I can look down at my hands and see plenty of physical scars from my past life. Paper cuts, cardboard cuts, box cutter wounds, and the occasional pen stabbing. For almost seven years, I made my living working in a distribution center for a major office supply company—I hated it.
In my opinion, the company made irrational decisions; people were rewarded for brown nosing and not hard work, and employees were treated like cattle, not people. I literally gave blood and sweat to that place and received one promotion in seven years.
I was responsible for training new hires, maintaining my own numbers, manning multiple zones, which were designed to house three to four people at a time, and displaying the leadership that came with being a senior employee.
These are just a handful of the duties and expectations that came with the job.
A lot of veterans I have talked to have told me something along the lines of, “I went over there a boy and I came back a man.” While my experience was nowhere near as serious as theirs, I can relate to it.
I started at the company as a fresh faced 19-year-old, who had just finished his first year of college and I left as a 26-year-old man, in dire need of a change of scenery.
While I did hate working in that hot warehouse and having to work under some less than desirable supervisors, I also had some great times working at that place.
I made a ton of friends, lost an incredible amount of weight (I was 300 pounds when I started there), and made enough money to move out of my mom’s house and still go to school.
That place has also given me some great tales about how I acquired my various injuries over the years.
There was the time I sprained my ankle running to get pancakes, I sliced open my left wrist on my first day (I had never used a box cutter before) and the day I set the record for the most stitches in the warehouse.
I was standing next to a friend who was cutting open a box and his knife slipped off the cardboard and nailed me directly on my right index finger. I have never bled so much in my life and I wound up with nine stitches. Like an idiot, I went back to work after getting sewn up and then the pain meds wore off.
The rest of that shift was brutal.
Those injuries sucked, but it helped that place become a safer warehouse. They started a safety bingo program, started emphasizing near-miss and accident forms, and required a video on proper box cutter handling and provided a Kevlar safety glove.
Another favorite moment of mine was the annual Black History Month Jeopardy contest. I had a four-year win streak going (they held the 2012 competition an hour before my shift started). I also won a safety scavenger hunt and a plethora of other contests. I never won safety bingo however, which irritates me still!
I’ve had other jobs in my life as well. Daycare worker, telemarketer (I’m sorry), gift basket delivery boy, carnival worker (which was awesome), lawn mower, intern and college reporter and editor, however, my time at the warehouse is what molded me.
That job gave me a taste of the “real world” at an early age. When I first started, I was making so much money for a guy only a year removed out of high school, that my pops was concerned that I would drop out of college.
That thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but when the next school year started I went only part-time and continued to work full-time. My grades suffered and any illusions of making the warehouse my career went away with my A’s and B’s. The next semester, I switched them around and went back to school full-time and worked part-time.
Working in that environment helped me; I can say that I’ve experienced life with both a blue and a white collar. I really did that hate that job at times, but when I got this job my Papa told me this:
“Well, I’m proud of you and it looks like you will never have to do manual labor again.”