Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, August 20, 2021

Twenty years ago today, mail carrier Patrick Henry Sherrill killed 14 people and himself in an Edmond, Oklahoma post office, an event that sparked a handful of copycat incidents and gave rise to the term and perception “going postal”.

The media spotlight exaggerated the emphasis on postal workers being particularly susceptible to work-induced hysteria:

In 1998, the Postal Service created an independent commission to assess workplace violence and make postal facilities safe and secure.

The commission found that postal workers were no more likely to resort to workplace violence than workers in other jobs. It found 0.26 workplace homicides per 100,000 postal workers from 1992 to 1998. By comparison the rate was 2.10 per 100,000 for retail workers, 1.66 in public administration, 1.32 for transportation and 0.50 for private delivery services.

“Violence is purely unpredictable. It is a part of our society,” [USPS official Larry] Flener said. “Terms ‘going postal’ and those things have taken on a life that is totally unfair.”

But does that term “going postal” still resonate? It’s been over a decade since the last mailman massacre of note grabbed the national headlines; the public perception of Postal Service employees being dangerously high-strung probably has passed. (I might throw in something here about how email has lessened the crush of work that may have unnerved Post Office employees; but I believe the latest numbers will show the flow of letters and parcels to be higher than ever, so that theory goes out the window.)

I ask because, coincidentally, this term came up for me a few weeks ago. I dropped it on a woman who’s around my age; she gave me a blank look, and I had to explain it to her. The caveat is that she admitted she’s been pretty current events-ignorant since she was a kid. Still, it occurred to me then that the phrase “going postal” might indeed have outlived its relevancy.

Any opinions on this? Do you hear “going postal” much these days?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/20/2006 09:31:58 PM
Category: Society, History, Wordsmithing | Permalink |

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  1. For a brief period, there was, on the west side of Oklahoma City, one of those mail-drop places actually called “Going Postal.” I do not know if its quick demise was due to being maybe 15 miles from Edmond.

    Also, the independent film Making Arrangements, shot here in 2003, was set in a flower shop nearing an emotional breakdown; the promotional tagline was something about “going floral.” (I assume this had nothing to do with Floral and Hardy, which is another local florist.)

    Comment by CGHill — 08/21/2006 @ 04:45:46 PM

  2. Maybe we’re living in the post-postal era…

    Comment by CT — 08/21/2006 @ 09:22:21 PM

  3. There is a post office store on Fowler named Going Postal.

    Comment by tim — 08/21/2006 @ 10:47:14 PM

  4. Going Postal, RIP

    From Population Statistic:

    But does that term “going postal” still resonate? It’s been over a decade since the last mailman massacre of note grabbed the national headlines; the public perception of Postal Service employees being dangerously h…

    Trackback by Tom McMahon — 08/25/2006 @ 06:09:00 AM

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