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