This time last year I had just switched over to an earlier start time at UPS. I posted about it here. I even explained that "my crew doesn't seem to contain any murderers." Let me just say that it's 4 in the morning and I can't go to sleep because I've cried all the way home after turning in my badge at the job I've held for the past 2 and 1/2 years. I don't think I can rest until I tell my story.
In March 2009 I was pretty mad at my parents for making me get a job at UPS to pay for college. They told me it was either that or take a semester off. And I didn't want to do the latter. I went to training in a light blue North Face hooded fleece, glasses on, a can of sugar-free Red Bull and a bag of Gummy Bears in tow. I'll never get used to this.
My first winter was nearly unbearable. I remember feeling the bite of the wind for the first time, tucking myself into the corner of an airplane and crying. I didn't think I was strong enough for it. This job was going to eat me alive and leave me with a shell of a person. I missed class every day after it poured at night. I would come home soaked down to my underwear, socks squishing against boots, chill clinging to my bones. When I finally got up the next day, it'd be something like 8PM and I'd think about how unfortunate it was that I'd have to leave for work in just a couple more hours.
I felt like I was better than this job. It was so unfair to be UofL's only honor student working third shift at UPS. Now I feel ashamed to have ever possessed those thoughts. I feel closer to some of the people I've met at UPS in two short years than I have in my entire life. I've learned their stories and collected them as imprints in my life. I can only hope I'll be a fingerprint in their lifetime of memories.
I've been injured multiple times...only once seriously. Last winter, a lock punctured my boot, trapping it under a 3,000 pound cargo can. I had to go to Baptist Worx (I laughed at this--why would UPS send me to a medical facility that can't even properly spell 'works'? Shady.) and have an X-ray. I was diagnosed with a great toe contusion as some of you may recall from this post. I had to sign plenty of paperwork promising to 'look before stepping' next time.
I've become close to many people along the way and each time they left, I felt like a little piece of me went with them. There's something about the dynamic at UPS that allows people a window into the souls of their co-workers--if they allow it. Of course, they're just 'people you work with' but honestly you tend to know them better than you know yourself at times.
Last October, I joined Tony Robinson's early start time crew. I immediately remember Tim. His warm smile and friendly, open nature drew me to him right away. He's a jolly fellow with red hair and a beard. He's also the new father to a little girl named Olivia Payton. I recall last winter when he first told me his girlfriend Jennifer was pregnant. He didn't want me to tell anyone because she'd had a miscarriage before. It was too soon to start making plans. I'm so happy for them and I know Olivia is a lucky lady because Tim was made to be a father. He's so kind and fair to everyone he meets.
Tony Wright, "Yellow Tony," and I had known one another since I'd gotten hired in '09. We'd squabble every now and then and he'd get into these weird anti-social moods sometimes. But for the most part, he was my big brother. Anytime I needed help with something, he'd jump right in. He always thought it humorous when I pretended to gangster dance and use ghetto lingo.
Sharon was my crew mom. She's a mom herself to a daughter named Lindsay, who just graduated high school and a son named Trevor, who apparently is excellent at high school football (according to her Facebook statuses). Sharon could've easily distanced herself from the younger kids but she was kind of just like us. She would swear like us, call Tony names, and make inappropriate jokes just like the rest of us. She was always bringing in food; pretzels, chips, and popcorn. And she taught me to play rummy (and now I end up beating her more than she beats me).
Rachael was...let's just say...our relationship was interesting. We'd often battle about who was to drive equipment and I often just gave up and bit the bullet. We still had our moments and she'll always be a character in my mind.
I probably didn't talk to Justin for a good month or two. He has a thick, bodacious beard, that when shaven, pretty much grows back the next day. He kind of looks like he could pass for a Civil War soldier if you put him in the garb. Justin is very quiet but once you get him talking, he's hilarious and super intelligent. He'll randomly spout off German and he makes the best judgmental faces I've ever seen. He's had me in stitches and accidentally laughing in peoples' faces when they were being just plain ridiculous. I've grown much closer to Justin recently, especially since he and Tim are such good friends. Amongst the crew, you could often find us bunched together in one way or another.
Anthony joined our crew a few months ago but I've known him as long as I've known Yellow Tony. He never seemed to irritate me as much as he did when he got on the crew. He avoided work like it poison and literally talked about things that were pointless. Of course, his elevated manner of speaking about them made him sound more ridiculous. One time our supervisor Tony sent out a text about an early start time and he asked us if anyone had the number of 'Stainless.' This of course was an auto-correct of Anthony's last name but alas, the name stuck and we unaffectionately referred to him as Stainless from then on.
Chris also joined our crew awhile back. I'd worked with him before but hadn't known him as long as Anthony or Yellow Tony. He was around Sharon's age and had daughters that played volleyball and ran track/cross country. He seemed to have a lot of problems going on with him and his wife that he brought to work but nonetheless he seemed like a pretty good guy. We had a pretty great conversation about the best cereals one time that had me run out and buy Apple Jacks the next day. We also quoted Forrest Gump from time to time. His stories about his wild 20's have been hilarious lately...I hope to use them in a story. Because shit like this doesn't happen to everybody.
And finally, our supervisor, Tony himself. I first had Tony as a supervisor after a year or so when there were crew shifts. I liked him so much better than my first sup Gary because he seemed so much more laid back. Tony is obsessed with India. He has hardcore crushes on Indian girls, all of his friends are Indian, he loves the food, movies, music of India, can dance Indian dances, and even speaks Hindi better than some natives. I asked him what drew him to that culture and he said he was in fifth grade and his friend had him watch a Bollywood film. "Hey, this is pretty cool," he said and from then on it was history. He gets to go to India in January and I'm excited for him because it's a dream come true. Tony Robinson is one of the most genuine people I know and I'll never forget his kindness towards me. I loved making him laugh and teasing him. Tonight he made me smile when he forced Rachel to go get the belt. He knows what's up.
Tonight the crew came in early for a chicken dinner to celebrate a certain period of safe work days. We had KFC chicken (what else?), biscuits, mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, and chocolate cake. Tim asked Tony Robinson if we had any drinks.
"Yes and no."
"Yes because we were supposed to. And no because they screwed up the order. They also didn't give us the mac and cheese we paid for."
"Let me get you a drink," Tim said, "It's your last night."
The food was delicious. Chris ate like an entire cake by himself. And Yellow Tony had a stack of chicken bones on his plate left over. It was a feast of kings.
Rachel claimed that since she would have to drive the equipment from now on, I should go get it tonight.
"I knew she would try to pull this," Tim said, "On a person's last night, you're supposed to make it as easy on them as possible. Stay strong."
Tony told me not to worry about. He'd make her go get it. Well, he did and she stormed off like an Oklahoma twister.
"Damn! Look at how mad she is!" --Tim.
"Ha! And I don't even care!" --Tony Robinson
"Yeah, well think about all the times she forced you to go get the equipment" Tim said to me.
The night was pretty easy. We walked off an MD-11 P-sections and AB. Then we unloaded a 757 belly. There were tons of reptiles on that flight. It reminded us of a time when I told Yellow Tony his mom was a lizard and he said she had "reptile dysfunction." Pretty sure I peed my pants. He even sent me this image the next day on Facebook:
We took a break on Dock 12. All of my energy seemed to go to digesting the grease in my stomach so I laid down for a bit. We then loaded a 757 topside, I wrote, and did the weight check for the final time. Finally we loaded a 757 belly and at the early hour of 3AM, we got to go home. I guess it was a little present for me because normally on Tuesdays we load the Airbus A-300 topside on dock 9 (Richmond). After loading this, it's usually 4:08 at least before we get to leave. I know some of this airplane jargon doesn't make sense to many, but I just sort of want to keep it for me. :)
As we were walking to the time clock, the crew Shanghai-ed me and handed me a card, signed by everyone. Just reading the first few words had me in tears. I didn't think it would come to this. I'd done well the rest of the night; it seemed normal really, just like any old night. Except that I'd never be on property again. Watching me read the card, Sharon and Tim started tearing up. Seeing that almost made me lose it. Chris and Yellow Tony gave me hugs and wished me well as I choked my goodbyes. When I finally parted from Robinson, he told me how fun it had been working with me and hugged me too. I could barely keep myself together. Tears running down my face, I tried to make it out.
"It's hard, you know," Sharon said, "Just like you said...you get to know people here and when they leave it really makes you sad."
A year ago today, I would've never thought my crew would tear up (let alone, any crew) when I left. Chris Lewis, a guy I worked with when I first got hired, who is now a supervisor, realized it was my last day.
"I remember when you were just a wee new hire."
"Yeah, well she's not much better now," Robinson joked.
I've come such a long way.
On the tram ride out, I was talking to Sharon and Tim. A creeper decided to join the conversation. Last winter, I was bundled up in plenty of layers because it was freezing out. A BRINKS employee (BRINKS is a company that ships high value items in orange bags and they are usually really heavy--sometimes you look at the value on the bag and it's like $800,000) was apparently checking me out and Tim called him out to me.
"That old dude's checkin' you out!"
Well, I guess he felt he needed to compensate for being creepy so the BRINKS guy comes up to me and says, "GOT ON ENOUGH COATS?"
Tim and Justin laugh in his face and walk away, unable to take it.
"Yes?" I say in a small voice, making my way over to Tim and Justin.
Anytime someone is being a creep, Tim and I tend to say, "GOT ON ENOUGH COATS?"
Every we see him, which is usually Friday nights on the AB of the MD-11 on dock 3, we reminisce about the good ole days.
So, back to the bus ride out. We were talking about this story and this random Creepster McGee chimes in, "Well, that just means someone other than you're boyfriend thinks you're hot."
"Well, they shouldn't" --Tim, with his serious face on
"Oh, that hurt" --Creepy guy looking my way
"Yeah well sometimes the truth hurts" --Tim, trying to avert more awkwardness
He jumped in a few more times much to my chagrin. When we got off the bus, the three of us were silent for a moment until I burst out, "What the hell just happened?"
"I don't know" --Sharon
More goodbyes were said. I offered to pay Tim back for the Diet Coke he got me
"Maybe you can pay me back by coming to see my little girl," he said winking, and tapping me on the shoulder.
I walked the rest of the way with Sharon who told me I needed to update my Facebook status more. "You don't update often, you just get on there and creep." (LOL). So I promised her I would keep her more updated in my daily life. She is kind of my mama after all.
I barely made it to my car before I burst into tears and stayed that way until there was nothing left to cry. I've never felt more anguish leaving a job than I do right now. In a sense, I feel more peaceful then I did before--anxiously awaiting the day it would all be over. But now I can breathe a sigh of relief because I no longer have to be outside in the cold, rain, heat, jet fuel, de-ice third shift, etc. I threw my decrepit boots in the dumpster as soon as I got home as a ritual to prove that this really was the next step. Pinch me. It's really over.
I have a feeling I haven't heard the last of 'The Red Rockets' (our crew name). I love them too much to let them go that easily.