Introduction

It’s an introduction, what else is there to say?

Note: I’m creatively burned out. As much as I want to create something new, I find I have no inspiration currently. I’m pissed off about it, but what can you do? I’ve found myself editing chapters and doing the hellish work involved with trying to be a creative writer and while I despise it it needs to be done. This is the introduction to my Apex Story, and while it isn’t riventing might be a good way to get back to the grind.

This story is a fiction story, just to make that clear from the get-go. I remember hearing something about a book that was written — some nonfiction book — where the author who wrote about drugs appeared on Oprah or something. Apparently there was quite a bit of fallout over this because somehow it was realized that it wasn’t all true. Most of it, the structure, the tone, and the lessons were probably true to some degree but somewhere along the line the author fucked up and exaggerated a bunch of stuff. And so he got demonized by marketing a fictionesque book as a nonfiction book. He didn’t quite suffer in the way he had written and got shit upon for it.

This all seemed stupid as hell to me. The line between a nonfiction biographical book and a completely fictitious one is tenuous to begin with with reality informing the fiction and nonfiction possibly being “artistically flourished” to some degree. Why, I thought, wouldn’t you just call the book a fiction book and save yourself the trouble? You could write an autobiography as true as anything, call it fiction, and you’re free to exaggerate or mess up the fine details all you want with zero repercussions. There is no liability in writing a fiction book because it’s understood to be a creative work. Even if it isn’t fake and you add in some flourishes that really didn’t happen, no one will care. Hell, people don’t even like nonfiction books and label them as “boring.” So to save myself the problem of writing a “factually true” story I’ll just say it’s fiction and let the reader determine what is real and isn’t. But probably most of it is real because I’m not a very creative writer.

This book is intended to be a collection of memories, stories, and amusing occurrences from one of the stupidest jobs that I have ever worked. The job was stupid in a way that was different than the rest: I worked at a Target distribution center and that job sucked because the work was mindnumbingly boring: I had to stand in aisles literally for hours at a time while picking products during a twelve-hour shift. I also worked at a Sam’s Club and that job sucked because the company is shit and part of Walmart: just imagine how working at Walmart would be. I also had to deal with the general — and entitled — public. Corporate would shit on management who would in turn shit on you and the average customer would also shit upwards on you. Because shit rolls downhill. Because the customer is always right and their shit rolls uphill for some reason. This is the usual complaint issued by any standard retail or fast-food worker. I’ve noticed that past a certain age, some people just don’t deal with the public anymore. At least not the general public. I think people just get sick of it: they finally realize they don’t have to put up with peoples’ shit working for minimum wage pay. Although I do feel bad for the old people you see working fast food or retail; you know they made some bad life choices and are paying dearly for them.

I also worked at a McDonald’s and the “general public are a bunch of fucks and that’s why I hate the job” applies there. Nothing new to note here.

In contrast, Apex Logistics sucked for a whole new reason that was new to me: the company was incompetent. My fellow workers would fuck things up, management would fuck things up, upper corporate management would make zero sense with their demands, HR (human resources) was clueless, and you couldn’t get a firm answer about any questions you had. They talked a tough game but failed to actually follow through with any of it. “We’re a team and if you don’t want to work as a team you can leave now,” they’d say. But then if you didn’t act as a team nothing would actually happen. Shit like that. Endless shit like that.

The types of people you meet at any job are what makes it either terrible or enjoyable. Most places have such a wide variety of people you’re bound to meet quite a few along the spectrum. There are the cool people that you have some indescribable bond with, there are the people you despise even if you can’t explain why, and there are people you are indifferent about. Apex was no different and had some interesting, cool, and unique people that worked there; I’m sure many of them still work there. Apex was unique in that the people at the ends of the “coolness spectrum” were strongly at the ends of the spectrum. I’m talking very end of the inevitable bell-curve that depicts distributions. Three standard deviations above average in terms of coolness and three standard deviations below average in terms of terribleness.

I guess I also intend this to be a farewell to the place — a sort of obituary for me working there. Inevitably when leaving a job you feel a sense of defeat. Either you quit out of an inability to continue working there or you are fired; either way it’s a negative feeling. (I haven’t been able to quit a job yet for “bigger and better things” yet.) As a way to cope or to process my feelings, I tossed around the idea of writing a book about the place; a way to capture the unique people that I met there, or to bitch about how awful of a place it was to work, or to just give the place a sendoff. A sort of “farewell” to Apex Logistics.But remember this is fiction. If I quit, or haven’t quit, or Apex Logistics doesn’t really exist, and there is no Rockford, Illinois, then you won’t have to worry. Because as true as this all sounds, it’s fiction. It’s made up. There is no Bumblebee. There is no Tuna Fish, or Grizzly Bear, or Elrod. Forklifts don’t punch holes through semi trailers and tug tractors don’t get stuck in the mud. There is no such thing as a Boeing 767. And if it did exist, it really doesn’t hold 24 pallets on the main deck.

Coleslaw and The Forklift Challenge

Killing time at work with forklifts and nickels.

The work day was always simple for us: a plane would come in, we’d unload it, load all of the packages from the plane’s containers into gaylords, load the gaylords into trucks which were then shipped to Milwaukee. The entire plane basically went to Milwaukee (I’m not sure why Amazon didn’t just fly the plane to Milwaukee in the first place…) which was nice; we didn’t have to sort the packages. The plane would show up and we’d put everything into trucks. It was very simple to do.

After that we’d usually set up for the following shift because they apparently had a terrible and unfortunate habit of either snacking on lead-based paint, mistaking the supply of earplugs for marshmallow-like candies, and/or eating glue/crayons while on break. Whichever one of these was actually true doesn’t matter because I’m sure you understand my point: the next shift couldn’t do a fucking thing on their own without assistance from us. It wasn’t too big of a deal since our shift usually finished a few hours early anyways. It wasn’t like we had anything better to do after our work was complete.

Setting up the follow shift was fairly easy: they loaded their own 767 and so required nineteen pallets to be set up. We’d haul the nineteen dollies into the building with tugs, put nineteen pallets on the dollies (loving called “cookie-sheets” by those who didn’t have the word “pallet” in their vocabulary. And for the wooden pallets? Those would be called “skids.”), and then affix nineteen cargo nets to each of the pallets cookie-sheets. The hardest part about setup was untangling the infernal cargo nets. They were always tangled into some indecipherable mess.

Untangling cargo nets was partly art and partly science. When I first began untangling them I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I’d pull random lines and hope that it made the problem better, like a toddler trying to untie their shoes. My technique was complete randomness guided by nothing logical. I’d try something, fail horribly at it, then try something else until the net finally succumbed to my brute-force “just-try-everything-until-it-works” technique or until someone with actual skill took over for me. Cargo nets were like a really difficult and dirty version of a rubix cube, another puzzle I couldn’t figure out at all.

Then one day a switch was flipped in my brain: I found myself instantly good at untangling the damn things! This was really interesting because I still had no idea how to explain to someone how to untangle the nets. As I was untangling them I knew exactly what I was doing — I had a plan and some mental algorithm I was following — but if you asked me to explain it to a new-hire I would be at a loss for words. Someone would be messing with a net obviously doing the wrong thing — I couldn’t explain what was obviously wrong but they would be fucking it up — and I’d go over and fix it. I was an expert but an expert in such a way that I couldn’t explain it to others. Some would say that if you can’t explain something clearly to others that you don’t truly understand it yourself. Maybe I didn’t understand the nets after all.

Anyways, with like twenty-five people untangling nets a few clueless amatures couldn’t slow things down much. We’d still finish our shift and the crayon-eaters’ nineteen-dolly setup within about thirty minutes. Usually this meant that we still had time to kill before our shift was up. What the hell do you do with that much free time at work?

Usually you make up shit to do.

Some people would go outside and hide from management under the guise of taking cigarettes/cigars/vape breaks. Some would stand around in a group and talk. Some would sweep the floor. Some would wander around doing random things like use the bathroom, walk to the end of the building, walk back, and then attempt to find a broom but then discover that all the brooms were taken. Just kinda wandering around and pissing time away. To be honest everyone was pissing time away, even if they appeared busy. Even the people sweeping the floor, while doing something that would qualify as “actual work” weren’t doing anything to assist Amazon in actually shipping packages or cutting costs. Yes they were keeping the workplace clean but this had zero effect on anything really. No one would appreciate it. It’s a thing called “busy work” for a reason.

Another technique to piss time away was to make up random stuff to do: have tug races to see which tug was the fastest; see who could move a thousand-pound test weight on their own; see how many times you could flip a traffic cone and have it land upright; etc. One day Elrod, recently promoted to supervisor, had one of these ideas. He posited to half the crew (as the other people were sweeping like the plebeians they were) a challenge:

“I bet none of you fuckers can pick up a penny with a forklift. None of you fuckers are good enough to pick up a fucking penny. You know what?! I’ll bet you,” Elrod checked his wallet, “ten fucking goddamn dollars that no one can pick up a penny with a forklift.”

We all looked around for anyone who would accept Elrond’s Quest. There was obviously no downside to doing so except looking like a total asshole attempting to pick up a penny with a multi-thousand pound forklift. This would be the definition of the word overkill. I glanced over at Coleslaw and I could see the gears turning in his head, his mind mulling over his ability to operate a forklift versus the risk of looking like an idiot in front of a group of people.

“So, you’re gonna do this right Coleslaw?” I asked of him.

“I don’t know, man. I’m thinking about it,” he replied.

Although Apex had a strict policy of not having phones while working, I checked mine for the time. “We have twenty minutes for you to screw around trying it. There’s nothing better to do. Just give it a shot ya dingus. You got this. You’re one of the better forklift operators around this dump.” Some of the other forklift operators glanced at me after that comment.

Coleslaw thought for a bit and then spoke up. “Hey Elroy, I’ll try it.”

“Alright! My man! You know you’re going to totally fuck it up but, hey, who cares? Give it your best shot Cole!”

About ten of us stood in a rough semi-circle as Elrod tossed a nickel (no one actually had a penny because they’re useless. But whatever, the challenge is still the same.) onto the floor. Mr. Slaw walked off to grab a forklift and returned a few moments later.

To clarify, the entire challenge of using a forklift to pick up a penny/nickel is a challenge in precision equipment operation. You simply can’t slide the forks under the coin because the fork itself is thicker than the coin! Trying to do this would cause the coin to slide across the floor. The trick was to somehow place a force on the very edge of the coin and by using the downward force of the forks flip the coin onto the top of the fork. You’d place this force on the coin and while slowly backing up the lift can cause the penny to rotate and hop right onto one of the forks. I didn’t understand it at first, but watching Coleslaw’s methodical trial-and-error and equipment-operating prowess at work cleared things up for me.

The Slaw drove his lift it over to the nickel. Initially, he did his best to place his left fork (the one with a slightly better perspective of the coin) over the it, but upon lowering the forks discovered that he was three inches off. He maneuvered the lift with some crisp and purposeful  turns of the steering wheel, finessed the levers, and eventually had the tip of the fork directly over the center of the coin. He tilted the forks down slightly, lowered them, and tried to back up; the coin simply scraped across the ground as the pressure on it was too great. Cole did some adjustments to the forks’ tilt and height and tried again; this time the coin jumped! It didn’t rotate onto the fork like it was supposed to but it did leave the ground for a fraction of a second.

We all watched kinda riveted and kinda bored at the same time. On one hand there was nothing else to do, and on the other hand there was this fucking amazing display of pure forklift operating prowess right in front of us. We didn’t know whether to yawn or to cheer, and we sort of did both at the same time. Multiple yawns followed by a lazy, “You almost got it Slaw…keep it up…”

Coleslaw kept hopping and eventually flipping the nickel with no success while a few of the ADD-stricken people walked away. A few went to use the restroom. Some went and clocked out, ready to go on with the other duties in their day. But a handful of us remained to witness the spectacle: Mario, Dusty, Elrod, Tiffany, Anakin and Tuna all watched with varying degrees of awe. Tiffany looked blatantly bored standing there with her arms crossed while Tuna was fucking riveted to each tiny flip Coleslaw gave to the nickel. His mouth literally open and his eyes looking like a cat staring at a mouse it was about to pounce on.

And then it happened: a flip just like the rest accompanied by Mr. Slaw’s preemptive acceleration of the forklift totally caught the nickel on his left fork. A minor cheer erupted within the remaining spectators which sounded pretty fucking pathetic. The clap of only 25% of a group clapping. In a large warehouse seven people half-shounting and half-saying YAAAY sounded pretty lame. There was no stadiumesque AHHHHHHHH and there was no oceanic sound of clapping and cheering washing over you in waves. It was a blah-and-neutered YAHHH COLLLE SLAAAWWWWwww…..

Cole raised the forks to Elrod’s eye level and drove it the few feet directly towards his face. He said, “Here is your nickel,” with a sly smile on his face. Coleslaw had succeeded: if forklifting was an Olympic sport Coleslaw would be bringing home the gold medal for the USA.

Elrod wasn’t too upset over the loss of his $10 because this was the kind of shit he lived for: pure pointless, bullshit excitement only for the sake of excitement and nothing else. He whipped out his wallet, swapped the nickel with the $10 on the fork, and made a slight salute to Coleslaw. As soon as Coleslaw lowered the forks the $10 blew off. Dusty picked it up for him, Slaw parked his lift, and walked over to claim his prize.

It was time to clock out and leave for the day and for all of Coleslaw’s troubles he was $10 richer — about the hourly pay of us peons at Apex. But considering that Slaw earned his $10 in fifteen minutes he was actually earning about $40 per hour! If only forklifting nickels was an actual job he would be set for the rest of his life.

Dusty asked him what he was going to do with his prize. “Are you going to buy some blow or some hookers with your money?”

Cole (the type of person that would never actually buy cocaine or hookers) simply smiled and said, “I don’t know. Both maybe?”

Dusty laughed. “You could get a really ugly hooker along with a Ziploc baggie of cornstarch for $10. I bet you could get an STD for free though; think of it as an added bonus. The gift that keeps on giving. At least that’s what I’ve heard from My Boy Elroy.”

“I’ll probably go grab some McDonald’s or something with the cash. I’m pretty hungry.”

We clocked out for the day. Before I went to my next job I had the same thought despite not picking up a nickel with a forklift: McDonald’s did sound good and I was hungry.

¿Hablas Español?

We learn to speak Spanish. Sort of.

Dusty didn’t have a way with words, but he did have a way with names. In retrospect he seemed to be the single person responsible for 90% of the nicknames at Apex. He might’ve not had any dramatic insight into other things, but dammit if he couldn’t give people names that totally stuck. We’re talking Cole being named Coleslaw. We’re talking Joe being named Tuna Fish. We’re talking Martina being named Marguerita or Elrod’s Mother-in-Law. And it’s kind of ironic that he didn’t have a nickname himself. Dusty was always just Dusty.

There was one slightly older Hispanic guy by the name of Hector, at least I think that was his name. Dusty gave him a multitude of names to the degree that I was never sure what his real name actually was. Let’s go with Hector though. Hector was another one of the UPS-and-Apex employees and had been Dusty’s coworker for years. Dusty rarely called Hector Hector and this was the clearest sign that it was his real name. Sometimes Dusty called him El Chapo’s Nephew. Sometimes he would call him Flaco Pantalones. And other times he would call him El Chupacabra. Other times he would call him by the perfectly bland name of José. I had no idea what any of these words meant besides José which was just a common Spanish name.

Some internet research during my breaks shed some light on these names. El Chapo was the name of a notorious drug cartel leader in Mexico. He murdered a bunch of people or something (and is generally seen as not a very nice guy) and Hector, as unassuming and harmless as he was, was interesting to imagine being related to the actual El Chapo. Like if you fucked with Hector you’d find yourself in the back of someone’s car bound-and-tied and about to be brutally tortured and murdered. El Chupacabra literally means “goat sucker” and is the name of a cryptid that stalked Latin American countries. As the name implies, El Chupacabra was a predator purported to suck the blood from goats. Holy hell. This made zero sense compared to the unassuming Hector at Apex. How did this guy end up with a name like that? Did he suck goats? And Flaco Pantalones? Well, I was shocked to discover that this simply meant “skinny jeans” in Engligh. Hector never wore skinny jeans (being a middle-aged Mexican guy) so who the fuck knew why he was called that. All of the names Hector had made zero sense to any of us and Dusty never elaborated, seemingly happy to keep his mystery hidden forever.

If anything stuck with Hector it was Flaco Pantalones. I clearly remember Coleslaw struggling to refer to Hector during a conversation and eventually blurting out Flaco Pantalones as he gave up searching for a proper name for him. Hector was never completely known as Flaco but upon saying it people knew who you were talking about. Usually you’d follow it up with a “…or whatever the fuck his name is” just to cover your ass.

This all had a strange effect on Dusty, Coleslaw, and I: we started trying to speak Spanish. While on break I would use Google Translate to turn people’s nicknames into Spanish. Coleslaw in Español is Ensalada de Col (“cabbage salad”). So we started calling him that. And Tuna Fish? That was Atún in Spanish. Wild Bill? Salvaje Guillermo. I didn’t know Spanish at all but knew that Guillermo was a name, therefore salvaje must’ve meant wild, and who knew if Guillermo was even a direct translation of Bill; we ran with it anyways. Sometimes we’d just call him Salvaje Bill, with the blatantly English Bill appearing after the blatantly Spanish Guillermo being especially jarring. We would also make sure to pronounce Bill in such a way where it rhymed with eel to make it sound even more Latin. (“Sal-vah-hay Beel”)The “motherfuckin’ blue bags” that Bad Austin (Austin Mal in Spanish — Austin Mal never caught on) wouldn’t ever shut the fuck up about were called motherfuckin’ bolsas azules. We never bothered to find a proper translation for the word motherfuckin’ because I wasn’t sure Spanish even had a perfect translation which would do the word justice. Hilariously, Elrod could easily be separated into El Rod which probably wasn’t an actual Spanish word but appeared to be one. It was almost like a broken Spanglish word meaning The Rod which, given the sexual connotations of the word rod seemed very fitting for Elrod. Elrod was El Rod, meaning The Rod.

The few Latin people at Apex never seemed very amused by our obviously broken and half-assed attempts at Spanish as you could imagine. A few terribly uncultured white guys going around screaming about Ensalada de Col and Atún and Salvaje Guillermo/Bill and the motherfuckin’ bolsas azules probably made them think we were all literally retarded but I tried to take a higher-minded approach to our technique. For a few weeks I was legitimately trying to teach myself Spanish. The mechanics seemed simple enough and not too different from English; all that was needed was to learn the words. In retrospect I imagine them thinking we were making fun of their Spanish heritage by blurting out our broken Spanish names incessantly, but for me it always came from a place of love. I never understood the hatred of Mexicans and Latinos in general in America; they’ve always been the hardest working and happiest people I’ve ever seen at the places I’ve worked. This was even more pronounced with how miserable everyone else seemed to be working the dead-end-job which was Apex Logistics. The white guys would be miserable, pissed, depressed, and angry with everything while the Latinos would always be smiling, friendly, and totally busting their asses working. My broken-ass Spanish was like a salute or a tribute to multiculturalism in the USA in general, in some unobvious subconscious way that is.

Note: I really want the reader to appreciate how much work I put into finding the proper alt-codes for these goofy Spanish letters and punctuation. Like alt+0241 is ñ, alt+0191 is ¿, 0233 is é, 0250 is ú. And maybe I just wanted this shit typed out so I could constantly reference it.

Grizzly Bear/Care Bear

A guy named Bear fucks everything up.

The nth chapter of my Apex “Novel,” and if you want to check out some other chapters, try this link right here.

In the Latter Days at Apex there was a new-hire by the name of Bear. That’s right: Bear. I eventually discovered this wasn’t his real name — that would be Augustus. Augustus is a Roman name from way the hell back when with the masculine -us ending. Marcus. Julius. Octavius. Like that. I don’t know why he didn’t like the name Augustus and why he never went by it because in my opinion it sounds like a badass name. It’s sounds like a masculine name even if you weren’t aware of Roman naming conventions. Like you can hear The Pines of Rome playing in your head when you say the name Augustus, it’s that epic. Anyways, his Facebook page even had his name listed as “Bear” so for all purposes it was his real name. There was no hint of Augustus anywhere on Facebook, and I still don’t know how I came about knowing his birth name.

But why go by the name Augustus when you could be known by the same word that describes a fuzzy, woodland herbivore that hibernates during the winter? The thing that eats salmon, or the Polar version that feasts on seals and who are losing the northern ice cap that they call home. Bear was his name and Bear didn’t care about any of that because he was a proud and committed Donald Trump supporter. The polar bears really aren’t losing their icecap because that’s just what the Chinese want you to believe. More on that in a bit.

You can draw all of the parallels between him being called Bear that you want because I don’t know how many are true. Maybe he is a hairy woodland creature. Maybe he likes eating raw salmon that he snatches out of a stream. Maybe he does sleep all winter. And maybe bears support Trump, I don’t know. (I’m certain the Polar variety aren’t fond of Donald Trump due to his antagonistic policies on climate change. But the Grizzly and the Black ones might like him…actually scratch that; Black Bears probably don’t like Trump either.)

Bears also aren’t very good at operating machinery which might be more than coincidence here. Bear (the one that worked with me, not the animal) wasn’t very good at operating machinery. He always appeared both confident and competent until he would gloriously fuck something up in way that would’ve been simple to avoid; this made his fuck-ups simply amazing and noteworthy. You’d ask yourself how anyone could screw things up so consistently and magnificently. He was so bad at operating machinery that you might’ve been tempted to blame it on luck because surely no one was that bad at their job. Part of it had to be back luck, right? Even Tuna Fish as blind and as clumsy as he was couldn’t fuck things up badly as Bear could.

In his first week he somehow managed to get a tug stuck in the mud. Working at an airport — which is basically a huge concrete field — doesn’t leave you many opportunities to find mud let alone enough of the stuff to get equipment stuck in it, but he accomplished the impossible. His tug’s tires, rims, and rear were coated in a thick layer of liquid dirt and since this incident occurred in late fall the mud quickly dried and stayed on the tug all winter long. There wasn’t any rain to properly clean it off. For months it was obvious which tug Bear had gotten stuck in the mud and it was referred to as “Bear’s Tug,” until a rainy day finally washed away all of the brown evidence caked on it that is. Bear was quickly banned from driving the tug.

In the few days after that incident he found himself working as a forklift driver. He had one job and that was to move the gaylords from the floor into the semi-trailers. It was easy to do. You’d drive a forklift into a trailer, drop off some gaylords, and repeat this about 500 times during a single shift. Anyways, one day I found him outside fucking around with a knife. I warned him not to cut himself and for him to be careful. I was slightly joking because I assumed if you’re messing around with a knife you should automatically be careful without someone instructing you to do so. Bear being Bear, well, he cut his finger a half-minute after I told him to be careful with it. He had blood all over a pallet and a cargo net. So I then told him to be careful for the rest of the damn day because he seemed to be having a rough time at work. Bear being Bear (again) then put the mast of the forklift through the top of a semi-trailer an hour later. This was confusing to everyone because there was no need to actually raise the forks inside the trailer. Why he did this was anyone’s guess.

Strangely, he admitted to his accident like a man should (as someone named Bear would do with a Manly Name). Instead of sending the trailer away where someone else would find the issue and not be able to pinpoint the guilty party, he found a manager and told them about it. Sadly, honesty doesn’t count for shit and he was written up, kicked off the forklift, and despite the tug/mud incident weeks prior, was put back on the tug.

A few days after the trailer incident he came up to safety coordinator Tuna Fish Joe (which needs to be its own chapter really) and said he injured his finger: he sprained it somehow. How he injured his finger driving a tug was anyone’s guess and even Bear couldn’t explain the incident in a way that made sense. He said he tried to start the tug and somehow smashed his finger into the dash. Somehow. This was sort of like the injury you might get when you try to catch a football and jam your finger. But instead of a football flying at his hand and injuring it, it was his had that flew into the dashboard of the tug. This guy Bear was having a rough time at Apex especially since he was still in his first month at the place. I wonder if bears, the fuzzy woodland kind that is, have such shitty lives as well? Maybe if they can’t find salmon and end up starving to death…

And despite his past history of dangerous/unlucky incidents he found his way onto a k-loader, the big machines used to load cargo into the airplanes. They’re also one of the more dangerous pieces of equipment at an airport and no one knew why he was placed on that venerable death machine. It did make sense in a twisted Apex way for Bear to end up on the most dangerous piece of equipment possible though. He dropped a can shortly afterwards (obviously) and was banned from doing that, which might’ve been the best thing to happen to everyone’s mutual safety. He found his way back onto the tugs for a third time and had a decent two-week career there without incident. But as his inevitable fate eventually caught up to him, he forgot to put up some dolly locks and dropped a container onto the ground: a fully-loaded 3,000 pound container. From that day onwards Bear had finally run out of luck; he was forever stuck inside doing the grunt work of loading and unloading cans and boxes. Some days he found himself helping Bad Austin inside the dreaded Bags Trailer. He couldn’t ruin equipment that way. So that’s what he did until he was fired a few months later.

A visual aid…

We started calling him Grizzly Bear because it was a very obvious thing to do with his name being Bear. Over time, slowly but surely, his name changed to be Care Bear. In case you didn’t know, Care Bears are some bears that care or something and used to be a toy line or a TV show, I don’t know the details. Google it if you’re curious. Either way, Bear hated the name Care Bear and he let people know it. He earned the name Care Bear because he cared so much about things.

The problem was that he cared about the wrong things. My first tip-off to this was when he told me that he wanted to be a comedian. He said that he liked to say offensive things around people and watch people get offended by what he said; this didn’t seem very comedic to me and sounded like something an asshole would say to justify being an asshole. To put blame on everyone else for being “offended” by his assholishness. Even though he wanted to be a comedian his jokes were not very funny. Care/Grizzly Bear cared about various social injustices around the world like the dominant PC culture, liberalism in colleges, reverse-sexism, reverse-racism, and the “mental illness” that is transgenderism. And like the name Care Bear implied, he cared so strongly about these that he would get very upset anytime he was challenged with any opposing view. I might be harsh here (probably not), but he was a reverse snowflake; he’d bitch and whine about the liberal snowflakes while somehow crying harder than anyone else ever cried about anything. Care Bear was his second nickname and one that enraged him. Sensitive people just don’t like being called sensitive.

One day Care Bear mentioned that he had a Donald Trump Make America Great Again hat: you know those obnoxious, red, trucker hats that Donald Trump used to wear on the campaign trail currently wears as The President of the Goddamned United States of Goddamn America. He said he was thinking of wearing it into work so he could watch people get offended about it as part of one of his “jokes.” And how these offended people would then cry and go to HR with tears streaming down their faces like the liberal crybabies that they were. What he really didn’t know was that everyone would just look at him and think (and even say) well, there’s a dumbass right there, boys. No one would actually be offended, he’d just look like an idiot.

Surprisingly he did wear the hat one day. He carried himself tall and proud and looked people in the eyes more than he usually did trying to see if anyone was offended. Trying to confront someone. Anyone. Gay Trevor (who was gay) looked at him, raised his eyebrows, smiled, shook his head, turned and walked away laughing. Gay Trevor wasn’t offended; he was laughing too hard to be offended. Most other people did the same thing with differing degrees of obviousness. As a comedian perhaps he was somewhat effective, just not in the way he had intended. It was the whole “people laughing with me/at me” thing in real life. People were laughing at Bear, but he thought they were laughing with him. But they were still laughing.

He wore the hat on the ramp while driving a tug before he was banned. A gust of wind took the hat and blew it under his train of dollies as he was driving. The hat was smashed by thousands of pounds of Amazon packages and dollies and had a few tire tracks imprinted upon it. It still wanted to Make America Great Again though despite the tire tracks imprinted on it.

One day he went on a tirade about whatever it was he was upset about at the time. He was working with some women and mentioned “that faggot Trevor” for some reason. They didn’t think that was appropriate and told him so. “Trevor is a nice guy,” they said. He didn’t like that so he began hammering the “PC culture” and how Trump was changing things. This turned into a rant against liberals, the “fake news” media, and how the South would rise again. Those dirty liberals were making his people take down a statue of Robert E. Lee — his fuckin’ heritage — and replacing it with a manatee. A fucking manatee. Could you believe it? Well, he couldn’t and he was pissed about it. People working around him heard his tirade and quietly listening. He then turned his fire and fury towards transgender people who, in his opinion, had a mental disease — nothing more and nothing less. Trevor then walked up and said he had a few transgender friends and asked if Care Bear actually knew any transgender people.

Care Bear said as eloquently as ever, “No you fucking faggot. Why would I ever want to hang out with people with a mental disorder? Stupid fucking faggot…”

A manager heard that, dragged him to the HR office, and no one had seen Care Bear since. The liberal PC culture, as sensitive and as crybabyish as it was, stuck it to Care Bear pretty effectively. He couldn’t even get unemployment benefits because the state legislature — ran by hardcore conservatives — had cut all the benefits to give tax cuts to corporations (to grow jobs in the state, by the way. You know the deal: trickle-down economics and all of that). Care Bear went and bought a handgun with his last paycheck because he could; he didn’t do anything with the handgun like shoot up Apex or blow his brains out, he just bought it and had it around his apartment for no reason whatsoever. He didn’t even buy ammo for the thing. “Fuck Apex,” Bear thought as he watched an episode of Duck Dynasty.

The Great Ps4/Xbone Debate (feat. Bad Austin)

Ps4 vs. Xbox One? A discussion.

“Do you morons need some help over here?” I asked as Joe Tuna, Bad Austin, and Mario were unloading a can.

“Sure,” said Joe Tuna.

“Yeah we could use the help,” said Mario.

Yeah, get in the fucking can and help us ya fucking lazy faggot, unless you got dicks to suck somewhere,” said Bad Austin.

I started helping them. They were unloading one of the tiny DQF cans that were loaded into the lower deck of the aircraft. I had just finished unloading the exact same cans from the airplane and it was time to unload the damn things again by placing their contents into the ever present gaylords. Once again Apex was never the pinnacle of efficiency, pun totally intended.

Apparently the discussion at hand was about video game consoles, namely the question of which one was superior: the PlayStation 4 or the XBox One? (I’m abbreviating them Ps4 and Xbone as is popular convention.) This was 2016 so Nintendo was still fucking around with their Wii U-inspired trainwreck; the Switch wasn’t around to save Nintendo’s ass with the likes of Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We knew nothing of the upcoming video game greatness led by the release of two of the objectively best games ever created. So while Nintendo was fucking around PlayStation and Microsoft were having a deathmatch between their consoles. Ps4 vs. Xbone. What team were you on?

“What do you play on, James?” Tuna asked me.

“I have a PS4. I got it used from this guy I know. I think he sold it to me for $200. He also gave me a few shitty games with it along with two controllers.” I shrugged. “I sold a few of them on Amazon for like $20. Effectively I paid $180 it if you look at it that way.”

Tuna looked over at Bad Austin. “See? Even James has a PS4. James is a smart guy too, he knows trigonometry and chemistry. Even some physics. Just admit you’re wrong.”

“Man. Fuck you Joe. Everyone who isn’t a retard knows that Xbone is the best goddamn console ever. Y’all fucking dumbys.”

Mario spoke up now. “Austin. No. Everyone we ask says the Ps4 is the best console. Like 90% of everyone here games on a Ps4. Why can’t you just admit it? You fucked up. You got the Microsoft piece-of-shit because your dumb friends talked you into it. It has no games, no exclusives, and the hardware is inferior.”

“Guys, are we just going to ignore the fact Austin just said the word ‘dumby?’” I asked. Everyone ignored me.

Fuck y’all. Denial-ass motherfuckers,” He replied.

I said, “The Ps4 has Bloodborne too. You can’t fuck with that game. It’s a masterpiece of subtle Lovecraftian horror that goes off the rails at the end. Like it starts off slow and kinda boring but then aliens and The Old Ones show the fuck up and nothing makes sense. Like when the game ends you have no clue what actually occurred. It’s amazing. Have you played it?”

“Nah bro. It sounds dumb. Fuckin’ aliens? Bulllshit.”

“It’s by the people who made Dark Souls. Have you played that game?”

Dark Souls? Man fuck that game. I made it to the first boss and he whooped my ass like I whoop my girls ass when she talks back to me. I be like ‘Hey! Bitch! Make me a goddamn sandwich,’ and she be like, ‘Naw,’ and I be like,” Austin made a slapping motion with his hand, “‘Bammm bitch! Know your goddamn place.'”

“Austin, you are a fucking idiot aren’t you? And a casul apparently.” Mario added with a laugh.

“Fuck you Mario. At least I ain’t named after a shitty Nintendo game.” Austin, in the best Mario impression that he could muster (which wasn’t very good) said, “It’sa me!…a lame-ass a bitcha!

“Fuck you Austin.”

About that time Good Austin walked by toting his ever present can of Monster. Joe asked him the question as well: Ps4 or Xbone?

Good Austin took a contemplative drink of his heavily caffeinated drink and said, “Well, I only play on PC actually…” We all interrupted him with a collective groan.

“Oh okay…he’s one of those guys, huh?” I asked aloud.

Mario agreed. “Yup. PC master race. Am I right Good Austin? 60 frames per second minimum, right?” Good Austin nodded.

“Why y’all fags call him Good Austin? The fuck? I’m just as good as that mother fucker is. We’re both Good Austins. Should just call me Best Austin or something.”

Joe tried to clarify what we were getting at while we collectively ignored Bad Austin. “Okay, Good Austin. If you had to pick one console between those two, what would it be?”

“Oh, the PS4 totally. Xbone is shit. I mean what do they have that PS4 doesn’t? Fucking Halo?” He laughed while Bad Austin scowled. “Halo has been shit since Halo 3. Microsoft doesn’t have shit on Sony. And they both have every Cowadooty-style first-person shooters so it isn’t even a contest.”

Bad Austin mumbled under his breath, “Fucking retard faggots. Fuck you guys,” and started unloading packages again.

Good Austin then asked “Austin, have you played Bloodborne? I heard it’s a really good game that’s a Ps4 exclusive. It’s from the devs of Dark Souls.”

Bad Austin whipped a packaged right at Good Austin’s face which was promptly slapped away as if it was an offending mosquito. There was the sound of muffled glass shattering as the package hit the ground. Bad Austin then screamed, “NO I HAVENT PLAYED MOTHER FUCKING GODDAMN BLOOD-WHATEVER AND DARK SOULS WAS TOO GODDAMN HARD FOR ME ALRIGHT YA FUCKERS?! I BROKE MY GODDAMN CONTROLLER FROM THROWING IT. I’M OUT.” He got out of the can he was unloading. “Fuck you, and you, and you, and especially you ya fucking faggot,” he said as he pointed individually at each of us. “I’m gonna go home and play some COD with my bois like a real man. F.P.S. First. Person. Shooters. Not like you babies with your anime bullshit JRPGs or other faggot bloody games circle-jerkin’ each other.” He stormed off shouting obscenities until we couldn’t hear him anymore.

“Something is wrong with that guy,” said Joe.

“Yeah. He needs to relax,” said Mario.

“That dude needs some Xanax,” I said.

Good Austin summed it up even better. “All he needed to do was find the zweihander in the cemetery. The legit most OP weapon in the game is right fucking there. Right outside Firelink shrine. Man I love Dark Souls. Best weapon in the game…right under your nose the entire time.”

The Cosmic Cube

The Cosmic Being brings proof of his cosmicness.

Eventually the consensus at Apex involving the kid who claimed he was a cosmic being — a cosmic deity who was punished for his crimes of extinguishing all life on Mars during the Formation and Transcendence Eon of the universe — was that we’d like to see some evidence of his unusual backstory. While all of us in the grand scheme of things are cosmic beings (each little bits of the universe interacting with other pieces of the universe, all of us made of matter that was fused in the cores of stars and supernovas, all of us somehow conscious beings capable of thought, etc.) this guy had a different interpretation of what being a cosmic being was. He was in fact a real cosmic being, not a metaphorical cosmic being like I described, but an actual real one, sort of like you’d have in certain films and sci-fi stories. Something great, special, and unique. We totally believe you but could you please show us some proof Denzel?

Eventually he relented to the chorus of curiosity and had brought us proof, or so he said. A group of us, ten maybe, stood in a circle with him early one day at work. He didn’t appear to have anything actually on him but he claimed he had brought proof of his otherworldliness. Something that we wouldn’t understand. Something to fuck our minds in oblivion. But we didn’t see anything obvious on him. He just stood there wearing sweatpants and a Dragon Ball Z t-shirt. He looked comfortable and I assume even fallen cosmic deities have to be comfortable at work.

Seeing his eager and skeptical audience assembled in front of him he finally said, “Hello everyone. I brought something to satisfy your inquiries about my state-of-being and past lives. As you all know, I am a Cosmic One, akin to Cuthulu — although he is fictitious — but the fact remains: I am special.” A few of us laughed but Cosmic scowled at us in return. Once again was he being serious or totally fucking around with us?

“I brought a trinket, a minor little decoration that I’ve achieved through my travels of space, time, and even space-time. Here it is.”

Cosmic held up a cube — a tiny glass cube — and on the inside seemed to be a figurine of some sort. We squinted at the cube and the figure inside seemed to be, no joke, Charmander. The pokemon. Charmander. Inside a glass cube.

“This is a tesseract.”

Everyone glanced at each other. What the fuck was a tesseract? It sounded like a made-up science fiction term meant to sound fancy and dazzle us. Surely it wasn’t an actual real thing.

He repeated himself. “A tesseract,” he said as he held it aloft for all of us to see. Everyone looked at it in silence. Someone coughed.

Luckily Bad Austin was the first to process and vocalize the groups’ thoughts in general even though he was likely the dumbest person in the group. “Are you fucking kidding me Denzel? That? It’s a fucking glass cube with a dinosaur in it. Get that shit out of here you anime-watchin’ mother fucker.” As much as we collectively hated Bad Austin, he sort of had a point here: Denzel was proudly showing us a glass pokemon cube as proof of his otherworldliness.

But as if on cue, Denzel, The Cosmic Being, slowly rotated the cube in his hand. It rotated kinda like you’d expect a cube to do, but it also did more than you’d expect a cube to do when rotated. It seemed to rotate on another axis separate from the usual three dimensions we’re all aware of. As he rotated the cube, a new cube seemed to sprout off the perimeter of the actual cube, a cube coming from a cube. Denzel also rotated the cube along its horizontal axis and multiple cubes seemed to materialize has continued to rotate it. Within moments our eyes and our minds were totally fucked. There was some crazy shit happening that we couldn’t explain.

As each new cube rotated into view we saw that these cubes also contained Pokemon in them: Charmander panned out of view while a Picahu and a Bulbasuar became visible. And more Pokemon appeared as the “cube” rotated: a Mew, an Evvee, a Magikarp, and a few others that I didn’t know the names of. Hilariously, one of the cubes did clearly contain a Zubat.

Denzel was standing there showing us a real tesseract: a four-dimensional cube. This can be kinda hard to explain without some abstraction. Consider a line: this is a one dimensional “shape” with nothing to quantify it besides length. If you square it by “adding another dimension” to it you end up with a square. A square is just a collection of four lines and has length and width. Stepping a square up to the third spatial dimension you’re left with a cube: you take the square and “drag it out” along the perpendicular axis until you have a cube. Length, width, and height. A tesseract is just a cube “dragged out” into another perpendicular spatial dimension. Length, width, height, and something else. Line. Square. Cube. Tesseract. As four lines make a square, and six squares make a cube, eight cubes make up a tesseract. And Denzel’s glass tesseract apparently had Pokemon figures in each of the eight cubic faces for some reason.

So as he rotated his four-dimensional cube in our usual three-dimensional universe, we’d see multiple three-dimensional cubes rotate in and out of view showing their contained figurines. It is hard to explain without being there. But seeing is believing and holy hell was seeing this something nearly indescribably.

We all collectively gave a “WOAH…” as he rotated the cube.

“This is a tesseract, a four-space cube that doesn’t usually exist in the typical three-space of the universe, discounting the fourth time-dimension of three-space that is. Usually the twelve spatial dimensions are very small and wrapped up in fundamental particles, but this tesseract is constructed in such a way that the fourth spatial dimension becomes apparent to, um,” Denzel kinda coughed, “lesser beings.”

Bad Austin wasn’t having any of this wizardry. “Lesser Beings? Man. Fuck this shit. I didn’t come to work to see a magic trick and to get insulted! I wanted to see some Jesus-magic bullshit! Like you flying or walking on water! This is just some bullshit, yo! Like, fuck, why don’t you saw my legs off Denzel?! Just do that and glue the damn things back together like a normal magician! Cosmic being my ass. You know what you are? You’re not a Cosmic Deity but a Cosmically Lamity! Yeah. That’s what I said: Cosmic Lamity!” Austin made a peace sign with his hand. “Yo. Peace out you lame-ass mother fuckers.”

A few other skeptics walked off with Austin but I remained in the circle. Joe Tuna was there but was fucking around with his smartwatch trying to get the displayed 24-hour time back into 12-hour time, once again totally unaware, uninterested, and unknowing to anything going on around him. 

“Can I hold that Denzel?” I asked.

He didn’t say a word but simply handed his “cube” to me.

And there it was, something totally indescribable and unnatural to exist in the world and even the universe. If you held it still nothing seemed out of the ordinary — it looked like a normal glass cube — but any time you rotated it or changed your perspective it was like the universe itself became broken. Once again it’s hard to describe how moving a four-dimensional object in our three-dimensional universe actually appears because anytime you moved it it seemed like a violation of nature. It seemed offensive on some primal level: objects weren’t supposed to behave like this. So I’d rotate away and see a new cube and a new Pokemon and the more I rotated the thing the less sense it made.

“Okay. Here ya go.” I gave the cube back to Denzel and shook my head. “I’ve had enough.”

“So, James, are you a believer now?” He looked unamused and like he didn’t really care if I was a “believer” or not.

“Well.” I stood there for a moment thinking. “You know what? Fuck it. I’m always skeptical, but I can’t explain this shit at all. I believe you, you’re a Cosmic Being.”

Denzel nodded and gave Tuna Fish a high-five for some reason. He said, “James. Okay. I accept you believing me,” bowed, and walked away.

I went out to the smoke area to have a well-needed cigarette. Usually I didn’t smoke at work but the day was already so fucked up — and all within the first hour — that I needed it. I needed a moment to be alone and just think. A beer would’ve been fantastic but that was out of the question, obviously.

Elrod was out there chain smoking like usual. I usually didn’t open up to Elrod very much, but this occasion was special. I needed to talk to someone. Anyone. Even Elrod would have to suffice.

“Were you inside when Denzel showed off his cube? It was…indescribable. he always said he was a Cosmic Being and I didn’t believe him. But…fuck. I don’t know what to say.” I took a drag of my cigarette. “It was strange. Like it broke the laws of nature or something.”

Elrod thought deeply for a bit. “Yeah man I feel ya. Sometimes there’s shit going on in the world that doesn’t make sense. Like sometimes you see a girl with a body that is unbelievable.” He took a drag of his cigarette and seemed to be thinking deeply about something. “And speaking of cubes…have you seen the ass on Lilly? Holy fuck. I’d love to tongue punch her fart box. Ya know? Cube? Box? It’s geometry man!” He put his hand up in the universal ‘gimme a high-five’ sign. What was with all the high-fives at this place?

And I thought about it deeply. I didn’t want to high-five Elrod for some shitty and stupid joke he made, especially since I was legitimately trying to open up and talk to the guy. It seemed almost offensive to myself to take my urge to talk and distill it down to some shitty joke about a girl’s ass and punctuate it with a high five. But I thought about it deeply. I had seen some shit that day and who was I to judge? Denzel had shown me that the universe contained some things in it that I didn’t understand, and what if Elrod in his perverseness was something else that I didn’t understand? I was as ignorant as a newborn baby apparently. Blind to the workings of the universe itself. What harm would fulfilling his ‘high-five’ request actually bring except to deflate my own ego? In some random and probably misguided Zen moment I gave him a high five.

Waste Treatment, Garbage Dumps, and Consumerist Trash

Smells of trash and sewage permeate the air. It’s a typical day.

The Rockford airport is situated in the middle of a nearly direct line that connects the local waste treatment plant to the north in the city of Rockford itself to the prominent garbage dump located in the countryside to the south. These locations are only a few miles away and this obviously creates a unique set of unpleasant scents while working.

There are a few pleasant smells at work: sometimes you can smell someone mowing their yard if the winds are right. People grilling, people having bonfires: these smells are especially prominent in the cool and crisp evenings of autumn. Sometimes you could smell the delightfully pungent scent of either cow shit or pig shit; I don’t even know where a cow or pig farm is nearby to the airport but you can’t argue with your sense of smell in that regard. Not that those smells are enjoyable, but over the miles of distance the scents needed to travel they were diluted enough to give the air just a tiny hint of cow excrement. I also find the smell of burning jet fuel to be vaguely enjoyable as well. But some of the other scents you find out at the Rockford airport are…less enjoyable.

If there’s a northerly wind (which is thankfully rare) you’d have the scent of sewage permeating the work day. It’s hard to explain what raw, mid-processed sewage smells like from a few miles away; it doesn’t smell like an outhouse by being pungently-awful but it also doesn’t smell good either. It’s an off-putting smell that is kinda sweet, tangy, and stinky, with a slight hint of rotten eggs to it. It’s not an overpoweringly disgusting I-gotta-puke smell, but it doesn’t smell good either.

A southerly wind from the south brings up the smell of trash which isn’t much more appealing than sewage — in fact I think it’s worse than sewage. While sewage smells kinda sweet in a way, garbage smells sour. In a way I think I’d prefer the smell of the sewage treatment plant over rotting garbage for some reason. This might be due to sewage having a somewhat “natural” smell; it is shit but shit is something you’re used to smelling. Garbage? I don’t even know what that smell consists of really. It’s like a combination of rotting food (vegetables, meat, dairy, etc.), random chemicals, shit-filled baby diapers and whatever else can smell in everyday garbage. It’s a strange mix of scents that just seems like it has too much variety to smell good at all. With sewage you know you’re smelling people’s shit, with garbage you don’t know what you’re smelling. It could be dead bodies for all you know. And it might actually be dead bodies.

This is made worse by the strong southerly winds that pump warmer temperatures and humidity from the Gulf of Mexico. As stated earlier, a northerly wind a rare thing so the sewage smell is also rare. A northerly wind usually brings colder, drier air which also serves to deaden the smell of the literal shit. But the southerly wind? Any cold front that moves through always brings with it a strong southerly wind. At first the air comes from the southeast, then the south, and then the southwest (usually gusting). This serves to bring both warm and humid air to us, and as this air passes over the garbage dump it carries the smell right at us: hot, humid, trash-smelling air carrying the scent of whatever-it-is-that’s-in-trash right upon us in seventy, eighty, or even ninety degree heat. It’s a disgustingly complex, pungent, and horrific smell.

It was usually the newer people mentioned the various smells. They’d kinda state it aloud to no one in particular. “What the hell is that smell?” I’d take note of the wind and (usually) mention that it was the garbage dump to the south of us or the shit from the north of us. From where we worked you could even seen the hundred-foot mount of dirt and trash to the south of us. If it was night you could also see the flame of the natural gas being flared off (as decomposing trash — whatever trash is — makes methane aka natural gas. This is a potent greenhouse gas that needs to be flared off. Why we don’t capture the gas and use it to heat houses? Who the fuck knows…). Especially in the winter this flame took on a starkly-shimmering reddish light in the distance. It looked like a big, wavy, red star shining on the horizon that instead of burning hydrogen in the core of stars was burning methane released by the decomposition of the city’s endless pile of consumerist garbage that was left to rot.

And we continued to ship tons of consumerist garbage to those who purchased it, myself included. Not that the stuff we shipped typically consisted of organic, possibly-decomposable material, but the fact still remained: much of what we actually shipped could very well end up inside the two-hundred-foot mound of dirt south of Rockford. Even if it didn’t end up in that mound of dirt, it would end up in some other mound of dirt elsewhere. And even if the workers at the airport fifty or one-hundred years from now didn’t smell the items decomposing in a southerly wind, they would still be there. Just kinda sitting there waiting for some future archaeologist or alien civilization to find them and wonder what the hell we actually did during the course of our lives.

Tuna Joe has a Crush

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

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.”

For the next part: Comic brings proof of his cosmicness.

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.