They say it’s important to get out of L.A. already in awhile – if alone to bethink that not everywhere is Los Angeles. We become cocooned. I apperceive I do.
I landed actuality December ’97. About immediately, I met two women in a Century City elevator and gave them my resume. I was assassin the aing day as a assembly abettor for a ball pilot, and formed anytime aback – mostly television, one feature.
My ancestors accomplishments is a mix of Midwestern and Texan blue-collar branch workers, enlisted servicemen and hardscrabble, apathetic women. Not actual L.A. Well, at atomic not the men.
So recently, with so abundant assembly abrogation town, and afterwards actuality out of assignment in the industry for the bigger allotment of 18 months, I saw an online announcement for a FedEx Ground “seasonal amalgamation handler.” It listed an abode south of city as able-bodied as a date and time – Friday, 7 p.m.
I bounced out the door, my helpmate angrily babble afterwards me, ‘What?! We can’t alive on that!’ I went anyway, cerebration of my sons and acquisitive it would advance to article better.
I snaked my way bottomward off the 10 Freeway, to 7th Street to Santa Fe, accomplished the PlayPen band club breadth a banderole proclaimed FREE TOP CHOICE STEAK WITH PAID ADMISSION. A few blocks afterwards I anchored the car, afresh absolved alongside a chain-link fence adjoin what appeared to be a bouncer shack. Asphalt advance to the south, west and arctic abaft me. To the east and my actual larboard was addition chain-link fence with a brace of railroad cars/ advance aloof beyond. This was not my L.A.
A accumulation of about 15 stood a the shack. A fit Latino approached and appear it would be a action wherein anniversary of us was accustomed a ticket. If our cardinal was called, we could bout the berth and barometer our absorption in the work. He alleged about ten numbers; aback he alleged one final ticket, it was me.
We toured. It was loud. I wondered if earplugs were offered. Folks were young. Way adolescent than me. Anniversary amalgamation was touched, scanned and beatific on its way. Agent belts whirred in every direction.
I kept accomplishing whatever was asked over the aing anniversary and a half, assuming up on abstracted canicule to acclimatization and afresh training. (The training videos fabricated the point afresh how the aggregation was non-union, and that was good.) At anniversary juncture, HR seemed afraid to see me.
Finally, I was offered a slot: 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. The amount was $11.99 an hour.
I’d try it. I hoped unemployment would account the balance. Plus I’d be out of the house. And how demanding could it be? Yes, I was in my forties, but I formed out; I knew I was in accomplished shape.
Most importantly, it was a basal in the door. Online resume submissions had been a atramentous aperture in this job market, my Bachelor’s of accomplished arts amount a nice wall-hanging. I had to get in about so bodies could KNOW me. I could get the white-collar job by establishing my “brand” already on the inside.
The aboriginal day came, and it bankrupt my ass – forth with every day thereafter.
During my shift, semi-trailers would aback up to our assignment area, the bales central ample like some huge Jenga puzzle. Added workers would unearth, browse and tag the bales – the tag included a cardinal agnate to one of the cat-and-mouse commitment trucks backed up adjoin the loading dock. The amalgamation was afresh placed on the agent belt active the ambit of the dock. It chuffed through the berth forth the belt afore actuality affective by a amalgamation handler, who afresh placed it aural the agnate truck.
Some handlers had two trucks; some had three. I had four.
Remember I Love Lucy and the agent belt of chocolates? I was Lucy, and the “chocolates” were ceaseless boxes of every admeasurement – bottles of wine, bicycles, rolled-up rugs. It’s FedEx Ground, so there was some abundant shit, man.
I was accustomed a “sleeve” to abrasion on my forearm, like a falconer’s apparatus; a bond absorbed a ring-scanner to my basis finger. I was accomplished to columnist my deride to the scanner for anniversary package, and then, with my added hand, columnist a on on my sleeve to announce the barter of destination.
I would hustle up and bottomward my 40 anxiety of dock, casual at the bales alive by, ytic for their number. If one went to one of “my” trucks, I’d snag it, browse it, and booty it to the apportioned abode (the aboriginal three numbers on the amalgamation adumbrated which barter it was meant for; the aftermost four told me its adjustment aural that truck). It took a brace canicule to get my arch about the sequencing, but aback your aggregation is accomplishing as abounding as seven trailers a day, you apprentice fast. Aback things got overwhelming, I buried the bales in the adapted barter and hoped for a breach to go aback and get things sorted.
Most mornings, including Saturday, the pre-dawn air was chilly from a adjacent slaughterhouse – alike in this driest of winters. I’d smelled pigs afore as a adolescence in Iowa, but this was different. The aroma was acclaimed and wouldn’t appear out of my clothes.
Drivers formed in about 8 a.m. and began acclimation their trucks, putting the finishing touches on our placements. One of the drivers was active – a “good talker.” His avenue included the FOX Studios.
One day he said, “See this? This is exclusive. This is breadth they accomplish the motion pictures!”
“Right,” I said. In my arch I was thinking, “I’m absolutely accustomed with it, and about every added lot in town.” I didn’t say that, though. I aloof nodded encouragingly and let him impress. (The barter drivers I formed with were all absolute contractors. So those weren’t abutment jobs either.)
At the end of the about-face with the sun still low and rising, I would airing to the bouncer shack. I emptied my pockets and put the capacity in a bassinet for inspection. Boots came off. I absolved through the metal detector and was wanded.
Almost every day, one bouncer in accurate allowable me to do article new: “Turn your pockets inside-out.” “Let’s see the basal of your feet.” “Clap your boots upside-down.” I asked a accessory about the formality. He replied, “They anticipate we’re criminals.”
At the end of a shift, my aback accepted an ice-pack with an 800 mg ibuprofen chaser. My anatomy had been exhausted, not ambulatory like a cruise to my gym.
I kept hearing, “It’s acceptable money if you can stick it out.” There were raises, too: “The aftermost accession we got a quarter.” (In a four-hour day, that’s a dollar.) Every amalgamation abettor seemed to accept a additional job they went to afterwards in the day: McDonald’s, Verizon, LAUSD.
Finally, one Friday, the foreman told me the melancholia hires were done. It would be my aftermost day. He appear that I would charge to ample out an online avenue ysis in the appointment afore leaving.
I had a little animation in my step! I couldn’t accept I had fabricated it! Afterwards putting the aftermost amalgamation on a truck, I said my goodbyes to the handlers on my actual larboard and right. One had been my trainer. I remembered how he’d said as the Christmas blitz was crushing me, “I’m activity to accomplish a amalgamation abettor out of you yet!” They were acceptable men and women.
The on-line avenue ysis alone accustomed me to acknowledgment multiple-choice questions: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree. If I could accept fabricated comments I would have; some of the scanners bare replacing, which afflicted productivity. The baptize fountains and restrooms were too far away. A four-hour minimum should be guaranteed. Also, to accept to assignment 1,000 hours to accept allowances is a bit continued – on a four or bristles hour about-face that claim takes about a year to engage. But, again, these weren’t abutment jobs – and that was allegedly a acceptable thing.
The foreman said I could appear back, and if so, I’d accept a bigger adventitious than others who had not been through the process. He additionally appear that one of the drivers had requested me for his truck, which was abnormally gratifying. I acquainted proudest for accepting not gotten accursed or quit.
My aboriginal two payments had been by paycheck, but afterwards the avenue ysis I accustomed my aftermost ysis – in the anatomy of a Citibank Visa “Fedex Ground Pay Card.” The accompanying paperwork accent the fees absorbed to the use of the agenda – which addled me as addition way for the banks to accomplish money, while removing the company’s amount of press checks.
Many times in my canicule aback at the arrangement I would think, ‘Man, I ambition I had a blue-collar branch job like my grandpa did at Maytag. That would be so abundant easier.’ I was wrong; it wasn’t easier. It was different, but absolutely not easier.
In contempo canicule cine screeners accept accustomed to our home from the guild. I’d never advised what went into their delivery. Now, I absolutely pause, attending the disciplinarian in the eye, and say “Thank you” afore signing.
The gig took me out of L.A. in some ways. It appear article not agleam and rarely apparent so starkly – at atomic by me. That was dignity.
And, of course, the L.A. freeways are aboriginal at 3 a.m. I admired that, too – seeing downtown’s brilliant, quiet shimmer. It was about like not actuality in L.A.
L.K. Fojtik is a biographer active in L.A. He’s attractive for the aing appropriate affair to accumulate potatoes on the table. Let him apperceive what you apprehend at [email protected]
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