Monday, May 13, 2013

9. I'm not okay right now...


...is what I finally mustered up the courage to say, and while working hard to hold back my tears. Kep was helping me load my truck. The sort had run late and, now that drivers were on the clock, the preloaders went home leaving us to load for ourselves. Technically, Kep shouldn't even have been helping me. He was a boss man... a preload supervisor and therefore a non-union employee. How dare he help me and take away hourly work that was rightfully mine; why bother? Because I needed to get the hell out if the building that's why!

Ringenburgh's route was cut for the day. I'd been assigned the North Main route with Falls Creek and 203 splits from his car. It was possible for the North Main route to be alright. But, that was on its own, and if we got out of the building on time. Also, if it had under 150 stops. Today the stop count was at 183, and who knew if that was right. To top it off, we were already running forty-five minutes late getting out, and it was pouring rain.

I had been dreading the day before I'd even gotten out of bed. It was raining at seven-thirty when I finally got up, which is never a good sign. At least it was June, and it wouldn't likely turn to snow. But, the sky was grey and the Four Corners seemed to be socked in tight. There wasn't a ray of sunshine to be seen; to act as a morsel of hope that the clouds would break. I didn't want to go to work. Steve Balliger was back from medical leave, so I knew I wouldn't be delivering in Ignacio. Which was such a bummer, because I knew the Ignacio route really well. In addition to my familiarity with it, it was rural and the delivery pace was a bit more relaxed than any of the Durango routes were. Today, I figured I'd be on a route downtown.

I attributed my six pack abs to qualifying on 100D. It was a downtown Durango route, and used the only grand sized package car that didn't have power steering. Imagine cranking the wheel on one of those big trucks to squeeze in and out of tight spaces all day, and pair it with a brisk pace that seldom stopped from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It wasn't at all abnormal for a new package car driver to swim in their uniform at the end of their thirty day qualification period. Very little time to eat, plus moving just short of a run while working overtime, is the most effective weight loss plan I have ever seen. Our undershirts were salt stained, and the tips of my platinum blonde bob were crunchy by the end of each day. By crunchy, I mean that sweat dripped from the ends of my hair, that hung just below my ears, as I pounded through my work day; when the sweat dried, my hair would be hard about an inch up from the ends, and with each end forming a sharp little point. It was like a natural extreme hold hair gel. Except, I wouldn't ever intentionally style my hair that way.

North Main's route came with a truck that had power steering, and it's a good thing because the route demanded a fast pace. It consisted of lots of businesses, including the hospital, and a bunch of residential stops; many with steep driveways like those in Rockridge, and in Falls Creek thanks to the split. The steepness of the driveway mattered since they were not driveways we'd drive up, because they were so narrow. They were driveways we'd walk up, and walk back down, quickly. Rockridge is a high-end subdivision cut into a mountain; where the residents have plenty of space to set their houses quite a ways up, and back, from the street. We'd just park along the curb, and hike it up the landscaped or paved path to the house.

North Main didn't need splits from other routes to be a major pain in the ass, it was a pain in the ass on it's own. Neither did the weather need to be foul. One might think that rain, or snow, might keep the crunch factor out of my hair. I'm sorry to say that, that simply was not the case. The rain might dilute the salt in my hair some. But at the end of the day, if I let it dry before showering, it would still be crunchy.

Kep was a friend of mine, which made me that much more vulnerable to an emotional explosion. Since he was also a boss, he knew what kind of hell I was in for the day. Hence the reason he was helping me while union employees gave him the evil eye.

As I uttered the words softy, he looked up from his hunched position on the dock as he hoisted another package into the rear of my truck. His eyes plead, no. No, don't fall apart on me. No, please don't cry! The instant his eyes met mine and I read his plea, tears fell silently from my eyes like bullets to the dock; where I hunched beside him loading the last of the packages into the tail end of my package car. I cried because I couldn't imagine following through with the awful day ahead me. I cried because I hated the idea of screwing my friend the way I would if I walked out. He'd ultimately be stuck figuring out how to get all of those packages delivered with one less driver.

"It's okay", he said. "It's not that bad. Just go. You can do it." We were both standing now. He reached over and gave my left shoulder an awkward pat. I looked at him with glossy, swollen and pink eyes, and nodded. I reached for the strap on the package car's overhead door, and pulled it down until I could reach the handle. I stood on the rear bumper that was flush against the dock, and pushed down with both hands on the door's handle until it clicked securely closed at my feet. I lowered myself from the dock, and pulled myself up and into the driver's seat. I sighed, and resolved to try.

My face was puffy and damp as I delivered downtown. I fumbled through the packages in my truck, trying my best not to handle them more than once. I tried not to think of what I was missing at each stop on account of my messy load. I wore my light uniform jacket, and stayed warm from moving so quickly. The aluminum steps of the cab were slick, and I took special care to use three-point contact so I wouldn't slip getting in and out of the big brown package car. The dolly's handle was cold, and it's rubber tires left wet tracks on carpet as I carted packages in and out of offices.

It was after noon before I found myself off of Main, and on Junction Creek Road. I still had Falls Creek, County Road 203, and all of North Main's Residential deliveries to make. It was so much work. Easily, it was two days worth of normal people work. Normal people don't work at UPS, or not for long anyway. The rain hadn't let up. I felt doomed by the day, and by the job that dominated my life. I wouldn't have to look at anyone for awhile, and it was raining, so I cried. Sobs escaped my lips as I loaded my handcart from the bumper. I was in the same place I'd been, with Kep, four hours earlier. My nose was too stuffy to enjoy the smell of the clean mountain air.

The rain washed my tears away as I completed the delivery. I laid the dolly down just inside the bulk head door, and I numbly turned toward the cab as I grabbed a hold of the handle to shut it; the key in my hand was heading for the ignition when I heard the hollow sound of his feet on the steps. I looked from the diamond plated floor to his Adidas, and relief washed over me as I recognized the blue windbreaker he had on. His hood was down, and his short brown hair was messy and wet. He wore a soft sweet smile, and held two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in Ziploc baggies. He knew that I'd need more than my lunch. How did he know? I smiled my first of the day at the thought of Kep talking to him. Kep was one of his best friends, too, and had probably called. How else would he have known where to find me?

He was gone as quickly as he'd appeared; staying just long enough to see that I might make it, and to deliver dinner. I didn't get back to the building until well after dark. But, I had worked the last two-thirds of my day without crying. Patrick was the only ray of light I saw that day.


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