This year, for one week at the height of the holiday shipping season, I’ve left my office in public relations and become a UPS driver helper to lend a hand delivering a few of the millions of packages UPS will process leading up to December 25th. My first day was December 12th. The Friday before, I received my safety training and a few minutes learning how to use our DIAD package scanner. In the race to get the packages out, UPS hires driver helpers in droves and Atlanta is no exception. They tossed me a brown UPS pullover which isn’t quite long enough for my arms. I was reminded of stories my grandfather tells of being thrown a pair of boots that didn’t fit exactly right during boot camp in World War II. Yeah, it’s kinda like that, but once the day begins those concerns disappear.
I met the driver I would assist at a major shopping mall here in Atlanta. The first task was deliveries to some of the stores inside. Pretty straightforward. The driver would scan, I would stack. Then we’d roll ‘em over to the location. But very quickly, his vehicle was empty and it was 5 p.m. Don’t be fooled. No one was going home. That’s when a UPS driver’s day just gets started! Now it was time for pickups from the major retail stores. We navigated his brown UPS package van into the underworld of the shopping mall. Loading docks and narrow passages. Offloading the hand trucks and heading into the hallways behind the many stores. It reminded me of that scene in Terminator 2 when John Connor is in the back hallways of the mall running from that evil robot. Any minute I expected Schwarzenegger to burst through a doorway yelling, “Get down!” Yep – exactly like that.
Our first customer had more than 80 pickups! My driver said that was nothing. The customers we picked up from were too busy during this time of the year for many pleasantries, but that’s cool because we were in just as big a hurry. We loaded the massive boxes in multiple trips. We were moving briskly with the hand trucks. Unfortunately the freight elevator is never in a hurry. The door for the elevator is about the same size as the one on Jabba the Hutt’s palace and raises only marginally faster. Next Day Air parcels are separated and go on the back lower shelf so they’ll be the first ones off before 7 p.m. at the sorting facility. The rest get stacked tightly in the delivery vehicle. Then it’s onto the next round of pickups. This time it was a designer shoe retailer. One package was going to someone named Monica in South Carolina. I considered briefly how every package has a person’s name – every box heading into a different person’s life, different experiences, a million different situations and personalities. I hoped Monica will be happy with whatever she ordered. I rapidly started to resent Santa Claus for getting all the credit.
By about 8 p.m. we were done for the evening. But now it’s the a.m. and in about 30 minutes, I will have to be ready and out the door, because there’s more deliveries today where those came from.