Bruce Harris, 4/7/2014

Current Occupation: Sales
Former Occupation: unstated
Contact Information: Bruce Harris is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: ABout Type.

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…TICK…TICK…TICK…

    He checked the day’s log. 144 delivery stops, 32 pickups. He’d handle about 400 packages give or take, an eight and a half hour dispatch, just another day at the office.

    White powdery sweat stains coated his Parcel King uniform. Avoiding broken pallets and what appeared to be a twisted automobile fender, Scott backed toward sun drenched, graffiti covered pale salmon colored bricks. Inches from the wall, he punched the horn three times at pickup stop number 16 and leaned his head out of the driver’s side door. The parking lot reeked of rotted food and dead animals. He looked up. “How much ya got today?” No response. He hit the horn again, secured the emergency brake and jumped out of the truck. …TICK…TICK… TICK… “Whaddya got goin today?” he shouted.

    From the wide-open second floor window of Jackson’s Leather Jackets, Scott suddenly saw Richie, the shipping manager, a thin guy in his early thirties wearing loose fitting jeans, untied white sneakers, a sleeveless black t-shirt and a stiff Yankees cap. Their eye contact was brief. “Thirty,” Richie yelled, flicking ash from a very thin plastic tipped cigar.

    “Shit,” Scott muttered. He looked at his watch; 3:05 pm. He had been 5 minutes ahead of schedule coming into this stop, but this would put him far behind. “Well, hurry up!” He jumped back into the truck and recorded some figures on a clipboard. …TICK…TICK…TICK… He was immune to the sound of the truck’s inner machinations plotting him against the clock, against performance. He hated this stop, and he knew the shipping crew, two warehousemen and Richie hated him. “Don’t send that fucker with the glasses back here no more! He always rushes us. We can’t stand that asshole.” That’s what Richie had told Eric, the regular driver of the route. Eric was the most senior driver in the center and he knew every square inch of the roads, the customers, and their families. This was his domain. He was a rock star. Scott often thought Eric could run for mayor in this town and win easily. Everyone seemed to love Eric. It wasn’t easy being a split or cover driver, never doing the same route for more than a week’s stretch, but like anything else, it had its plusses and minuses. …TICK…TICK…TICK… He opened the rear door and began rearranging the prior 15 stops’ pickup packages as well as the few remaining delivery parcels, making maximum use of space. “C’mon, already!” he screamed.

    The first four packages began their clumsy, slow descent from the second floor toward the rear of the truck. The makeshift elevator, if you could even call it that, couldn’t handle more than four of the oversized leather jacket packages. The two warehouse workers, with one hand crossing the other, released another few inches of rope, lowering the wooden platform containing the boxes. …TICK…TICK…TICK… He looked at his watch again. 3:13, and he hadn’t received the first group. When the rigged up dumbwaiter was within reach, he grabbed the packages one at a time and shelved them in the truck. “Let’s go, dammit. Give me more!” The wooden plank began its awkward rise. From the rear of his truck, he could see Richie, cigar hanging from his mouth, slapping labels on additional packages. The two workers loaded up the board with another four and repeated the lowering process. Mentally, Scott calculated the wait. Thirty packages, four at a time, required eight trips from the second floor window. Each trip took approximately 3 minutes to complete. The stop would take him about 30 minutes. Thirty minutes for thirty packages! “How inefficient,” he thought to himself, “how goddammed inefficient. How the hell did they make any money here?” …TICK…TICK…TICK… He knew that every move of his throughout the day was planned for and meticulously measured. The time it took for him to insert the key into the ignition, turning the key to start the engine, putting on the seatbelt, releasing the emergency brake, selecting packages, walking outdoors on the street, walking inside a building, obtaining signatures, handling packages whether individually or together or stacking them on and using a hand truck. Every movement between the moment he punched in in the morning until punching out at night was assigned a specific time allotment. That applied to his driving as well, stopping at red lights or stop signs, yielding to traffic or pedestrians, making right- or left-handed turns, backing to docks or pulling out into traffic. He often thought the time it took to piss was accounted for. Someone from the engineering department had studied this and every other route and swore to the time studies’ accuracy. That’s why he knew, within a matter of seconds that 144 delivery stops and 32 pickup stops in this part of town should take him no more or less than 8.5 hours. …TICK…TICK…TICK… His black Clark Kent-like frames began sliding down the bridge of his nose. Sweat dripped. He had been at Jackson’s over 30 minutes.

    “No mas!” One of the workers tossed down the book for him to sign off. Before signing, he took a quick count. “Shit. There’s only 29. You only gave me 29 packages. Where’s the last one?” Management was going to kick his ass when he got back to the hub. …TICK…TICK…TICK…

    From above, Richie was looking around. “You sure?”

    “Jesus Christ. There’s 29 packages. I’m not signing for 30. I’m going to be so fucking late today because of you pricks.”

    “Oh wait,” he heard Richie say after a few minutes delay. “I found it. Give me a minute, dude. Shit, Eric never rushes us like this. When’s he back? Tomorrow?”

    Scott watched the final label being applied to the box. “Just throw it down. Fuck that elevator.” After he shut the rear door, he looked up. “Monday. Eric’s back Monday.”

    He saw Richie toss the remnant of the little cigar into an overflowing dumpster. Before heading off to his next pickup stop he heard the shipping manager say, “We’re gonna have around 50 tomorrow, shithead.”

    All of the other drivers had returned to the building by the time Scott brought back his load and checked out. Victor, one of the supervisors looked up at the gigantic official Parcel King clock centered perfectly and embedded into the concrete wall above the manager’s office. It was a few minutes after 8:00pm. “You’re the last one in.” Victor was a big guy, a former college football player. Despite his short hair, it always appeared as though he needed a haircut. A photo id hung from the breast pocket of his stained short-sleeved white shirt. The picture was taken over 50 pounds ago. Victor’s tie was undone. The supervisor yawned. “What happened?”

    Scott looked at him. “I’m off the clock.”

    “It’s about time,” Victor said. “See me in my office first thing tomorrow morning. You know, when you’re on the clock.” Scott turned to walk away. “Oh, and Scott,” Victor continued, “One more thing… Drive home safely.”

Scott smiled. He knew that he would be home in exactly 17 minutes. That first cold one was going to go down really smoothly.

 

One comment on “Bruce Harris, 4/7/2014
  1. Martin says:

    I can relate. I’ve worked S&R jobs. But here I’m on the side of the “Parcel King” driver.

    Overall I liked it. Nice snapshot of real life.

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