Post Office "Nixie" Clerks Battle Bad Penmanship
Reporter Lucas Reilly says "According to The New York Times, more than 700 postal clerks are based in Salt Lake City to decipher America’s most cryptic envelopes. And they mean business. The plant operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Each clerk processes about 20 letters per minute (that’s 1200 an hour!). If a clerk wastes over 30 seconds unearthing the address, the letter may get routed to another worker who can do it faster."
However, he points out, "... some letters remain a mystery. Each year, 200 million of the most baffling and awfully penned envelopes are handed down to a team of peek-and-poke clerks, a dying breed of postal worker who sorts mail the old-fashioned way—by hand."
He then goes on to say, "If they can’t translate the slipshod script, the letters are christened 'nixies.' The mail is sent to the last line of penmanship gurus, the nixie clerks. If they can’t untangle the meaning behind the scribbles, no one can. The mail will end up in one of two 'dead letter offices.' Any valuables get auctioned off, and the correspondence lands a date with the office shredder."
"Nixie" comes from the comes from the slang term "nix" which means to reject. Mail that is not deliverable for whatever reason called a "nixie' and is rubber stamped as such.