A Certain Level of Unprofessionalism VI

Pack Support

November 2008

It’s been so long I nearly forgot the order in which I took some of these jobs. However, after a few shots of Turkey and a fresh box of crayons, I’ve reestablished some order in my mind. When I started the ACLU series, I didn’t take into consideration that some of the jobs I’ve had weren’t really significant enough to write about with any sense of story attached to them. This will probably disappoint you, and you’ll send me messages or comments on how disappointed you are. I’ll read them or play with matches or look at dog poop and wait for it to turn white.

The warehouse at L.L. Bean, where all that pretty shit from the catalogues gets packed into L.L. Bean boxes and shipped to your house, is one of the most boring places on earth. Packing the boxes isn’t too bad, actually. But, pack support, the guy or gal who pushes around a dolly and refills the cubbies with those L.L. Bean boxes, is, I promise you, one of the most tedious occupations I’ve ever had. It should not be surprising that I quit this job after a few short weeks, and the night I quit, I sat in the parking lot and finished reading Motherless Brooklyn by Jonahtan Lethem before heading back to Portland for last call and meeting up with a girl whose smile looked like an attempt to draw a circle with an etch-e-sketch.

There’s a large sign above the path that circles the packing stations which indicates how many laps it would take to walk the equivalent distance to Miami, Los Angeles, and even China. Somehow, I think it was a way to boost morale. Some of the people I worked with hit the ganja which was something I did when I worked less dangerous jobs like construction. Walking in a circle required too much concentration.

After taking the job, and being promised overtime, the economy took a header into concrete and the shifts available dwindled down to two a week. I burned more money in gas traveling to work, so every shift I could get I needed. The problem came when they scheduled too many people to work and all of us spent most of the night running into each other and they would send someone home.

My plan was simple. If I looked like I was working hard, I’d get to stay. So, every other lap around the L.L. Bean warehouse I dropped ripped pages of catalogs, dumped entire cans of trash at the corners where the team leaders couldn’t see, and I’d take boxes from the packers’ cubbies which led to more than one altercation. “They’re the wrong boxes,” I would tell them, and upon leaving I would kick their trash can over. The plan was fairly effective for a while, but my coworkers were also looking for things to do, so my messes were being cleaned by others. The answer was simply bigger messes, much like my mind right now.

Eventually, when half the time you spend at your job is to make messes, any boss with a shred of purpose will catch you, especially after the simple action of dumping trash on the floor becomes boring and punting the trashcan is a much more appealing activity.

At the far end of the warehouse there were vacant packing stations, and nothing in need of my occupational requirements. I’d placed a small brown trashcan near the edge of one of the stations, empty of course, with plans to damage it on my next pass. A nonchalant kick that would provide me with the giddiness I needed to really cause some damage. I made another lap, about 200 feet closer to walking the distance to China, and picked up speed as I rounded the far, desolate corner of the warehouse. The plastic bin let out a terrific thud when I kicked it, but the horror of the glass bottle that had been placed inside it by some earth-UN-friendly motherfucker, hit the far wall, shattered, and fell into a big cardboard box which held the plastic strips that had been used to bind the stacks of boxes.

The sound of the glass was cacaphonic, even over the drone of the conveyers and beeping cubbies. Several of my coworkers looked up toward the sound. My team leader approached with urgency, glaring down at the trash bin wobbling to a stop. She was a short haired woman, thick hips and a wide ass that rocked her movement forward with little use of her legs.

“Everything okay?” she asked, tapping the back of her team-leader clipboard.

“I think it tried to bite me.”

“I think maybe third shift might not be the best thing for your imagination.”

“Yeah, but not working third shift is going to be detrimental to my shitty financial situation.”

“You should have thought about that before. Now your shitty financial situation will be directly impacted by your schedule.

I pulled the clip of my ID badge from my collar and handed it to her. “I think this situation will be less shitty if I just leave. I think I can still make last call.”

She took my ID, and I left her standing there scrawling vicious notes on the paper in her clipboard. I lit a cigarette just before I left the lobby and pulled the copy of Motherless Brooklyn from my dashboard when I got in my car, which I had only a few dozen pages left, and if I hadn’t made last call at the White Heart in Portland, it still would have been worth ditching that job to finish the book.

And there you have it until the next post when I tell you about pulling a shotgun on some of the guests at the bed and breakfast I ran in Portland.

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One thought on “A Certain Level of Unprofessionalism VI

  1. I loved it, Joe. I needed to laugh and that hit the spot. Your prose is so well-crafted and economical. I admire that!

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