That Week I Worked for UPS

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

When I was 20 years old, I was in a band. Come to think of it, it was the last band I was actually in, fifteen years ago now. The guitar player, Ryan, and his friend (who’s name I don’t even remember, that’s how little I interacted with him) had already been friends for years and working together. Ryan and I met in an AOL chat (where I met most people I knew around that time). I remember he called me that first day while I was on the toilet, and I sat there for 2 hours talking to him about the bands we liked, the songs that inspired us, and what we wanted out of a band. All while I was taking a dump. It made that conversation stick in my mind because it was so random.

After a few months of trying to find time to practice in my mom’s basement without disturbing the whole world, we came up with a brilliant idea: let’s get a job working overnight! The easiest solution to that was to go apply at UPS, Ryan’d heard that they’d hire anyone, so off we went to Chelmsford to apply.

They hired us both on the spot with very little interviewing. That was most likely because we wanted to work their late shift.

With UPS, they (at least at the time) had all part time shifts overnight. Our hours were to be 3:45am to 8:45am. Perfect, we’d work those crappy hours, get back to my house by 9:30, sleep a little bit, then play all day while everyone was at work. It was the perfect plan!

The shifts were all Monday through Friday, which worked out even better for when we (dillusionally) thought we’d start playing shows. The first Monday that we were slated to work, Ryan picked me up in his late ’80s powder-blue Thunderbird, and off we went.

We got to the sorting facility, parked, went inside and began searching around for the training room. By that point, I was already exhausted and a little loopy. I hadn’t thought that I should get some sleep before going into work. I was twenty and thought I could just stay up all night and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Turns out, it wasn’t, but 35 year old me looks back wondering how I stayed up that late at all.

I’m sure, in many ways, we pissed off the trainer that night. If you know me, you know I’m mostly a smartass. I like to be snarky and try to be the center of attention in a room full of people. Compound that by the fact that I was exhausted and a little deranged because of it, and you can imagine what a pain in the ass I was that night.

We made it through the night, learning that if we worked all five shifts in a week, we’d get a slight bonus. I think it was $100, which seemed like a lot of money to me back then.

The next night we did the same thing. Ryan showed up in his powder-blue Thunderbird at 3am to pick me up. We drove to Chelmsford to UPS and met up with the trainer who separated us out into our groups. I was going to be working on a line sorting packages. It’s a little hard to explain, but see if you can follow me:

A giant three tiered conveyor belt that spins around. On one side of it there’s a giant slide where packages come off the big trucks and slide down. You, as a sorter, grab a package, look at the zip code, and put it into one of the tiers on the conveyor belt, which also happens to be color coded.

It spins around to the other side, where another sorter grabs the packages in a specific color and tier, and puts them in the right spot on the truck.

Seems easy enough, right?

Well, turns out that it was “too busy” for me to be in the way on the slide side, so they sent me over to the other side to put the packages in trucks. They gave me 4 trucks to load, and the guy who explained it to me spent about eleven seconds explaining which packages went where, and why it was important that they were in the right places.

Went straight over my head.

I did my best to try to figure it out at first. Taking my time with each package, placing it in a logical place based on what I’d been told. But it just didn’t make sense. So, eventually, I just started putting random packages in random trucks at random locations. For anyone watching me from afar, it probably looked like I was awesome at this job. I was flying along. Little did they know that I was fucking the whole thing up. I truly, all these years later, feel bad for the drivers of those trucks, as well as anyone that should have gotten a package from one of those drivers that next day.

After the shift was over, Ryan and I met back up in the parking lot and talked about how much the jobs we had sucked. Just truly terrible, horrible, un-fun jobs. To this day, that was the worst job I’ve ever had.

We drove back to my house, slept a bit, and played our instruments until we felt like we couldn’t play anymore, and went our separate ways.

The next morning, Ryan showed up at my house right at 3am as he’d been doing. We drove all the way to Chelmsford and sat in the parking lot for ten minutes, silent. We stared at the warehouse as if it were a haunted house and we were kids too scared to go in. I looked at him and he looked at me. We decided we’d rather go to IHOP and have breakfast than go into the warehouse again. Off we went.

Thursday morning Ryan picked me up again. This time we drove halfway to the warehouse and took a left to the IHOP without even going to UPS.

The last night of that first week we just went straight to IHOP.

We laughed and joked about how terrible not only the job was, but our plan to use the late night shifts to our advantage. It, for lack of a better phrase, backfired on us. It was a truly terrible and horrible idea.

When we went to collect our paychecks for the couple of days we did work, they gave us a hard time about it. No one said anything about my terrible truck packing job, but they made sure we gave them back our UPS badges, signed all the right paperwork, filled out all sorts of termination forms and voluntarily departing the union forms before they gave us our pay.

If memory serves, all that paperwork was for a whopping $86 after taxes, union dues, fees, and other nonsense. Eighty six bucks. Doesn’t, even remotely, seem worth it.

And that’s the story of how I was an employee of UPS for a week. The worst most terrible job I’ve ever had.

 

*Image attribution: Dan Burgos

The Monster from Connecticut

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

I’ll start this story by saying it probably doesn’t paint me in the best light. At least teenage me, when this story takes place. I’m a much better person now, I promise.

It was the summer of 1995. I was 15 years old and would do anything to avoid growing up. It was a glorious summer that year.

Like many of my friends, I spend a lot of time online, mostly on AOL, meeting strangers from around the country. This story is one particular stranger, but not one that I met online.

You see, back then, it was fairly common for me to exchange addresses with a girl I’d met online, so that we could be “pen pals”. Really, though, my ulterior motive was to get the girl to send me a picture of herself. You see, I was a shallow 15 year old back then. I promise I’m different now, I swear.

From when I started getting online in the late ’80s through the late ’90s, the concept of a digital camera was foreign. Even well into the ’90s, it was uncommon for someone to have a web cam or digital camera. So finding someone that had a “profile picture” was rare. Nowadays everyone has a photo and carries a camera with them in their pocket almost all day every day. In 1995 it was far less common.

By exchanging addresses with these girls, I could get them to write me a letter or two and send a picture. I’d return the favor and we’d be pen pals for a few months and that’d be that. Sometimes we kept in touch. Sometimes I threw the letter and photo away when it first arrived.

Many times there’d be a few letters back and forth before a photo would arrive, citing “waiting for school pictures” or the like. I ran this scam for many years and was an expert.

I know what you’re thinking, I do: “weren’t you worried someone would kill you?” No, not at all. This was still early enough on the internet that the crazies hadn’t realized how easy prey people were yet. It was fairly “safe” to share that sort of information online. I must have given out my home address 50 times and never had anyone show up uninvited.

This, however, isn’t the story of one of these girls. You see, this girl the story’s about is a unique breed of person. Now that you’ve got the back story, let’s begin.

At some point in my online trysts, I sent a letter to a girl named Olivia. I don’t remember much about her, aside from that she lived in Connecticut. I don’t remember ever getting a letter back, what her screenname was, or when I’d talked to her. It was almost as if she was made up.

A few months later I got a letter in the mail from Connecticut. Uncasville, to be exact. The location that would (the next year) become the home to Mohegan Sun. The letter was from a girl named — let’s not use her real name here, in case she ever stumbles on this — Mary. (It rhymes with Mary, if you’re curious.)

In her letter, Mary told me about how she read the letter I’d sent to Olivia — which, again, I don’t recall and didn’t recall even when I’d gotten Mary’s letter — and she just had to write to me. Something about my letter intrigued her and she wanted to get to know me. So she, like a completely sane and not at all weird person, wrote to me.

I wasn’t one to judge a book by its cover (yes, I was), so I wrote back.

Over the next few months, we wrote back and forth a bunch of times. Every time I asked for a picture, I was put off citing that there were none, or we had to wait for school to start for class pictures, or something equally as avoiding. I didn’t think anything of it. I liked what she had to say and she seemed to like what I said, too. It worked out pretty well that way.

At one point we had a quick phone conversation, just to chat. Though long distance actually cost money back then, so we kept it short. She sounded nice, had a pretty voice and we seemed to click.

A few weeks later, she sent me a letter saying that her dad had to come up to Massachusetts for business, and asked if I wanted to meet. It was a little scary, being the first time I’d actually meet anyone from online — well, sort of from online. Regardless, I agreed and we set the date in our respective calendars. (That’s a figure of speech, I don’t think either of us actually had a calendar.)

I called my best friend Dan and asked him to come over, just in case. After much hemming and hawing, it turned out that he couldn’t make it. The girl he was dating at the time, Sue, had something she needed his help with, so he had to do that instead.

When the day finally came, I remember sitting in the front room at my Mom’s house, waiting. Staring down at the end of the driveway as if a nuclear bomb was going to hit and kill everyone. As if the ice cream man could come by at any time throwing freebies out the window. I watched intently and waited. I had no idea how far away Uncasville was. There was no Google Maps, there was no Apple Maps, I don’t even think there was a Mapquest at that time. I just sat and waited while they drove the two hours up to Tewksbury.

I heard the rumble coming from around the corner. You see, my Mom’s house is set at the back of the neighborhood, a mostly quiet street and hardly any cars ever drive by the house. So when I heard the rumble, I knew it was her coming.

A full sized passenger van pulled up to the end of the driveway, but not into it. The door opened, and out she hopped.

I immediately picked up the phone and called Dan.

“You have to come here,” I said, “I don’t care what happens with Sue. You have to get over here right now.”

I then explained to him what I saw coming up my driveway. I described Mary as best I could without letting her see me in the window.

He hung up and was on his way over in a matter of minutes, his Mom dropping him off to somehow help me deal with the situation. Thankfully he only lived a few minutes away and he was there pretty fast.

Mary had described herself as, if memory serves, five foot two, a hundred and five pounds, with long blonde hair and blue eyes. Sounds nice, right? Fifteen year old me was pretty stoked that she sounded like a hottie and was interesting and smart.

What was walking up the driveway was anything but what Mary described herself to look like. She was, ultimately, 5’2″, I don’t deny that. The sun reflected in my eyes many times off her vibrant brighter-than-the-Wendy’s-girl red hair, almost as if it were a direct mirror from the surface of the sun into my eye sockets.

Either she was more color blind than I am, or she dressed herself in the dark. The pinks and purples and blues and reds just seem to be screaming at me through the window. They yelled at me to run for my life, to hide in the closet or pretend I wasn’t home. They begged of me to save myself.

I was never a good judge of someone’s weight. I don’t want to say that she was fat, because that’d be insensitive. That’d be rude, in fact. But 15 year old me, at the time, thought she was the size of a bus. In retrospect, she probably wasn’t that big, I just couldn’t get past the hair and the clothes. They were both electric.

I called upstairs to my Mom, who was home and making a nice dinner for everyone.

“Dan’s coming over,” I yelled. “She’s here.”

I don’t know if she looked out the window and saw what I saw. I don’t know if it was the tone of my voice. I don’t know what it was, but when she called back, all she said was “Be nice, Michael.”

And be nice I was. I tried. I did my best. I swear. I was as nice as I could be, being that disappointed.

I remember, vividly, opening the door and introducing myself. She came inside, full of wonderment, amazed at the kitchen for some reason. My Mom introduced herself when she came down, and Dan showed up shortly thereafter, to save me.

I don’t remember what we did initially, but we sat down to eat shortly after she arrived. I think I’m remembering that it was early afternoon, though I could be mistaken on the time. The whole day was a blur, and nearly twenty years ago, so there’s a good chance some of this isn’t perfectly factual.

After we ate, I recall going up to my room. Dan and I did, anyway. Mary stayed downstairs to help my Mom clean up. Which at the time seemed weird, but now seems like it was a polite thing to do.

I logged online and chatted with some folks while Dan drew on the wall behind my door. I can still picture the demon that he drew. The horns flying out of its head, extending towards the sky, the eyes staring into my soul. He wrote “Mary” below it, and I quickly made him erase it for fear she’d see it.

By the time she came up to my room, I was already over the whole experience. I wasn’t interested in getting to know her, I felt betrayed and mislead. I felt like I was the victim of some great fraud. All I wanted to do was kill whatever little time we had left before her Dad came back to get her.

I honestly don’t remember what we did, or how that time passed or how many hours it was. It’s all a blur of Dan and I making inside jokes about this or that.

I remember her leaving. I remember her telling me how great it was to meet me and that she’d call me when she got back home, so I’d know she was safe.

She did. I made sure I wasn’t home that night, though. Dan and I walked up to the mall down the street and hung out at Papa Gino’s until they closed.

She sent me a letter after we met, reminding me how nice it was to meet me. How much fun she had and how she wanted me to thank my Mom for the meal she’d prepared. I never responded.

About a month later, she called me. School had started up and she wanted me to attend her Homecoming dance with her.

“I’ve told everyone here all about you and they can’t wait to meet you,” she said.

She told me all about how the marching band — of which she was a member — would be performing, but that I could hang out with her friends while she did that.

The whole thing was essentially planned. All I had to do was say yes.

It was, if I recall correctly, the first time in my life that I used the “I have plans that night” excuse. Though, like out of a bad sitcom, she never told me what the date was.

I quickly tried to recover from it. I stumbled and fumbled and pretended that she’d told me the date already. I tried to cover my own ass, but it was too late.

“Well, when is it?” I asked.

She told me, and I told her I’d let her know. I’d look at what I was doing that day and call her back to let her know.

I never checked. I never called her back. I never spoke to or heard from her again.

What’s really odd is that I went on to meet dozens — if not hundreds — of other people from online in the subsequent years. It was much easier once I was driving and I drove all over to meet not just girls, but guys that I’d made friends with on AOL and other online services. The odd part is that the meeting with Mary didn’t turn me off from wanting to do that. It didn’t push me away from wanting to meet new people.

It certainly left some memories and gave me a gauge by which to judge all others I met online since then. That’s something I won’t ever forget.

Did You Just Throw a Gun Off The Bridge?

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

Towards the later years of my teens, I was working at various locations in the Burlington Mall, usually until late at night. I had spent about a year and a half working at Johnny Rockets — where a good majority of the stories on this site or people in the stories on this site are from — where I met Tim.

I was around 17 or 18 at the time, and Tim was in his early 30s.  He was much older than I was, but we got along famously. He was a bit of an oddball, and I was a bit of a reject, so we fit well.

Many nights after work, we’d get together and either go across the street to a movie or go driving around playing a game that we liked to call “Where does this road go?” The game was quite simple, you’d just drive to the end of a road or an intersection and pick a direction. Whoever was in the passenger seat got to pick left straight or right. We ended up in some insane places playing this game.

Given that we both worked nights, it didn’t matter how late we stayed out or what time we got in. When you didn’t have to be at work until late afternoon, you didn’t care much.

One night, while out playing “Where does this road go?” we ended up on the strip in Hampton Beach. It was summer, but late enough at night that there weren’t many people at the beach.

We made a few laps around the strip, looking for anyone or anything interesting — as we did — before deciding to head back to the mall, where we’d left my car hours earlier.

If you’ve not been up to Hampton, you know that just over a long stretch of bridge is Salisbury Beach.  The lesser of the two beaches, if you will.

It was around 2:30 that morning when we started crossing the bridge that connected the two, when Tim decided that he wanted to toss pennies off the bridge, for good luck.

We pulled over, go out of his truck and walked to the guard rail.

It was a long way down, though I don’t know the exact height of the bridge.

I threw my penny over, watching it spiral and twist and seemingly float its way down to plop in the cold dark water below.

Tim followed suit and we were on our way back to the truck when flashing lights quickly approached from each side of the bridge, quickly surrounding us.

“Put your hands where we can see them,” a voice came over a loud speaker as the Ford Explorer from Salisbury Police pulled up.

Tim and I looked at each other confused and raised our hands above our head.

An officer came from the front and one from the back, quickly separating us from one another. Tim was taken in front of the truck and I was taken to the back of the truck, each to be questioned separately.

“What are you doing?” the officer asked me.
“We stopped to toss pennies off the bridge.”
“At two-thirty in the morning?” he asked, aggravated.
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
“Are you sure that’s all you’re doing?” he shined the maglight in my eyes.
“Yes, that’s all we did. Why? What are you accusing us of?”

He looked me up and down, visually accusing me of whatever it was that he thought we were guilty of.

“Many people throw weapons off the bridge after they commit a crime.”
“Are you serious?” I asked almost louder than I should have.
“Dead serious, son.”

He went on to ask me dozens of more questions about where we were, what we were doing in Hampton, and why we’d stopped on the bridge.

After checking my ID, he left me go back to the truck.  I sat in the passenger seat and waited for Tim to join me.

He got in, not saying anything and started the truck.

As we drove away, both police vehicles followed us through Salisbury and into the neighboring town. We drove slowly, making sure to not give them any reasons to pull us over again.  Using our signals the entire way, making sure to obey the speed limit. There was no way we were going to get in trouble.

We shared stories when we got back on the highway about how we’d been grilled by the officers. Tim’s questioning officer was evidently a little more aggressive than mine was, but both ultimately saw that we were just a couple of guys out driving around. So what if it was late at night and we were acting suspicious.

Those late night driving games took us all over New England — from Cape Code, to Maine, to all over New Hampshire and Vermont. We had some great times just driving around, peeling out over speed bumps, and trying to convince the police that we really weren’t bad people.