Part One of Two
I’ve worked in a lot of warehouses. In fact, I spent six years working in warehouses—five days a week, double and sometimes triple shifts, if I could find them—to pay for a largely useless bachelor of arts degree in English literature from a state university.
From April of 1982 to May 2nd, 1988, I worked at a UPS hub in Edison, New Jersey, loading trucks, unloading trucks, and sorting packages on conveyor belts. The pay was good—thirteen bucks an hour, plus double-time for anything over an 8-hour shift—and it bought a lot of college credits derived from courses like Literature of the Medieval Courts and American Realism and Naturalism. This era, the early- to mid-80s, was certainly the last in which it was possible for a student to “work his way through school.” That particular achievement has now joined “hopping a freight out of town” and “living off the land” in the Big Book of Quaint Outdated Customs of Yore.
I wish I could tell you why I was hauling 50-lb boxes in wretched conditions (scorching heat in summer, withering cold in winter, an omnipresent haze of truck exhaust and noxious airborne chemicals) in order to gain a passing familiarity with Ode on a Grecian Urn. But I really can’t.