Before I started my college holiday breaks as a greasy server at the overpriced neighborhood Tex-Mex grill, I was a UPS man. While I guess most college females come home to spend time with their families, or babysit here-and-there, or maybe work as holiday help for Victoria’s Secret to stack up on those padded tits – my father suggested that I work for UPS as a driver helper. He claimed that he was a UPS driver helper as a young man and enjoyed the experience. I claimed I didn’t even know what ‘UPS’ stood for.
I was hired the next day and was buckled into a UPS truck immediately.
“She don’t have to wear that uniform. Let the girl’s skin breathe a little. Don’t you say, Carl?”
“I do agree, Tyrone. Why don’t you drive with me, Whitney? I sure do know how to drive a truck.”
Slap the knee. High-five. Guffaw. And at the end of the day, they all went home thinking of me in an all-brown marshmallow suit. A UPS wet dream.
Can be seen at Crazy Girls in West Hollywood
My driver was Daryl. Daryl is a pretty cool name for a 48 year-old redhead from West Virginia who, within forty seconds of meeting each other, told me he lost one testicle in a wrestling match with his seven brothers. Daryl started working for UPS, smoking cigarettes, and not eating vegetables at the age of 16. And the next 32 years of his life has been like Ground Hogs Day.
I really didn’t deserve to be paid $16.50 per hour. I carried small boxes to front porches. I turned on-and-off the truck air conditioning. I handed Daryl his cigarettes when in-traffic. But for the most part I stayed strapped into my UPS driver helper seat, with one eye shut til 9am, listening to Daryl go on about the difference between buffalo jerky and beef jerky.
Much like a farmer can guess the health conditions of his horse by its feces, Daryl could guess the item in every cardboard box just by looking at it for ten seconds.
“What about this one, Daryl?”
“………………………Matching towel set.”
“For the bathroom or kitchen?”
“Is it from New Jersey? Italians. Kitchen.”
He taught me to be wary of the “Christmas Repeats”: thick socks, gloves, hardware, teddy bears, frying pans, and hand cuffs. He said Never buy a loved one a Christmas Repeat because it means you weren’t really loving them at the time you purchased it.
“She said she really wanted one of those Brat dolls or a pink-and-orange lava lamp for Christmas. And those damn dolls aren’t good for anything. So she is getting the lava lamp.”
He hopped out of the truck with a package. He kissed the front of the package and gently placed it in front of the door. He stood there for awhile, looking at the box. I played with the truck air conditioner for awhile.
I didn’t know much as a 19 year-old girl. I knew how to text at rapid fire. I knew how to watch endless hours of Friends. I knew how to lock myself in my room and pick at my pimpled face for proper scarring. Not until now when I reflect back onto my two weeks of working with Daryl and UPS in the confines of a smog-filled UPS truck do I realize that Daryl was working with UPS for yes, the benefits, the good hourly pay, and the familiarity of the job and company. But he was also using it as a vehicle to keep in touch with his daughter that only sees a few times per year. I knew Daryl for a short period of time as a holiday helper, so who knows what sort of weirdo he really is — but I am aware that he spent all year looking forward to dropping off that ugly and unholy lava lamp, the dollhouse, the tie-dye Furby, the Razor cellphone, the pink laptop cover, the makeup brushes, the locker decorations, the boy band posters, and the Twilight books. All those things that make most adults roll their eyes, Daryl couldn’t wait to deliver in a cardboard box. While dressed in a poop-colored onesie. Under the mask of a UPS man. As a dad.
I was hired by Denise, a rotund black woman who took pride in decorating her click-tastic nails with microscopic jingle bells and tiny clay formations of santa hats. With a combination of untreated ADHD and a fascination-fear of tiny things, I had no idea what Denise said about my UPS duties on the day I was hired. The only conclusions I developed is that I would have to wear sturdy boots and that if Denise really wanted, she could fit approximately six tiny santa hats on her thumb nail. But that would also increase the number of tiny santa hats she would most likely consume while eating Hot Cheetos.
Overall, the job was great: I got the opportunity to wake up with one eye open at 4:30am and the other eye to open at 9am; I borrowed and wore a poop-colored onesie, complete with a secret pocket in the crotch area for fallen crumbs; and I ate a variety of nutritious options from McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Jerry’s Subs three times a day for two weeks. Thankfully, I managed to gain twenty pounds in two weeks, which only advanced my Freshman Fifteen feat at the beginning of the semester. And above all, I was the only woman in the Fairfax, Virginia division of UPS Holiday Workers. Which can only mean: even if you are dressed in a poop-colored onesie, you are bound to be showered with sexual harassment!
“I wake up. I don’t drink coffee, I smoke a cigarette. I take my vitamins. I eat an egg McMuffin, no cheese. And then I get in a truck and drive around Northern Virginia listening to Johnny Cash.”
“Where do you go to the bathroom?” It was the only question I really wanted answered.
“What do you mean where do I go to the bathroom? I go at the McDonald’s on the corner of Old Keene Mill and Lee Chapel. They just started using the moisturizing elements in the soap.”
Daryl taught me many things a pre-21 year-old woman should know: cigarettes are healthy when taken with eighteen different vitamins; it is ok to eat eggs ten days after the expiration date; and no one gives a shit about what goes on their tattoos anymore.
“Everybody thinks shit when thinkin’ about tattoos. Nobody gets creative or symbolicalistic anymore. You see this one here? Got it at twenty years old. It is a snake wrapped around a rat that is eating another rat that is posted on a cross. My mother designed it in representational fashion of her birthing me. Do you have any tattoos?”
“No? Well, ok. If you do get one, don’t get a butterfly. Because if you get a butterfly – then you be thinkin’ shit about your tattoo. And the next thing you know, you will have a bird. And that only leads to a tramp stamp of the whole goddamn animal kingdom. Don’t be one of them people.”
Obviously, I wasn’t awake during most of my experience as a UPS driver helper. However, I noticed that Daryl favored a particular address on his Drop Off Stops Sheet – which he starred and highlighted several times. I never asked why he circled the address so many times, mainly because I was a 19 year-old, thoughtless, and spoiled girl who didn’t care about much else other than AOL Instant Messenger. It wasn’t until we finally arrived at the starred addressed at the end of week two that I realized the house was more than just a highlighted location to Daryl.