As I am not currently riding the crest of the bestseller list and house-hunting in
I decided to take a “seasonal” position at a well known parcel delivery service
over the holidays. The job description is “driver’s helper”. Translation:
driver’s bitch. I didn’t really read any of the paperwork I signed when I
applied for the job, but I’m pretty sure there is a clause in there where you
are not allowed to write in your blog about what went on during your
employment. In keeping with their “loose lips sink packages” code of secrecy I
will only say that once I donned my uniform I looked like a giant turd.
Since I had worked for this company in this same “seasonal” position six years ago (and there weren’t many applicants) I was a shoe-in. Let me restate: six years ago. That’s practically a lifetime in dog years. Taking a page from Toby Keith’s song “As Good As I Once Was” I figured I could stumble through.
During orientation it is repeatedly drilled into your psyche how when the driver says “Take this package and run it to the side door” they do NOT mean to actually RUN. Yeah. Right. They also stress that you are always to deliver from behind the truck. In other words, you are a much better target for speeding cars if there are no obstructions in their way (you know, like a big ass truck full of packages).
So…the way this works is, you call in at 8 a.m. and they tell you where and when you are to meet your driver. My first five days I worked with five different drivers on five wildly different routes. I’m not complaining. There is no time for monotony. After the fifth day they assigned me to a driver who has worked for the company since they delivered by pony. His route is very much in the area I live, and I got a whole new view of the town. This driver is a font of knowledge about the people he delivers to. I’m not sure how he became privy to so much inside scoop, but he could write a book and it would be a doozy. I mentioned this to him, and he seemed intrigued. Should he decide to move forward with this plan, I’m throwing my hat in the ring to be his ghost writer. Lurid, is too mild a word. I smell a hit.
In keeping with the nondisclosure nature of this piece, I am going to give my new best friend an alias. From now on I will refer to him as Scooby. Not because I’m a fan of talking dogs; just because I know how mortified he would be to be called Scooby. Hey, if that’s how I get my jollies, who are you to question it?
In our area, Scooby has the most seniority with this company…hell, probably nationwide. And, since he has seniority (this IS a union job) he is still allowed to use an “old school” truck. That means it is the only one in operation that is NOT wired so that the man behind the curtain can see exactly everything the driver is doing. The Eye in the Sky knows when your seat belt hasn’t been fastened and how long it takes for you to make a delivery down to the millisecond. They even know what you had for lunch (if there was ever time to take one)! Being an old school truck, the step into the cab is at least a foot higher than any other truck I delivered from. This means that you have to catapult into the cab and parachute out, roll and run. I’ve got a knee that’s been welded together with leftover car parts and gum and have broken and sprained both ankles multiple times. I don’t even want to guess how many times I’ve broken all of my toes.
During orientation, you are also told that you will exit the truck an average of 200 plus times a day. Their math is shoddy. To exacerbate the jarring joints factor, 95% of the houses that we delivered to had driveways that were at least a mile long and were either 60 degrees straight up, or 60 degrees straight down. Whether leaving the truck or returning, you were scaling
Olympus. By the time I finished the “season” my legs were
chiseled from marble. From the waist up I still look like the Pilsbury Dough
Idiot, but my legs look like Brad Pitt’s in the movie “ Troy” (except shorter, hairier and covered in
scars). I would characterize my delivery style as “wounded trotting”.
The helper must also carry a scanning device which is the size of some of the earliest computers and just as cutting edge. Once you have set the package(s) down (oh, yeah- there are innumerable rules on how and where to place the package) you scan it and then input a constantly evolving set of codes. More frequently than I care to recall, Scooby would yell “What’s taking so long?” from the safety of the truck as I mashed my fingers repeatedly against every key in a vain attempt to make it work. Sometimes, Scoob would get so fed up that he would emerge from the truck, make the arduous trek to where I was beating the scanner against a wall and (to my absolute pleasure) not get it to work. He’d be forced to whip out his tiny pocket sized scanner and bingo! Back to the truck we’d hobble.
Have I mentioned that the helper’s door stays forever open? There is no reason to close it. Most of the time I would pole vault into the truck, fasten my seat belt and already be halfway back out the door. Luckily, the weather, for the most part, was gloriously cooperative. Six years ago, I spent most of my time diving out onto glaciers or into banks of snow. This time everything was hunky dory until around 4 p.m. when the temperature and sun would simultaneously drop. My last day, I was christened by an unending torrential downpour. Defying the laws of probability, I leapt into a pond of water at every stop. As if the insult of having my shoes and calves drenched the whole day wasn’t enough, there was a constant rivulet of water that poured from the doorway onto my legs during the ride and down the back of my collar whenever I dismounted and reached back in for the stack of 95 pound packages.
In closing, I survived another season and swore that I would never submit myself to this abuse again, but I forgive and forget pretty easily. Mainly forget.
In all seriousness, I commend and salute parcel delivery drivers around the world. It is fast-paced, relentless work and their days are long with no room for goofing off. They don’t go back to the Alpha Base until their truck is empty. All of the drivers I worked with were pleasant, entertaining characters who handled themselves with good cheer and professional courtesy. It is often a thankless job, although I was very impressed with how cordial the majority of the people we interacted with were. There is still plenty of good in the world. And from what I’ve seen, Amazon is distributing the lion’s share of it.