Sunday, December 11, 2005

John Henry was a Steel Drivin' Man

I've started working part-time for a "major shipping company" loading boxes onto their trucks. It's sort of like a four hour mixture of working out and playing Tetris. Two things I would probably do anyway, if I had endless amounts of time. It doesn't pay a whole lot but night jobs are slim. I have had friends and family members tell me that they do not envy me, but I can think of a million and one things that I would not want to be before I concerned myself with what others find enviable about my life.

One thing I do like about the job: There are NO lazy people there. You can't be. My first hands-on "training" was on the hardest truck in the fleet. The one shipping to Los Angeles. The guy I was helping reminded me of that actor, Randy Quaid (if he was in his mid-twenties). He was just telling me how to do a good job but he was cracking me up with his character. I've heard it before and now I've seen it first-hand: Do NOT write the word "Fragile" on your packages, just make sure and pack them well. Even the good "handlers" will throw your parcel down harder than necessary if they see that despicable word. In training they told us it was policy to "treat each package as if it was your own" but I have not seen that practiced, unless everything these guys own is in a state of disrepair.

All the guys I've talked to seem to be at odds with their bosses. Basically because they work their butts off and then are always told its not good enough. But all the loaders seem to be very friendly. Happy. Even on the nights I was just there for orientation, regular workers would walk by and smile and say hello. Just because they WANTED TO. Bizarre.

It's tough. One guy said his friend lost forty pounds in his first month. I'm six feet tall and 150 pounds. I can't afford to lose any weight so I'm eating like crazy. It's kind of like a pay-cut because I have to scarf down ten dollars worth food after each shift. But if John Henry is going to be a steel driving man then he's gonna have to pack on some bulk. It's a lot better then being a 150 pd marshmellow sitting at a computer year after year. It's given me my appetite back as well.

For a second I thought my trainer was being lazy by making me load all the ladders and basketball hoops onto the truck for him, but I saw him throwing them up above his head and I knew I got the easy end of the deal. You would load about ten 60 pd ladders in quick succession, every so often. Maybe only two or three 80 pd basketball hoops. The most difficult part was navigating the awkward boxes around in tight quarters. I saw my trainers shirt had a hole ripped in it to expose his belt-buckle. I wondered if it was a fashion statement, but when I slid a large basketball hoop down the front of my body to rest it in the truck and the keys in my front pocket were pushed down hard enough to burst through the material and come rolling out of my pant-leg, I knew it was just part of the job.

There was a big wooden crate that said "141 pds." I asked my trainer what he wanted me to do with it. He said "leave it." Two minutes later he hops down and practically throws the thing into the truck. I said, "Hey, I'm here to help you." He said, "Naw, that's alright." I told him he was nuts. He told me how he picked up a cannister one day thinking "THIS is heavy." He took it and weighed it. It was over 260 pds. That's great, but I don't think I'll be doing regardless of how strong I get.

I was most happy to know that I worked my butt off and I wasn't sore the next day. I'm eating everything in sight and feeling colossal.


Native Minnow said...

It's good to see that you are able to work someplace where you can keep a positive outlook. You definitely didn't have that at your old job. Just make sure that you follow the training you get. Lift everything safely, and get help with those 150-260 lb boxes. Otherwise, you'll end up gimpy like me, and we both know you don't want that.

slimysculpin said...

NO lazy people? I'll call the ACLU. They're discriminating against my religion.