After four months of hard graft in the bleak enormity of Garden Village (earlier) this week I was transferred back to Whiteladies, the grubby gnomeville where I live and were my adventures in the postman trade began (earlier). Every postal worker is a cartographer too (earlier) and what I mean by that is that postal work makes geography explicit by walking into all streets and all its front doors. The job unpacks streets and neighbourhoods and as exposure lasts its geography becomes internalized. And you want the geography to be internalized because only once it is in your head you can start planning short cuts and optimal routes. You don't want this mental map perfected to save time, though that is one aspect of it, but because it creates flow.
This week I worked four different rounds, two I did twice, two I did once and I had the pleasure of delivering to my own house. One half of the terrain was deeply familiar, the other half offered a few surprises, I discovered four streets I never knew existed, I observed grubbier houses, architectural diversity and I learned a little about connections between areas I didn't know existed. A mental map has the tendency to make crooked streets straight and to ignore all slight curves and bends. But a few tiny bends can add up to a 90 degree turn, with all sorts of effects on daily navigation as you find things in the streets that you expect somewhere else. A postal route cuts through that, they are a fascinating combination of randomness and rationality. They are drawn up to start and end as near to the depot as possible and they all need to take the same time to complete. The end result is a collection of walks following a counter-intuitive set of streets that have no ulterior point to make: they go from A to B without reaching a conclusion.
The map above shows the rounds in different colours, other streets are in grey. The green route has two parts. What is funny is that the round on the top comes across as a uneven bundle of small remaindering streets, a mongrel walk connecting streets that somehow would have unbalanced any other of the walks.