En Route with the UPS

For the past three years, the editors of web magazine Word.com have been sending interviewers all over the United States to talk with people about their work. Inspired by Studs Terkel's seminal oral history, Working, they've spoken with CEOs, temps, bounty hunters, Prozac salesmen, heavy metal roadies, congressmen and supermodels, among many others, asking these people what their jobs are really like and how they make them feel about themselves. The result is Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs at The Turn of The Millennium.

AlterNet has excerpting a number of chapters from Gig, including this portrait of William, a foul-mouthed UPS driver who says trusts no one, opens any package he thinks contains a sex toy, brags about seducing women en route -- and is a practicing Buddhist.

We think readers will enjoy these vivid and varied monologues from American workers, not because they are so shocking, but because from the mouths of these ordinary and overlooked citizens come the most fascinating things. As Gig co-editor Marisa Bowe explains, "We weren't trying to say anything in particular about the people we interviewed. We think they speak pretty well for themselves."

UPS Driver William Rosario
Interviewed by Paul Vee

I am a "Full-Time Package Car Driver" for UPS in Northern New Jersey. I've been doing it for ten years. I started because I was a student and I needed a part-time job. I went for an interview for what I thought was "Part-Time Loaders." When I got there they said it was for drivers. So I filled out the application, and they called me back three days later.

It was the first real job ever in my life and, at the beginning, it was pretty overwhelming. UPS is heavily fortified. You've got to show a pass to get in the gate. So like, every day, you go in, you change into your uniform in the locker room, and then you go downstairs for the morning meeting. Every day there's a meeting in the morning to tell you what you did wrong the day before. Every day. They get you all together in a group, all the drivers and everybody, and then they yank you in the office and yell at you personally for about five minutes. It's like roll call, like, you know, a Police Station show. Except they just yell at you. At UPS, you're never told what you did well.

They're like a military organization. They check you over for appearance, everything. They make sure your shoes shine, your tee shirts can only be white or brown -- they can't be black, your socks have to be brown or black. Your shoes have to be polished.

Then, after the meeting, you go to your truck, which is already loaded and full of gas. All you do is drive and deliver. You have a route set up for you every day, with a specific number of delivery and pick-up accounts you do. And you have to deliver every single package. If you bring one package back without attempting to deliver it, they can fire you right there.

But, the most important thing is: "Don't spill your coffee." Forget the UPS rules, just don't spill coffee. That is the unwritten number one law of driving a truck.

The service you give people all depends on how they tip you at Christmas. People who don't tip you at Christmas, you fuck them. They get dropped off late in the day and picked up early. Or, you drop em off and pick em up at the same time. The people who have coffee and doughnuts, and the people who have cute women working there, you deliver them first.

Zippy Printers are the worst fucking account in the world. They're shit. They gave me a bottle of Asti Spumante for Christmas. These people should give me a hundred dollars, easy. They're a pain in the ass. They want an early delivery, they want a late pickup. These people, they pretend they're your friend, but then they're on the phone calling in major complaints against you. It's bullshit.

But some people give me great stuff for Christmas. This candy company gave me five bottles of great wine. And then there's a nice hardware store on my route. They let you use their phone. I call everybody I know. They have a television, they have coffee. They have doughnuts and bagels every morning. And they have good bathrooms. That's what you really learn at UPS -- who has a good bathroom, who has a clean bathroom, and who has a paper, and who has porno for the bathroom.

You run into a lot of porno in bathrooms, especially in industrial places -- factories and things like that. There's this plastics company that just shut down, but they had some of the most bizarre porno I'd ever seen in my life. Stacks and stacks of it. And I've got a tool and die place now that is a prime stop. Always coffee cakes and doughnuts in the morning, hot coffee and two stalls, which are both very clean, and on each toilet, in each stall, at least a foot-high stack of current, good porno. Things like Leg Show, Gent, Club -- good porn -- not Playboy. Double-D Cup. (Laughs.) And there's somebody who has a major foot fetish who gets something called Toe-Sucker Magazine.

Normally, you work around ten hours a day. Sometimes more. The most stops I've ever done in one day was at Christmas, once, like two hundred and forty, with a helper. And your helper -- (laughs) -- that’s a truly shitty job. When you get a helper, and you're the driver, you're like the captain of the ship. You're Kurtz. (Laughs.) You're Captain Kirk, and you slave the shit out of your helper, usually. Although I guess it depends a little bit on how they treat you. If they're pricks, you slave the shit out of them. I had a helper who was a nice guy. We used to smoke pot and get coffee every morning. But basically, they're totally dependent upon you for the day, so if you get somebody who's a prick, you slave em. You drop em off in, like, a three-block area with a hand-truck and say, "I'll pick you up." Then you go and get coffee.

Sometimes I start the day and I just realize I can't do it. I can't keep working. A couple of times, I called em, told em they had to come get me. I said I was sick. They loved that. But usually, when I'm out there, I just do everything I can to not actually work. I mean, on my stops, I watch television, make telephone calls, flirt with secretaries, call my girlfriend, call my friends, go shopping, read the newspaper, go swimming in the summer at a motel pool.

You can get caught at this stuff. I've already had three trials. One was the "Milk Shake Trial" for getting a milk shake. One was for insubordination. And one was for wearing a tee shirt. I was wearing a Bob Marley tee shirt, a white tee shirt, in the summer. Somebody ratted me out for the tee shirt, and we had a supervisor who didn't like me and this other guy, so he followed us. He was jealous that we went to a pool every day cause we had great tans, and he was pissed. So he hid in the parking lot. He didn't even say anything to us. He just watched us and went back to UPS and filed a report. And then they filed a complaint with the union.

So I had these trials. They were held on work days, you know, by appointment. And at the trials there was my division manager, my manager, the supervisor, myself and two union representatives. Like Nuremburg. And I had to explain myself. But I got off every time. I mean, we're Teamsters, and the only thing they really will fire you for at UPS is stealing packages or being drunk on the job. Now I've done both of those, but I've never been caught.

And my relationship with my supervisors is generally pretty workable. It's functional. But you can never trust them because they're company people. And the managers are worse. UPS treats their own people -- the managers and supervisors -- worse than they even treat their drivers. It's like the theology is "shit rolls downhill." So you can never trust anyone, and every driver has this attitude. You know, it's "us against them." Totally.

Some of the other drivers are decent, though. Some aren't. I've met nice guys at work. I've met decent people. I've had some of them to my house for dinner. And I love to drive. That's my favorite thing. I live to drive. But do I like the work? No. There are too many hazards -- accidents, sprained ankles, disc problems in my back, massive wear and tear on your body from carrying all these packages, stress, anxiety -- I've had dreams about this job. Anxiety dreams. And I've never been robbed, but lots of guys I work with get robbed. The guys who work in Passaic and stuff like that. And there's auto accidents. And on Halloween, they throw rocks at the truck. In Passaic, they throw rocks and bottles. In Clifton, they throw eggs.

I've been chased by dogs. When you're chased, you gotta run back to the truck as fast as you can. Always run to the truck. And slam the door. I haven't ever been caught by a dog, but I know somebody else who got attacked and ended up in the hospital. I've learned a lot about dogs at UPS. Nice dogs, bad dogs.

And then I've had people seize packages on me, take packages away from me, like, without paying for them. A real intimidating guy on a route I used to do did that. He sucked.

And it's hot in the summer. You will literally lose five, six pounds in August. I drop every year. It's physical work. I mean, you could never do this job for thirty years. There are guys who do it, but they end up with major physical disability. I'd like to stay another year or two, then I'm leaving. I want to go back to school and study Buddhism, or psychology, which is really what I like.

Basically, I have a problem with authority figures. I hate wearing a uniform and dealing with people who are real assholes. I hate having to deal with someone that you can't stand, five days a week and having to take their shit. You cannot say a word at UPS. If somebody treats you like shit and calls you any name they
want, says this or that to you, you cannot say a thing cause, in UPS's eyes, the customer is always right. I hate having to eat crow.

But I've gotten laid because of the job. I deliver to a lot of womens' clothing stores. Like I used to do a shopping mall on one route. And there's lots and lots of forty-year-old divorced women, thirty-eight and forty -- really still cute and really still hot -- really nice, really sweet. I've gone to dinner with them, I've gone to their house. But you know, no divorcee ever greeted me at the door in her undies, or anything like that. I always had to set it up for later. And I've heard plenty of stories about guys having sex on the job, but I think most of those guys are liars.

And some of it is nice, too. It's nice when you deliver stuff to people who're waiting for it. I've delivered Christmas stuff to people. That means a lot, it makes me feel good. I've delivered medicine to people. I've delivered cool tools to old guys who work their whole life in the garden. I've delivered stuff to people who've become my friends. I've delivered skateboards to eleven-year-old kids who chase you up the street screaming, "Yeah!" when you pull up to their house. Know what I mean? I've delivered to people who're starting tiny little businesses and five years later, it's really happening and you feel like you're helping them.

And then, also, I've delivered dildos and lots of porno. You can tell because anything from 1 Apple Court in North Carolina is pornography. So you tear it open. The clerk told me that in the beginning. And you always open it, you know, to read it, check it out, see what it is, laugh about it. You just open it up on the truck and then you tape it up again after you've looked. I've delivered two-headed dildos with balls.

I'm a Buddhist. And to a Buddhist, there's meaning in everything you do in your life and I should be able to find meaning in this job. I should get my self-esteem from being a really good driver and completing my work every day. I should. But right now, I'm burnt out. The thing about UPS is, it takes your time. That's the worst thing, it takes so much of your time. You can get a day off when you want, but still, it takes all your time. And you're tired when you're done. Really tired. It's basically a job for stupid people. It's not very interesting. It's just not. I mean, if you have no other opportunities and you need benefits, and you're going nowhere, take this job.

For more Gig interviews, visit the Gig archive at Word.com or buy Gig at Barnes&Noble.com.

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