Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Picture of Postal Worker

Below: Lloyd Broussard, Tina Perrin, Mary Alice Couvillon, Kenneth Gove, Paula Hargrave

One of the great things about coming from a large family is that when I need information about almost anything, I can turn to a relative. If I need financial advice, I speak to my brother, Joey, who works at a bank. If I want to know why my ice cream is melting in my freezer, I call my brother, Jude, who owns an appliance store. And if I have a question concerning anything to do with the post office, I dial 1-800-ASK-MARY (Phone number not real. Do not call.).

My sister-in-law, Mary Alice Couvillon, is a rural carrier associate with the United States Postal Service. I call her on a regular basis with questions like the current costs of stamps, different shipping options and why the only mail I ever get are bills. She’s always such a wealth of information that I sometimes worry she’ll start charging me by the minute like a telephone psychic.

“My favorite part of the job is working with the public,” says Mary Alice. “Some people will meet me at their mailboxes and tell me about their families.”

Mary Alice started her career with the USPS thirteen years ago in Rayne, but now works in the Abbeville location. Before she was hired, she was required to take the Postal Exam, which tested her memory, comparison and math skills.

“I have to be focused and well organized when I sort through the mail because some of the names and addresses are very similar,” says Mary Alice. “It’s one of the most important parts of the job.”

I recently visited Mary Alice at the Abbeville post office to find out what it was like to be a rural carrier associate. We met in the back of the building, and she led us inside a warehouse where postal workers pushed around carts filled with sacks of mail. Then we sat down on stools and faced a large case with shelves, each one sectioned off by addresses.

“When the mail comes into the post office, an associate sorts it by routes,” said Mary Alice. “Then I take the mail for my route and put it in order by address in this casing. That way, I avoid mistakes during delivery.”

According to Mary Alice, the most challenging part of her job is delivering the mail during bad weather or the summer months. But the rest of the year, she enjoys driving the different routes in Vermilion Parish, especially the ones in the country.

“I love photographing nature,” said Mary Alice. “If I could photograph anything in the world, though, it would be my late parents. I’d love to take a picture of them alive today.”

Mary Alice gave me a short tour of the front of the post office where customers can find change of address and hold mail forms, as well as purchase stamps, money orders and shipping materials. We spent the final part of our interview outside in the back parking lot trying to get a decent photograph of me pushing a cart towards a mail truck.

“Try to make me look muscular and like I’m twenty-one years old,” I said to Mary Alice when I handed her the camera.

She didn’t respond with a sarcastic remark like others in my family would have. But instead took a more subtle approach and made sure that I stood in a shady spot.

I called Mary Alice a few days later to ask more questions about her job at the post office. We began a discussion about photography, which until the interview I had no idea of my sister-in-law’s interest. She revealed a side of herself I hadn’t known, and in a way made our relationship closer. I will always value her knowledge of the cost of stamps, but now I look forward to rewarding conversations about art and family.

For more information on careers at the United States Postal Service, visit

No comments: