Yesterday evening I finished my work for UPS as part of their peak season search for driver’s helpers to deliver the large amount of packages that people order this time of year (a visible sign of the conspicuous consumption of our society, I suppose). I thought it would therefore be worthwhile to comment somewhat, as is my fashion, on some observations I have about the my time, in no particular order except how they come to mind. I hope you are all greatly amused by it and that something thought provoking comes of it. With that said, let us begin without any further ado.
Ow, My Feet!
Okay, I’m not someone who likes to complain about things, but it is impossible for me to describe the amount of stress that this work puts on one’s feet. I’m someone who tends not to have the best of feet in good circumstances, and it should be noted that this job is very hard on one’s feet. Part of this is due to the nature of the work itself–climbing in and out of a truck a couple hundred times a day and carrying packages up sidewalks, across yards, and up stairs at a high speed. The weather and uneven surfaces (and trying to walk in the dark at times) add dangers and risks. Delivering packages requires good feet, and it would be nice if foot massages came standard. Yesterday afternoon, aside from the normal strain on my feet, I started feeling bothered by a bruise in my right foot near my middle toes. In time the feet will heal and hopefully the good memories will remain.
You might think that working with UPS would give someone a great deal of local knowledge about roads, but this would generally be inaccurate. UPS drivers tend to have a fairly narrow range that they get to know very well, with some knowledge of their neighboring ranges. For example, during my few weeks, I spent two days working the southern slope of Mt. Scott (Happy Valley), one day in the Clackamas Town Center (spending most of my time lugging huge amounts of packages on large carts through service corridors like the one in which the Clackamas Town Center shooter ended up killing himself, eerily enough), and the rest of the time in a fairly narrow range mostly between Sunnyside Blvd and the 212/224 highway (before it separates to Mt. Hood and Estacada) and between 128th and 162nd Avenues, with some scattered stops outside of this range and some help provided to the businesses along and south of the 212 one day and a couple of nights helping out in the area between Foster and Division near 122nd Avenue. From what I saw, most UPS drivers gain their production advantage by developing local knowledge of their route, but that knowledge is of a fairly small and compact area, and it takes a great deal of time, practice, and attention to develop strong local knowledge of the larger area of a city like Portland as a whole.
Noticing Patterns And Quirks
A natural consequence of working in a fairly compact area over and over again is that one tends to notice quirks and patterns. For example, there are some houses that order goods over and over again and others that don’t order anything. People have different patterns–and it is pretty obvious which people are more comfortable ordering goods from online (amazon.com being particularly popular, but I also learned from the packages I delivered that Goodwill offers online purchases as well, which I would not have expected). One learns patterns and quirks in both the items one delivers as well as the places one delivers packages to. When one delivers packages to the same places over and over again, eventually one learns that some people like their packages delivered not to their front door, but to a side door, or that others like you to wait for them even if it takes them four minutes to wind their way to the door and open it, or that there are many quirks in yards and roads and houses and the people who live in them. I enjoy such quirks, being a quirky person myself.
How Time Goes By
I noticed for myself that my time was most productive in subdivisions and apartment complexes (where one could deliver multiple packages to multiple neighbors and get through one’s work relatively quickly) and least productive when I had to walk fairly long distances or had to deal with signatures. I also found that my time was generally not productive at all at night time, since I can’t see very well in the dark. I also found that my own personal productivity depended a great deal on factors outside of my control–I’m the sort of person that worked best with a point and shoot sort of straightforward approach, and tended to struggle a bit with the unfamiliar and uncertain and vague. That said, none of that is a surprise given my own patterns of behavior.
I consider myself a pretty friendly person in general. And truth be told, the sort of genuine civility combined with emotional distance that I use in my normal day to day life is well-suited to cordial relations with work. Perhaps it is a bad thing that emotional distance is well suited to be friendly with others in a business environment, and it is almost certainly a bad thing that emotional distance is a normal habit of my dealings with other people, since I am a genuinely passionate person and it is not too difficult for this passion and intensity to be recognized by others. That said, most people were quite happy to be friendly in such a civil way because they both realized we were busy and had a lot of work to do, and because they were genuinely happy to receive what they had ordered. Few people are unhappy to get things, after all.
The Distance To Here
The distance between company strategy and even the office at Swan Island that I worked for and me was pretty extensive. This is probably a good thing–since I am a fairly prolific writer about just about anything that enters my frame of reference, it is easiest to be safe with one’s secrets if others are simply not knowledgeable about them. My job was relatively straightforward–delivering packages, getting signatures, picking up packages from a smaller group of customers. My contact with the office was usually (with rare exceptions) attenuated through the permanent drivers. My distance from the inner workings (whether it was preloading or anything else) of UPS was based on my lack of permanent or official relationship (even if I still had to pay two months of union dues to the Teamsters, ironically enough). One can’t tell secrets that one does not know, so there’s that.
Well, I will no doubt do some thinking about the last few weeks, but for now I hope you are all intrigued and amused by my reflections. I suppose that reflecting on what is going on around me is as natural as breathing, and that expressing what I think and reflect is just about as natural to me. That said, I hope that people can understand that any sort of experiences can be the food for creation, whether they are good or bad, mundane or exciting, and that insight can be gained whenever someone is of the frame of mind to learn and grow and ponder and reflect. And that is something we can all take to heart, I hope.