Tuna Joe has a Crush

Tuna Joe likes a girl and gets the courage to ask her out.

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The (I stopped counting) chapter from my new, wonderful, amazing, and upcoming novel about my time working at Apex Logistics. It might be the best story ever written, but I don’t want to brag. If you want more chapters like this, links are at the bottom (once again too lazy to post them twice).

One thing about Apex that stood out was their turnover. Actually, scratch that. One thing about Apex that stood out was their turnover, the fact that the business was growing, and that the holiday season was quickly approaching. These three things together meant one really important thing: there were always new people showing up at the place. It was kinda disorienting in a way. If you took some extended time off, or even had a long holiday weekend away from work, you’d be greeted by many new faces when you came back to work. Sometimes you’d feel as if you’d stumbled unknowingly into the wrong work shift with all the new faces staring at you with the wide and frightened eyes that the new hires perpetually had.

It was another one of those days. I was standing in the parking lot smoking a cigarette and observing people as they walked into the building. It’s a pre-work ritual that I greatly enjoy. Something about smoking and watching people is immensely enjoyable. About five of them I’d never seen before and, I assumed, were new. They were looking around partially frightened, partially lost, with the anxiety of having no clue what they were getting themselves into. A few seemed excited, the thought of making extra cash and meeting new people perhaps lifting their moods.

One of these people was a girl by the name of Amanda Roland. She had dirty blonde hair, wore a black hoodie along with some standard jeans that sported a few rips around the knees. Totally standard stuff. She had gauges in her ears and looked exactly like a girl that you’d expect to be comfortable fitting right in “with the guys” so to say. She was attractive in a way that was natural and not ridiculously goddess-like: a beautiful girl you could talk to without stumbling over every word that attempted to exit your mouth. A cool girl.

I went along with the day helping load packages after our daily meeting, once again, it was a day like any other day…but unironically. It was just another bland day, except we had those new hires roaming around the building. Eventually they took a tour of the building to see what the hell we actually did, and we tried to be good workers and keep the package-throwing to an acceptably low level.

(Fun side note: around this time Amazon started coloring their boxes to look like footballs as part of an NFL promotion. And it was always the smaller, football-sized boxes that were painted this way. When we first saw them we just stared at them: Amazon surely didn’t want us throwing packages but purposefully colored the small ones to look exactly like footballs? That had to be some sort of joke right? A trap? To tempt us into throwing them just to see if we would? Just a way to get us all fired? Apparently not as one brave/stupid group of workers eventually picked a few up and started tossing them gently to test the waters. A few minutes later they were outright hail-marying them halfway across the warehouse. In short, we tossed boxes around a lot, even if they didn’t resemble footballs.)

Amanda strolled out with the group of new-hires and Elrod, the filthy man that he was, glared at her. I think most men upon seeing an attractive woman will sneak glances at her, trying to be both pigs and gentlemen at the same time, but Elrod wasn’t trying to hide the fact that he was a pig. To be honest, you almost had to admire the guy in his self-honesty. This was a man that wasn’t lying to himself or others. He was a pig, he knew that he was a pig, and even admitted occasionally that he almost felt bad for being a pig, but was totally fine with being a pig because it was who he was. Sort of like certain women on Facebook who are proud of the fact that they’re “bitches” and have zero reason to change. He was a dog looking at fresh meat, his metaphorical tail wagging and his mouth watering at the sight and smell of raw steak meters in front of him.

Anyways, to paint the picture a little better, he said (after staring for an extended period of time and with God-knows-what fantasy going on in his head), “Would you look at the ass on her. Oh man! I’d love to be inside of that. Phew.” It seemed Elrod was almost out of breath for some reason.

All of us working in the perimeter just gave a collective, “Wait…what?” We were surprised but also not that surprised — it was Elrod after all — but moments like that are always jarring, especially when they happen at 11:15 in the goddamn morning. Most of us were still asleep/hungover with only Elrod having his “engine running” so to speak.

Over the next month or so (time didn’t matter really, work was work, but with peak was sneaking up on us day by day) Amanda fit right in with everyone else. As I expected, she seemed to be one of those cool girls that gets along with men just as well as with women. No one seemed to dislike her and she was a decent worker. Not the best fucking worker mind you (she liked socializing and like Good Austin couldn’t seem to move her hands/arms and mouth at the same time), but a good worker none-the-less. In a way she was a perfectly and totally average person and this is one reason I don’t remember her very much. She was so average that she was forgettable. Agreeable but not too agreeable. Pretty but not too pretty. And so on.

And during this time Tuna Joe had apparently developed quite a crush on her, although like most awkward guys right out of high school kept his emotions too close for his own good. No one actually knew about his crush on Amanda because he treated her just like any other person there. Hell, he treated Elrod nearly the exact same way that he treated Amanda. He just didn’t show anything.

I think this was due to an “overcorrection” as he was a nice guy trying to distance himself from the bad guys. You’d have Elrod basically sexually assaulting females at work/over texts/on social media and constantly on the prowl for his next victim, and Bad Austin not taking orders from any females (notably Tiffany; he despised her being in authority over him for some unknown reason). Basically some of the guys at Apex, and in the world in general, are scumbags and Joe didn’t want to look like a scumbag. But in his urge to treat everyone the same — even the girl he was in love with — he only appeared to be completely and equally indifferent to everyone at work

So while most people (men and women) are more or less obvious about who they like, Joe didn’t let his heart be shown to anyone. He never went out of his way to talk to Amanda or made strange alterations to his daily routine to be around her: Joe was being Joe. Joe wasn’t constantly glancing off in her direction, Joe wasn’t gravitating to where she was, Joe wasn’t making idiotic reasons to talk to her or showing any emotion what-so-ever around her.

So I was mildly surprised when he asked me for relationship advice one day.

One day out of the blue he said to me, “James. You’re good at talking to women right?”

I said, “Um. No. Not really. Why would you assume that? I’m an idiot talking to women.”

“Well, you have a girlfriend don’t you?”

“Well, yeah. But that doesn’t mean I’m good at talking to women. I basically got lucky. She doesn’t realize how stupid I actually am yet.” 

It took a little for my mind to realize what exactly was happening here, but then I asked, “Is there someone you like Joe?”

He looked everywhere else but at me and his cheeks turned noticeably redder. Fixing his glasses nervously he mumbled, “No. I mean…maybe?”

“For fucks sake Joe, you’re an adult right?”

“Y.yes.”

“Well, get on with it. Who is it?”

Joe dropped a box and was noticeably sweating. “It’s Amanda…”

“Roland? Amanda Roland?” There weren’t any other Amandas working at Apex so I don’t know why I asked really.

“Yeah. Do you think she likes me too?”

“Dude I don’t know. You really like her? You never talk to her.”

“I’m too shy to talk to her.”

“Well, just go talk to her. Ask her to do something with you this weekend. Go see a movie or grab some food.”

Joe hesitated and thought for a second while fumbling around in his pockets. “I was thinking of doing that, actually. I just wanted to ask you about it first.”

“Why? I’m no expert. Just go up to her and ask her. Worst case is that she says ‘no’. And then who gives a shit? You know were all going to die someday right?! You could find yourself dying of cancer one day and wondering why you didn’t ask Ms. Amanda Roland out when you were working at Apex. You don’t want that hanging over you, bro.”

He pulled a piece of rumbled up, folded paper out of his pocket. It looked like it had been there for a week and was slightly discolored. He waved it in front of him and said, “I was going to give her this.”

“Joe, what the hell is that? A note?

“Yeah.”

I laughed and it took some concentrated effort to get myself under control. Joe did look mildly annoyed so I pulled myself together as quickly as I could. “You’re going to give her a note? What are you thirteen? Jesus Christ. Alright, let me read it.”

He held it out so I could examine his love letter to Amanda. I opened it and was met with illegible writing. It looked like a right-handed kindergartener had written it with their left hand. I couldn’t make out a damn thing except the ‘dEAr AmANdA’ at the top left corner, and that was only because I knew that’s what it likely said.

Jesus, I can’t even read this. I was joking when I asked if you were thirteen, I really meant to ask if you were still in preschool. I bet a paraplegic cat could write better than this.” (Joe knew this was all in jest, so don’t get mad at me here.)

He snatched the letter back from me and said he’d just read it to me.

“Okay.” Tuna Joe cleared his throat. “‘Dear Amanda. Hi, my name is Joe and I’m the guy with the glasses. I drive a Prius. I try to wave ‘hi’ to you when I see you by the time clock. I’m the guy who…'”

“Woah woah,” I interrupted, “why are you describing yourself if you’re going to give her this note? She’ll see you and know that it’s, ya know, from you.”

“I was going to put it in her locker.”

“Joe. Jesus fucks sake. Really?” I was slightly exasperated but also in shock. Joe was serious too. He wasn’t joking. It wasn’t an elaborate ruse. Something had to be done to save this guys romantic life even if it was surely dead already and well beyond saving.

“Lemme see that note real quick.”

He handed it over without question. I glanced at it’s scrawl one final time, crumpled it up, and tossed it in a gaylord. It would be shipped with all the Amazon packages to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Maybe some worker there would discover it and have a hearty laugh at its contents. He looked shocked and you could tell a lot of thought and anxiety went into his note.

“Here’s what you do Joe. She right over there,” I nodded my head in her direction, “and you’re going to go talk to her, be really cool about it, and ask her if she’d like to do something with you this weekend.”

“What? Like right now?”

“Yeah right now.”

“But…what do I say to her?”

“Get the fuck out of the can and go talk to her. Face your fear! Never give up, never surrender! Christ compels you! What the hell else do you want me to say?!” I gave him a playful shove out of the can to send him on his way.

Dusty was nearby working a separate can and had overheard the entire conversation.

I asked, “Do you think he has a chance?” to which he replied,

“Tuna? He’s as out of luck as a fish in a trawler’s net.” He probably wasn’t wrong.

Joe came back 15 minutes later, looking rather happy but also slightly dismayed.

“She said that she’s already involved with someone, but that we could be friends if I was okay with that. And for me to add her on Snapchat and Facebook. That we could maybe talk on there.”

“That kinda sucks but at least you did it. You took the risk and actually asked. You gotta be proud of yourself. That’s all you can do, take risks until something works out.” I really felt bad for him. You could tell he used every ounce of courage he had to fight his anxiety long enough to talk to her. And it all backfired on him. But maybe it wasn’t all lost; he was now able to talk to her outside of work at least. As much as I hated personal contact, I gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder.

“I feel good though. Like you said, I faced my fear and asked her out. I feel good.”

“Tuna Fish Joe, we’re proud of you. Now help us finish the fucking can you ditched us on. Fucker.”

More stories like this? Bumblee. Pizza. Tuna Joe and his question. Problems with the toilets. Kos or Kosm? A Talk with Timmy.

The Cosmic Being

During the Formation and Transcendence Eon of the Universe a Cosmic Deity was punished to 10,000 reincarnations. Then he got hired where I was working.

Another, boring, bland, and typical day at Apex again. Many of these chapters begin this way because work usually is boring, bland, and typical. And it’s probably because of this that when anything remotely interesting happens it serves to spice the place up. As much as having random things occuring at work sucks, it does keep time moving forward.

Dusty and I were loading some gaylords, the same shit we always do. He nodded in the direction towards a coworker. 

“You see that guy? He’s the Cosmic Wonder.”

Now I didn’t see anything abnormal about the guy. I even had to ask him who exactly he was talking about. Dusty had nodded towards a group of five people and I didn’t know who or what this Cosmic Wonder was.

“That guy. The tall lanky guy with the cartoon girl on his shirt.”

Oh, he was talking about Denzel. I had never talked to Denzel myself, but knew who he was. And like Dusty said he was tall and lanky and did have a ‘cartoon girl’ on his shirt; I didn’t know what anime she was from but was culturally aware enough to know that she was an anime character. Denzel seemed like a normal enough person on the surface — he didn’t have five arms or anything — but he did seem slightly ‘off’ in certain ways. Like just a little more hyper than a normal person would be and who would hold eye contact slightly longer than a normal person would like he was drilling his consciousness into your mind. He was ‘off’ in a really subtle way though and I assume most people didn’t notice.

“Oh. Denzel? Why is he called the Cosmic Wonder?”

“You never talked to him? James, you should talk to him sometime. He’s insane. Say’s he’s a ‘cosmic being’ or some shit. Someone who says he’s a cosmic being isn’t right in the head. Maybe he ate too much acid one day and it unscrewed a few things in his head. Acid can do that to you ya know.”

“Woah,” I said.

***

A few days later I had the honor of finally talking to Denzel — the self-described ‘Cosmic Being’ of Apex Logistics. Once again it was Dusty and I loading gaylords, but this time Mr. Tuna Fish Joe was also present. Tuna Fish Joe was on friendly speaking terms with Denzel, so by pure chance he wandered over to our group and stated helping us load the infernal Amazon packages into the infernal gaylords.

Denzel walked over in a sort of hyper, angular, energetic walk and gave Tuna Joe and the rest of us a head-nod of greeting. He then jumped a few times. Not really high, but they were still jumps.

Joe returned his greeting by saying, “Hello Denzel, or if you’d prefer to be called, The Cosmic Being.” Joe said all of this with zero irony or anything. Sort of like greeting someone by the name of Robert and asking if he would prefer ‘Bob’ or ‘Bobby’ instead.

Denzel looked totally unfazed, once again like someone called him by his proper name. “Joe,” he said, “you can call me whatever you prefer. I do not mind. And also ‘hello’ to you as well.”

Me and Dusty exchanged looks. Dusty looked like someone just took a shit nearby and the air stunk, and I was wondering if I was properly processing reality. Sometimes in life I just blink a few times and wonder if things are real, and this was one of those moments.

Dusty couldn’t contain his scepticism. “So, how the hell are you a Cosmic Being?” I was excited that someone brought the topic up. I was genuinely curious about the whole matter. Was this guy joking, bonkers, or did he really view himself as a cosmic being?

“I am a Cosmic Being because I have always been a Cosmic Being just as you have always been the person that you are. Even if your name is different now than in the past, you are still you.” Dusty glared while I looked inquisitively at Denzel. I looked into his eyes to see if there was any otherness going on that you might expect the eyes of a Cosmic Being to contain. He just had brown eyes for all I could see. Joe Tuna kept working as if nothing extraordinary was being discussed at all. Like we were talking about the weather or how much it sucked to load boxes all day.

My curiosity finally got the better of me. I inquired in a passive voice trying my best not to sound judgemental, “You’re a Cosmic Being then. Right?”

Denzel nodded in agreement.

“So. How does that exactly work? I mean…” I searched for the right words, “were you always a Cosmic Being, or…?”

He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, and then slowly exhaled. This took about a half-minute and we just stared at him (obviously Joe was still stacking boxes diligently). Finally, and with his eyes still closed, he said, “I was a Cosmic Deity in the Formation and Transcendence Eon until I lost my powers. I shall get my powers back after I have lived, died, and suffered through 10,000 reincarnations — now 10,998 reincarnations. Suicides are punishable by an extra 1,000 reincarnations.”

“How many lives have you lived so far?”

“Three.”

“Shit, that’s not good. You have a long way to go, huh?”

Denzel closed his eyes again and slowly nodded. It looked like he fell asleep.

I continued my inquiry. “So why did you lose your powers in the…Formation Eon?”

“I murdered all life on Mars.”

“Oh,” I said.

Dusty started laughing. He then said, “Yeah buddy, Mars is pretty devoid of life. So that was all you’re doing huh?”

Denzel nodded.

Dusty said, “You know that scientists believe that Mars only had microbial life in the past, if that, right? Did you kill that life or were there Martians you murdered off?”

Denzel seemed unfazed by being challenged and he was stoic on the matter. “Mars had complex life in the Early Eons. I killed them all.”

“So the scientists are wrong?”

“The scientists haven’t found the proper evidence yet. Some humans have figured out, roughly, what happened in the Early Eons through their insight and intuition. Dusty, have you heard of David Bowie?”

Dustin glared at him again. “Yeah. And?”

“His song ‘Life on Mars’ was inspired by his insight into matters that few humans can comprehend. He had an idea for what I’ve done, and even if his song is a mess lyrically, he was writing about my crime without even knowing it.”

Dusty apparently had enough of the conversation at this point. “Wow, that’s really fucking interesting. I can’t believe I didn’t know that before. Well if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go drop the kids off at the swimming pool if you know what I mean.” He walked away frustrated. I couldn’t blame him and I was only hanging onto the conversation for how ridiculous it was.

“So, uh, Mr. Being, who were you in your past life?”

“The first two lives I lived we’re uneventful and unfitting for a Cosmic Being: I was a peasant and a slave. I was constantly being beaten and starved for most of those lives. It is my last life you enquire about though. In that life I was known as ‘Adolf.’”

“Adolf. Like…Hitler-Adolf? That Adolf?

There was the slow and sleepy nod again. When he opened his eyes he shrugged. He then said, “James, it was a pleasure talking to you, but I must continue on assisting my fellow Apex workers elsewhere. My Powers of Energy are needed. Farewell.”

Joe was still stacking boxes and I wondered if he heard any of what was said in the past few minutes. I asked and he confirmed that he had in fact heard the entire conversation.

“None of that bothered you Joe? Not at all?” I asked.

“Nope. I don’t know if he is a Cosmic Being or not, and I don’t care I guess. If he wants to be that, then I’m not going to convince him otherwise.”

“But Joe, what if he is a Cosmic Being? Isn’t that crazy? A Cosmic Deity from the Early Eons or some shit and he’s working here at Apex shipping packages for a billionaire named Jeff Bezos. Shipping packages!” I shook my head. “Man that would be crazy if it was true! I’m sure it isn’t, but, what if?”

“It blows your mind, doesn’t it James?”

“Yes it does Tuna. Yes it does.”

Butch Fixes the Toilets

A mysterious person clogs up the toilets, and Butch attempts to fix the issue…

Part 5 (?) of a loosely-glued-together novel about my time working at a package shipping company. Want more chapters like this? I got links at the bottom. I’m too lazy to repost them up here.

One day Butch (the general manager you may recall) showed up to our pre-work meeting visibly pissed. That wasn’t unusual as Butch was always upset, but this time you could tell he really meant business. After all the other managers finished giving us any pertinent information they had for the day Butch started speaking about what had him so visibly pissed.

“Okay. I feel like a fucking preschool teacher saying this, but I’m fucking pissed. This is so fucking stupid. And if you all want to act like goddamn fucking little children then so be it — I mean I’m sure it’s just one or two people fucking things up for everyone else like always, but if that’s how it’s going to be then you’re all getting screwed over because I don’t know how else to handle this.” Butch took a theatrical drink from his Monster Energy.

We all looked around at each other. What could this be about? It sounded serious.

Butch continued. “Someone is tossing a fuckton of toilet paper in the fucking toilets. They’re clogging them up and every other damn day we need to call someone out to take care of them. Yesterday the toilets were overflowing and we had literal shit all over the floors. It was fucking disgusting. This place still smells like shit. Do you smell that? Go on, everyone take a big, deep breath and smell the air that smells like shit.”

The air did vaguely smell like human excrement that had been sitting around for an extended period of time, but also like someone tried to cover up the scent with the liberal use of air freshener/deodorizer. It was an awkward sort of smell — the intermingling smell of flowers and shit — but luckily it wasn’t strong.

Some information that might be pertinent here: toilets at Apex were the portable variety as the building didn’t have restrooms installed yet. You probably don’t know what I’m talking about, they’re like portable, temporary restrooms. Like port-o-potties on wheels that are actually nice. It’s hard to explain. Anyways, these things have what I’m assuming are “holding tanks” for their waste and need to be serviced periodically anyways. Apparently if you chuck a ton of toilet paper into them, they fill up quicker, and this can lead to “issues” with their operation (a big ‘Obviously’ here).

“Now I don’t know if you guys were never taught how much paper to use, or that you just can’t get your asses clean enough, but the amount of paper going down the toilet is way too much. It’s certainly intentional. Now I know it’s probably one or two jackasses doing this, but I don’t have any other options besides putting fucking cameras in the bathrooms. And I think that’d be a lawsuit or some shit.”

We were all kinda grinning and chuckling at this point because of how stupid it was. It reminded me of the mystery person in school who shit in the bathroom floor and in the urinal; every school had one of these unknown anarchists shitting where they weren’t supposed to shit. That person is also known to toss wet toilet paper onto the ceiling. But the mystery always remained: real people were doing this sort of thing and they’re never discovered. And at Apex there was a person flushing tons of paper down the toilet for reasons.

We were grinning until Butch shit on us for real.

“So to fix this issue were going to leave the bathroom doors opened.”

I glanced over at Mr. Slaw and said “Woah.” What exactly was that going to solve? And were we supposed to piss and shit in full view of the warehouse? We had been told a single thing — we had to leave the doors open — and twenty other questions popped into our heads.

This was obviously a problem for someone with a shy-bladder such as myself. I didn’t always have this problem and seemed to pick it up around puberty. That might not be a coincidence either. Maybe the awkward facts of adolescence made me very self-conscious about being able to piss standing next to someone. It is true that I had no logical reason for my bladder to not release piss if someone else was next to me; it just kinda happened. It always seemed to be something about the anxiety of being discovered standing at a urinal for an extended amount of time — an amount of time where no one could be continuously pissing — just holding myself. Standing there. The more you think about this possibility the harder it becomes to actually pee.

To pee with a shy bladder you almost need some sort of Zen-unconcentration where you don’t think of pissing. If you forget that you’re standing there with anxiety about not pissing you will find yourself pissing almost effortlessly. It’s a strange paradox where the more you think of pissing the harder it becomes. It’s like a Zen koan, those strange riddles meant to coax your mind into discovering the true nature and fabric of the universe:

What did your face look like before your parents were born?

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Does a dog have a Buddha-nature?

What must you think about to piss next to a stranger?

Anyways, pissing in view of the whole warehouse was kind of an issue for me. (And hopefully everyone else. If everyone at Apex could piss in full view of the warehouse I’d have even more anxiety about it.) This problem was made even worse by the fact that I’d drink copious amounts of coffee to get myself moving before work. This creates quite the urge to empty my bladder, sometimes less than an hour apart. Seriously, I’d piss before leaving the house at 30-after, show up to work, clock in, and have to piss at 10-after before actually getting to work. Sometimes I’d have to piss within an hour of that as well, especially if the plane was late and we were just standing around doing nothing.

I went up to a supervisor who actually knew what the fuck managing people was (Kevin) and asked him about it as casually as possible trying to hide my anxiety about the matter. The bladder-timer was ticking.

“Hey, Kevin, so…if we have to piss what do we do? Do we have to leave the door open and piss with everyone watching?” I laughed a genuine laugh as this was a really fucking stupid, but necessary, question.

“Oh, no. You can close the door to do what you need to do, just make sure you open it back up when you’re done.”

“Oh, hey. Cool. That makes me feel a little bit better.”

Shortly after wandering around for a few minutes looking casual I went and took a massive piss (with the door closed, obviously). The door was propped open with a stick or some other object wedged half-assedly into the door, and when I finished I did my best to not-so-half-assedly wedge the door back open. People around this place, probably Butch, took zero pride in their work even if it was something as mundane as propping a bathroom door open. I took pride in my work, and my door-propping job reflected this.As for the TP-bandits: no one ever discovered the culprit(s). After Butch brought the issue up to the warehouse in general, the culprit disappeared. Vanished. While the effectiveness of propping the door open was questionable, I’m assuming the embarrassment of being caught was enough to make the guilty-party stop doing what they were doing. As in high school, these bathroom agents-of-chaos gained most of their infamy from remaining anonymous, they were like the boogeymen of the potties. If they were every discovered it would be like unmasking a criminal in Scooby Doo: the mystery would be solved and the dark and evil entity would be revealed to be a person just like you or me. After that day, even if we did have to screw around with the bathroom door anytime we had to go, the bandit was gone. Surely still among us, but gone.

Want more stories like this? Check out the dangers of Bumblebees, talking with Timmy, elaborations about pizza, and Joe Tuna asks a question.

Tuna Joe Asks a Question

We were unloading a can one day: Joe, Coleslaw, Dusty, and me. We were working diligently and quietly, slowly but surely taking care of the days work like the underpaid grunt/peon laborers that we were. It was as typical and bland of a day as was possible at Apex.

Joe eventually broke the silence with a question: “How do blind people wipe if they can’t see the toilet paper?”

The three of us answered him in unison with our complete and total silence. We stopped working and simply glared at him. Dusty even dropped the box he was holding to stare at Tuna Joe. Our eyes collectively said “…” as we glared at him dumbfounded, amused, and confused. A few people working next to us also heard his question and looked over at Joe astonished and silent. A woman did a half-giggle and shook her head.

Joe fixed his glasses and elaborated because apparently it seemed that we “didn’t get him” or something. Like someone explaining an unfunny joke to a non-laughing audience. He said, “I mean if they’re blind they can’t see the paper, how do they know if they…you know…got everything?’”

“Joe, what the fuck are you talking about?” asked Dusty.

“Okay, well, you see. If someone is blind and they can’t see,” Joe fixed his glasses again, “they have no way of knowing if…”

“Yeah, Joe, we understand what you’re saying — you don’t have to explain it to us like we’re stupid.” Dusty said as he tried to sound as serious as possible while suppressing the urge to laugh.

“Yeah, but so, what do you guys think they do? Do they smell the paper? Does someone wipe for them?”

“Goddamnit Joe. What the hell is wrong with you? Do you just randomly come up with stupid shit to say? Is that how your mind works or something? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and jot this stuff down as it pops into your mind?” Dusty was laughing for real now.

I felt kinda bad for Joe. It was a stupid question but was also kinda interesting in a demented way. “I don’t know Dusty, it’s kinda a good question in a fucked up sort of way.”

The topic eventually moved along as topics do at work with us ignoring Joe. To this day, none of us actually know how blind people wipe when they go to the bathroom. This is one of the unresolved mysteries of Apex and one that will remain unanswered until the end of time.

Vicodin and the School Bus Visibility Act of 1975 (or ‘76)

A coworker tells me way too much about himself.

“Oh, hey, funny story about that: did you know I used to be addicted to pain pills? Ha!”

Timmy

Chapter 3 of my Apex Story. I’m actually getting some momentum with writing and posting these, so here’s to actually keeping it up and not burning out! There still is no plot though, sorry if that’s something you enjoy in your stories.

“I used to be a school bus driver. I think it was about five years ago — no wait — maybe six actually! Because after that I got a job at PCI packaging pills. You know about PCI right? They’re right down the road, well, on the other side of the airport really. You might drive by it if you take 11th street to come to work.”

I was trying to be nice, and the conversation, if you could call it that, was going pretty well up until that point. But at that point that I realized I was in for a very bad time. By trying to be helpful to Timmy I had placed myself in a dangerously uncomfortable situation. And I knew it was only going to get worse.

“So…how was being a school bus driver?” I asked.

“Well, ya know it wasn’t too bad really. It was difficult waking up in the morning, but once you get used to it it isn’t so bad. I mean the kids were a pain in the ass to deal with, but that’s kids for ya!” Timmy laughed and continued. “Yeah, I’d wake up at like 4 a.m. tired as hell, and fix a pot of coffee to get me going. After that I’d shower, shave, and go pick up my bus. I’m sure you know where the bus parking is, you might’ve drove by it if you’ve lived in Rockford enough. It’s down there by the train tracks between downtown and the scrap metal place. I forget what it’s called though. But if you drive by that road — I think it’s Halsted if I remember correctly — you’ll see all kinds of bright yellow buses.

“Oh! A fun fact about that. Did you know school buses used to be white? White pain is cheaper and I suppose that the school bus manufacturers wanted to use the cheapest paint possible. It makes sense if you think about it, the Almighty Dollar and all. Capitalism sure is great, right?!

“But yeah they all used to be white. But apparently white isn’t the most visible color so the Illinois State Legislature made a law in 1975 — well maybe it was 1976, you’ll have to look it up — the law was something called ‘The School Bus Visibility Act of ‘75’ (or ‘76 ya know). The law mandated that school buses in the state — they had to be based in the state so if a school bus was legally registered in Wisconsin they could still be white or blue or whatever color — but they had to be yellow if they were registered in Illinois. I think the yellow color is a specific yellow too. They can’t just get any ole yellow paint and slap it on, it has to be the Illinois-mandated yellow. I think it might be called ‘Bumblebee Yellow’ or something.”

“Wow. I didn’t know that.” I started to work faster.

“Yeah, it’s amazing when you learn a little bit of history, right? Anyways, my favorite kids were either the little elementary school kids or the high school kids; middle schoolers are a bunch of immature assholes. My sister’s kid — well I suppose that’d be my niece huh? — he’s a middle schooler and I fucking hate him. He’s a little bastard. Calls me a dickhead whenever I see him. But what we’d do is, the school board had the schools staggered so we could drive for elementary school after the high schools and so on. This is so a small amount of bus drivers was required to do all the work. We would also get more hours this way. So we’d do middle schools, then high schools, and then elementary schools. You understand me, James?”

“Huh? Oh yeah. That makes sense. Uh, so how was this PCI place you used to work at?”

“Oh, hey, funny story about that: did you know I used to be addicted to pain pills? Ha! That’s the whole reason I got my job at PCI. You see they package medicines so I thought ‘Hey, maybe I can get on the hydrocodone line and just steal pills here and there.’ Ya know, nothing to arouse suspicion but enough to keep up the addiction.”

“Wow.”

“It didn’t work out too well though. For me that is, I suppose. You see one day one the weekend I had the ladder out cleaning out my gutters — the leaves and sticks and other shit clogs it up, especially in the spring — and if it rains a fuck ton the gottdam basement floods! So I was up there doing the job and the damn ladder fell on me. Don’t even know what happen, ladder started to tilt back and next thing I know I was on the ground. Broke my damn arm! Hurt like a somabitch really. So I went to the hospital — drove myself because ambulances are too expensive — and the doctors yelled at me for that. Anyways, since it hurt like a somabitch they gave me pills for the pain. I think they were Vicodins or something, either way they give you a hell of a buzz. And hell I guess if you take them and get used to having them you kinda make a habit out of it. Have you ever been addicted to drugs, James?”

“Uh. What?! Oh no. I mean I have a beer here and there but drugs have never fascinated me really.”

“Well good for you buddy! So I went to PCI, passed my drug test by paying my stepson (he’s 10 by the way) to piss in a cup for me. Even if I was munching pills like they were candy they didn’t catch anything at the drug testing place. Passed with flying colors! My stepson is a good kid really and it’s nice that he doesn’t do drugs. The problem with PCI is that I suppose they expect people to steal drugs because they have that place monitored like Fort Knox or something. I mean it depends on where you work, like if you’re packaging Tylenols or Ibuprofens they know no one is going to steal those: they don’t get you high! But the pain pill lines — the real pain pill lines — those things are on lockdown I tell you hwat. I couldn’t find a way to steal anything and after a few shitty weeks going through withdrawls I found myself clean.”

“Wow. Good for you.”

“If I ever get my hands on any more pain pills though I’ll eat them like candy! I don’t think I learned my lesson!” Timmy had this kinda dreamy, yearning look in his eyes after he said that. He soon caught himself and came back to reality, thankfully.

About this time Coleslaw walked by and I locked eyes with him. I summoned any and all telepathic powers that I though might lurk somewhere deep within my soul and consciousness and begged of him, silently with my mind, to “Please, Coleslaw, get me the fuck away from this guy. I know you can hear me!

Coleslaw apparently didn’t have any telepathic powers because he simply kept walking. Or maybe my telepathic powers were lacking. Either way it was all up to me. Sometimes you need to face your fears and be your own savior.

“Hey, Timmy, you said you used to drink a lot of coffee right?”

“Oh yeah man, I still do. Coffee is how I live, I wake up and…”

“Hey Timmy, does coffee make you have to shit?”

“Oh yeah buddy, I have a cup of coffee or two — a little bit of cream is how…”

“Yeah, I drank a ton before I came to work and, holy hell man, I’m starting to get those cramps.” I put my arm over my lower stomach which in sign language means “I have to shit.”

“Oh. OH! Well James you better get outta here before you shit yourself! I don’t want to have to be around that!”

“Yeah Timmy you’re right. Was nice talking to you.” I then walked swiftly to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. I didn’t have to actually shit, mind you, but by that time I had to act like I was shitting at least. I got on my phone and read the Wikipedia article about the School Bus Visibility Act of 1975 (or ‘76).

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Papa Johns the Delicacy

Little Caesars pizza is fine and dandy until it becomes an insult. Papa John eventually saves the day though…

This is the another part in a series of many loosely tied together “chapters” of my “novel” about my time “working” at a company called Apex Logistics. There isn’t much of a coherent plot and I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent or something. Hope you guys enjoy and any feedback is greatly appreciated, even if it is bad feedback!

Upon doing a “good job” (whatever that means) we would occasionally be promised pizza. We’d somehow manage to get pizza every two or three weeks too, although this only lasted a few months. And like we would hear every damn time from Butch, “I bought these pizzas with my own money as a ‘thank you,’ and this shit isn’t cheap. So ‘thank you’ for doing a good job. I bought those pizzas with my own money, okay?” Butch bought the pizzas with his own money. Okay? In case you fuckers didn’t appreciate it.

Usually people think that pizza is pizza as long as it’s freshly made. Frozen pizza that you heat in your oven is shit and everyone knows that. But Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Domino’s, Casey’s, John’s, or Sam’s? Pizza is fucking pizza. People aren’t usually picky about pizza because if it’s freshly-made it’s basically a delicacy. If it has crust, cheese, sauce, and wasn’t frozen, it’s spectacular and wonderful pizza. No one complains about pizza. That is until you start to see a pattern of cheap fucking pizzas being tossed at you as a ‘thank you’ that is.

Little Caesars is notoriously cheap pizza. But like I said, (usually) pizza is pizza so who cares? My only issue with their pizza is they seem to use ingredients that instantly induce heartburn for me although no one else seems to have this issue. Whatever. They offer their HOT-N-READY pizzas for only $5. Five dollars! That’s cheap as hell and you don’t have to wait because they’re premade so you can go buy them and get a fucking pizza whenever you want. It’s why they’re called HOT-N-READY pizzas by the way.

Surprisingly, we actually got pizzas when we were told we’d have pizza. Usually when people promise you pizza you’d get fucked out of it. Management thinks something like, “They probably forgot about these pizzas…and it’s their job to do good work anyways. They’re not entitled to pizza.” That didn’t happen at Apex. If Butch said we’d have pizza there’d be pizza and it was good.

The first pizza we were rewarded with was Little Caesars pizzas and (as stated) a pizza is a pizza and a pizza is good. Then a few weeks later we had pizza again; it was more Little Caesars. And then once again, Little Caesars. Now pizza is pizza and pizza is good as has been stated a bunch of times already, but after being told how great of a job the shift was doing and being rewarded with Little Caesars you’d start to get a bit jaded about the entire affair. If we’re doing such a consistently good job why are we constantly getting Little Caesars? We all knew Butch (and management above him) made a fuck-ton more money than we did and could certainly afford better pizza.

Let’s do a little math. A pizza is $5. We would usually have like 10 or 20 pizzas. That is $50 or $100 worth of pizza. Hell, I was on track to make about $10,000 in a year so even I could’ve bought Little Caesars for everyone once a month. Butch was a cheap fucker. He could totally buy us better pizza with a yearly salary well above mine.

So week after week of doing a premium job we were rewarded with subpar pizza (sorry Little Caesars but it’s true). But pizza is still pizza we’d tell ourselves in delusion. We’d be appreciative of our capitalist overlords as we were fed shit. Like poor peasants who weren’t actually starving we couldn’t complain about the food we were receiving. We were on the verge of revolting over this bullshit, cheap pizza. Then, out of the blue one day they mentioned we had pizza. I walked to the break area and instead of the shitty, brown boxes from Little Caesars that I was so familiar with I was greeted with some white and red boxes with some Italian dude on it: it was John Schnatter on the box, or as he is more commonly known as, Papa John.

Holy fuck I thought to myself. Here was Real Pizza. Not some HOT-N-READY, heartburn-inducing pizza bullshit, but real pizza made with real ingredients! Papa John’s! Woah! I grabbed a plate and loaded up on what I thought was my fair share — two slices. This was some real premium crust, sauce, and cheese right here. Hell, they even gave you a pepperoncini. Then I noticed that there was a fresh cup of garlic butter in each box. It didn’t seem like anyone else took notice of the multiple garlic butters (totally missing from Little Caesars “pizza”) that were in the boxes, so I took one.

Joe Tuna seen this and asked, “Are we allowed to take those?”

I ripped the butter open and dunked my pizza slice in it. I took a bite and dunked that part right back into the butter: I had double dipped. I had claimed the garlic butter as mine and mine alone as social law dictates.

I looked at Joe and said “Fuck it. No one else took the butter so it’s mine now. I don’t give a shit.” And I didn’t. I only had two slices of pizza and I used all the butter I could on those two slices. After finishing I still had quite a bit of butter left too.

“What are you going to do with the rest? Throw it away?” Joe inquired.

“Hell no. It’s my butter.” I tossed my head back and drank the shit in a single gulp. The salty, buttery, goodness of it was magical. Now here was some motherfucking good pizza for once.

Everyone around me looked disgusted as I gulped down pure garlic butter.

I quit before we had pizza again, so my apex of pizza at Apex was Papa Johns. And everyone knows that Papa Johns has the best pizza, garlic butter, and pepperoncinis out of all pizza places. Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Papa John’s.

Fun fact: “Papa John” Schnatter was removed as CEO of his own company because of some NFL protest bullshit a few years ago. He made some comments that were bad for business. As of this writing he is still Chairman of the Board though. And his face is still on every fucking pizza box they deliver and on every store and franchise they own.

Another fun fact as I continue to work on this book years after actually quitting Apex: Papa John (John Schnatter himself) somehow, and for some unbeknownst reason, dropped “the N-word” in a fucking conference or earnings call! He dropped The N-Word during public company business! Papa John has nothing to do with the company that bears his name anymore. Still, the pizza isn’t too bad though.

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Bumblebee

“Bumblebee Kevin? Haha. Yeah, he’s a dangerous mother fucker.”

Some dude at Apex

This is the first of hopefully many loosely tied together “chapters” of my “novel” about my time “working” at a company called Apex Logistics. There isn’t much of a coherent plot and I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent or something. Hope you guys enjoy and any feedback is greatly appreciated, even if it is bad feedback!

Bumblebee was a unique, frustrating, and dangerous person. His real name was Kevin, but one of our main manager’s name was also Kevin. This naturally led to some mild confusion and frustration in conversations. Kevin — the first Kevin that is, the dangerous one — would nearly kill someone with a tug or dollies (as a typical day at Apex would entail). So a conversation would go something like this:

“That fucker Kevin. He almost killed me” someone would say.

Another person would say, “Kevin? Manager Kevin? Did you upset him somehow?” (Manager Kevin used to be a fucking Navy Seal. While he was a man of short stature and was middle-aged, everyone collectively knew not to even think of fucking with Manager Kevin if you valued your life even a little bit. Manager Kevin was probably so dangerous, he could kill you without you even being aware of it, which doesn’t sound that bad really.)

“No, the other Kevin.”

“Oh, that Kevin. Yeah, he’s dangerous.”

Kevin, being unique/strange, frustrating, and dangerous was mentioned a lot at Apex. Since loading and unloading airplanes involves heavy and possibly dangerous equipment anyone who is remotely dangerous comes up in conversation a lot. It’s like keeping them at the forefront of your mind somehow made the workplace safer as you’d always be on the lookout for dangerous people. Since we were always talking about Dangerous Kevin (because he was dangerous) and Manager Kevin (because he was a manager), conversations would always be slightly confusing even if context clues did help quite a bit. Did Kevin do something good or managerial? Probably manager Kevin. Did Kevin fuck something up or almost kill someone? Probably Dangerous Kevin.

Kevin also drove a Camaro. An obnoxious yellow Camaro with two hideous black stripes down the center of the car. He apparently really liked Camaros. He wore a Camaro hat to work everyday. He had a Camaro shirt. He was always dressed in yellow and black clothes to augment his hat/car scheme. As I described the car you might be thinking “Hmm, that sounds like the Camaro that was a transformer in that movie.” And you’re right. And that transformer’s name is Bumblebee.

One fateful day, a conversation went like this:

“That fucker Kevin. He almost killed me” someone would say.

And the other person would say “Kevin? Manager Kevin? Did you piss him off or something?”

“No, Bumblebee Kevin.”

“lol Bumblebee Kevin? Haha. Yeah, he’s a dangerous mother fucker.”

And just like that a legend was born. I mean the legend always existed and was well-known as one of the most legitimate job hazards at Apex, but now he had the name of a hero/villain: Bumblebee.

As with all perfect nicknames it turned out to be so obvious and fitting that everyone quietly wondered why it took years to actually discover. Bumblebee. It fit in so many ways. He constantly wore yellow and black which made him appear very bee-like. He was also dangerous; the yellow and black color on bees and wasps are nature’s way of warning other animals that this fucker right here is dangerous. The same was true for the Apex Logistic’s very own Bumblebee species. His car was a transformer named Bumblebee. And when driving a tug he would buzz aimlessly around the ramp, somehow mimicking the complex but randomly-appearing flight paths of the insects that shared his name. If you got too close as he was “buzzing around” you could end up seriously injured as well.

My own first encounter with The Bumbles (as he was sometimes called) was right after I was hired. Me, Butch (the general manager), Kevin (Bumbles), Larry (the Elf Guy), and Nate (some random dude) were standing outside, just standing there doing absolutely nothing. Everyone was talking and I was there listening as I was The New Guy. There were a few moments of silence in between conversations where people just, ya know, stand there and look around aimlessly. Admire the subtle patterns and textures of the concrete. Ponder the wear patterns on your coworkers’ boots. It was in this silence that Kevin looked over at Butch and started a “conversation.”

He said “You never said ‘thank you.’”

Butch didn’t realize he was being talk to as we were just standing there looking around. Finally he noticed and replied with a simple “What?”

“You never said ‘thanks.’” Kevin then does his awkward smile sort of thing. It’s like a smile of someone who knows a joke was made but doesn’t understand it, except he always has this look on his face. There was an awkward silence — while only a few seconds — that seemed to drag on for an extended period of time.

“Thanks? For what?” Butch didn’t seem amused.

“I…I came in and worked extra last night. You never said thanks for me doing that.” He said all of that with a few sporadic stutters all while having that stupid, awkward smile on his face that he permanently seems to have.

“I never said thank you? What the fuck, Kevin? I said thank you like five or six times already. What else do you want me to do, suck your dick or something?” Butch has a way with words by the way. More on that later.

Kevin’s slight stupid smile turn into a real fully-fledged stupid smile. I wondered what the fuck this awkward kid with Camaro hat was all about and once again, little did I fully understand the greatness right in front of me. The myth, the man, the legend: Bumblebee.

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