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?”
“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?“
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.”