FedEx and Semi-Enlightenment
Every morning, hours before the dawn, I lace up my steel-toe boots and head into a cavernous warehouse filled with millions of pounds of freight. For the last 30 days I’ve been hiding out in a FedEx hub, avoiding all things Christmas and discovering muscles I never knew I had.
My original plan was to lose 10 pounds, make a few bucks, and emerge fit and confident in the New Year, ready to job hunt for something in my field. What I found during the hours spent methodically loading row after row of holiday boxes was a new level of meditation. I climbed a mountain of packages, summitted the peak of chaos, and found my own Zen retreat. All in the back of a semi-trailer.
Despite the blare of buzzers, the roar of engines, the grind of conveyor belts, and, from the deep recesses of the operation, profane howls of managers in distress, there is a great stillness. A stillness in me. A stillness the Dalai Lama might even approve of.
To be clear, I’m not physically “still” at any point. The job requires scanning and stacking 400-plus packages per hour. No, this was my brain coming to a total and complete stop, floating in a sea of 100% present-ness. And in that state of present-ness, epiphanal moments were as abundant as Smart TVs after Cyber Monday.
Here are my top four:
- Enjoy having a job that brings joy. I know I’m not Santa, but I am a small part in the chain that delivered presents around the world.
- ICs (InCompatibles) happen. These are overweight or irregularly shaped packages. Into every load some ICs must fall – or sometimes they comprise the entire load. They’re like a karmic reminder inflicted upon all package handlers. Still, I learned how to push, drag, and nudge everything from 84-pound truck rims to my personal best, a granite-topped martini bar that I slid and gently tipped into place using my own body weight as a counterbalance.
- Every thing has a place. Heavy stuff on the bottom. Light on top. And maximize every square inch of trailer. Package handlers never ask philosophical questions like: Is the semi-trailer is half full or half empty? It’s always full. Every thing has a place.
- Treat all beings, and packages, with respect. Do not cause suffering for others. It doesn’t hurt that FedEx has a rule that throwing packages equals instant termination. However… I also empathize with my co-workers when I hear the f-bombs from neighboring trailers. Avoid package avalanches!
Now that the holiday rush is over, I’m still employed and wondering what comes next. Did I lose weight like I hoped? Nope. Not a pound, though I’ve definitely lost inches, my arms are toned, and I dare say, even muscular. My clothes fit better and I’m feeling good about whatever comes next in 2016.
But am I ready to move on, say goodbye to morning sunrises and taut biceps, and return to the nine-to-five haul of sales?
Tuesday morning I’ll put my steel-toe boots on one at a time and see if the answer is waiting for me in the next semi-trailer.