At some point in the previous decade, I spent a summer slinging boxes around the distribution warehouse for Abercrombie & Fitch. As warehouse jobs go, it’s rather posh: the building is safe, clean, modern, and air-conditioned. They pumped in pop music, you could wear whatever you wanted, and you got a bigger discount on the clothing than the retail employees did.
So, all in all, you can’t complain.
Except that it’s frightfully boring.
For my first shift, I had to take boxes that were headed for stores and fill them up with clothes. That’s it. That was the entire job. You had a pile of shirts, you put them in a box. Repeat for eight hours.
Later in the summer, I was moved up to their catalog orders department. Here was the routine:
You receive a bin with a shipping label, a list, and all of the items on the list.
You verify that the bin contains everything on the list.
Using your best judgment, you select a box of the appropriate size –
, medium, or
– for the order.
Put everything in the box except for the shipping label. (I sealed the shipping label in the box with alarming frequency)
Seal up the box and stick on the shipping label.
Drop the box on a conveyor belt.
Compared to simply stuffing shirts into large boxes, in terms of the brainpower needed this was like speaking publicly about astrophysics while baking a soufflé.
And it was still painfully dull. Like, ponder whether or not you actually witnessed your fingernails getting longer over the course of the day dull.
Towards the end of the summer, I received a welcome break from the routine when a huge back-to-school order showed up in my station. Dozens of shirts, a plethora of pants; far too much to fit in our proscribed “large” boxes. And we only got one shipping label, so you can’t split the order into multiple boxes.
When I explained this situation to my supervisor, he grunt-nodded in the direction of a pallet in the corner with a bunch of extra-extra-large boxes, four-foot-cubed of shipping might. You’d have to refinance your mortgage to afford enough to fill one of these. Double bonus: unlike the lesser boxes, these ones weren’t pre-assembled, so you had to waste a few minutes putting them together and wrangling enough tape to keep them standing upright.
Once I knew about the XXLs, I actually started getting excited about large orders, hoping that it juuuuuuust wouldn’t fit in regular box and I’d have to spend another twenty blissful minutes putting together an XXL box. That I was looking forward to wrestling with cardboard should tell you how bored I was.
Towards the end of one particularly dreadful day of too many pesky, picayune packages, I received a order that, in my best judgment, required an XXL box. Desperate to kill some time, I marched to the pallet with the XXL boxes, deliberately folded the cardboard, expertly massaged every crease with packing tape, and lovingly deposited the order: one thong, size small.
I should say it rather drifted, like throwing a paper airplane into the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful. I saluted when the box disappeared on the conveyor belt.
I like to imagine the guys that loaded the trucks seeing that crate and steeling themselves to hoist … mostly air. I like to imagine the look on that girl’s face when her order for 3 square inches of fabric arrived in something that would fit a baby giraffe.
I like to imagine that it made someone laugh. That it made someone’s day.
So when I see Stupid Shipping Gang posts, I prefer to think that it was some working stiff having some fun with a dull job, trying to make the world a weirder place. May their antics be applauded.