 40 something routes, a huge amount, its basically like a factory, you know, we've got a lot of coworkers. So just to manage one station alone, and every hour of every day, and all of those workers, and then you put that into, like, multiple stations in a city with many more workers. I mean, it's just a numbers game, you know, and just telling us that, that you can't not have your scanner on you. So I have mine, my holster on my bag. And of course, there's, there's a loop to hook it on to. Some people carry it on their body, which is probably smart, because on the off occasion that I don't pick up my bag, and have it on me even for if, like, a lot of my neighborhood that I deliver to is —its seen economic disruption. So there's a lot of where, in postal language, we call it a drop, where you have to drive up to it because there's vacant land where houses and apartments used to be. So even if I'm just dropping, and so you know, driving up to one place, and like I have a couple of blocks like that, where it's there, you know, I have to drive up to the house, there's only one and then I have to get back into my truck drive up to the next one. I could, and sometimes I do, leave my bag, because it's going to be— it's going to take me longer to go and grab the bag, put it on and leave the truck. But you know, that's a no-no, because you're supposed to have your scanner on you every second. So, I definitely have my, you know, bag with me all the time. And also, I mean, a lot of it is you never know what, what you're going to need when you go up to an address, like, even if you don't have a package for them. Or if you don't have like a certified letter, something where you are going to need like a pen to write something with. I have all my pens, you know, in my bag, I've got one in the front pocket just, you know, that I'm constantly taking out and using and putting it back, then I've got a lot of other stuff in my bag that ostensibly I'm going to use but also, you know, I'm walking the blocks and I've always got packages so I need my bad for every block pretty much.

[Pause in conversation] [00:54:09]

BAZYLINSKI: I share an office space with my partner. We both work from home a few days a week and go in and out of our windowless basement room. Very cheery.

[00:54:24]

STANKRAUFF: I definitely worked from home for, you know, several months when I was still working at Wayne State. So I feel you.

[00:54:37]

BAZYLINSKI: Yeah, I go in sometimes but I do — I'm doing a lot of research so like — I can kind of do it wherever. But I like [pause] talking to you about sort of your like your experiences and the way people are thinking about uniforms, just makes things connects with like the uniforms that I'm seeing in our collections as well as some of the, like archival materials that I found, and there's no real history, like, authoritative history on postal uniforms or sort of tracking all the different steps. So I've been sort of piecing that together with newspapers and manuals. And then yeah, just trying to talk to people and get on the ground experiences and see how that's changed over time. Yeah, I really think it's interesting. I think I've, I've kind of gone over a lot of what I had in mind to chat with you about, I just wanted to ask, is there anything else that you've thought of, or anything that stands out to you that you hadn't been expecting when you started the job?

[00:55:50]

STANKRAUFF: Um, well, one, one thing that I can think of is, in terms of uniforms is, I am so glad that I wear a uniform. Like, you know, as nonconformist as I, I think I tend to be or, you know, how much of that is me thinking that I'm nonconformist. But, you know, in terms of my clothes, I've always liked to, you know, wear what I want, I have never really liked following trends, per se. And, you know, working a white-collar job for, for, you know, almost two decades, there was a huge part of that time that I really enjoy. And, you know, being a faculty member, when I was at Indiana University, like, I was a professional meeting goer, so you know, meeting with administration, and it was a small city, so we had a lot of community connection, you know, meeting with members in the city council, and et cetera, et cetera, like, I had to, you know, look on point every day. And, you know, I enjoyed that sort of thinking of what my lineup of meetings were going to be and dressing accordingly and being sort of crafty about that. Alternately, I really love not having to mess around with that every day, and just wearing the very same thing every day is, it takes a lot of the the guesswork out of it and it just makes life a lot more simple. And I think too, when I'm that sort of window of time when I was delivering without a uniform, a lot of people just didn't say anything, but some people it threw off. And people, some people were like, oh, you know, now, you can kind of wear anything, if you work for the post office. And that was like, well, no. And then you had to, you know, sort of explain very quickly “well, no, I'm waiting for my annual allowance, and I don't have it yet, blah, blah.” And whether that was important to people or not, I don't know. But you know, having a uniform is a lot easier. Also, I I find one of the many things that I love about the job is and there are many things that I love about the job, it's directly connected to the uniform and I think that’s that particularly in an overwhelmingly working class city like Detroit people have a lot of respect for people who work long hours and work outside in any conditions and you know, you're easily identifiable. And I feel like you know for sure to now being on my own route for almost two years and there was there were several months when I first started out that I just ping ponged around all different parts of you know, the large many miles that we cover, but I got my own route and the end of August of my first year. So what is that? Oh, you know, whatever, whatever, how long it's definitely over, over a year, a year and a half or so. I know those people, you know, and you're definitely part of the community and the uniform is part of that. And the truck, I would say is almost part of the uniform. You drive up in the truck, people wave at you, they honk at you, you know, the - probably at least once a week, I get something from either one of my regular customers or just somebody, you know, coming through the neighborhood. “Thank you for your service.” And they can tell who I am, you know, via the uniform.

[1:00:56]

BAZYLINSKI: Yeah. That's yeah, that's really sweet. And nice that you have that that connection to the community.

[1:01:03]

STANKRAUFF: Yeah, it means a lot to me. [1:01:08]

BAZYLINSKI: I'm gonna go ahead and stop the recording now.

Subjects

Stankrauff, Alison

Bazylinski, Alison

Postal Workwear Oral History Project

Postal service – Michigan – History

Postal service – United States – Employees – Biography

Postal service – United States – Employees – History

Postal service – United States – Employees – Uniforms

Postal service – United States – Employees – 21st Century

Sound recordings

Interviews