In the summer of 2004, Canada Post announced a new policy that, to the average person, sure seems reasonable: no driving on the wrong side of the road. Until then, mail carriers who worked the rural routes routinely violated the law and veered down the left side of the street, giving them easy access to those rustic roadside mailboxes. Without ever leaving his seat, a carrier could drive on the shoulder, reach through the driver’s-side window, pull the red flag and move on to the next house.
Carolyn Pollard was among the many “rural and suburban mail carriers” who risked head-on collision in the name of convenience. And when Canada Post ordered the Brampton, Ont., woman to start driving on the same side of the yellow line as everyone else, she balked, invoking her legal right to “refuse dangerous work.” As far as she was concerned, steering into oncoming traffic was somehow less dangerous than the new directive: park on the right-hand shoulder, lean over, and deliver letters through the passenger-side window.
Five years later, Pollard’s complaint has finally been settled. Stephen Bird, a lawyer for Canada Post, confirmed that both sides reached a “compromise” just before Christmas. In fact, she is no longer delivering the mail at all. “She has been terminated for other reasons, but there is a confidentiality agreement.”
Pollard declined to be interviewed, but her battle with Canada Post was not completely pointless. It was her beef, after all, that prompted the company to launch its much-publicized—and much-criticized—$500-million review of the rural mail system. Every curbside box (more than 843,000) is being assessed for the potential hazard it presents to those who carry your bills and birthday cards. Many customers have already been told that their packages will now arrive at a communal mailbox because the old-fashioned way is just too risky (since 2004, rural mail carriers have been involved in at least 68 accidents; two were fatal).
Drivers are also undergoing “ergonomic training” to ensure that the new guidelines—i.e., following the rules of the road—don’t lead to a spike in sore necks or twisted backs.