Getting Treated Like A Dog – Origin Story Part 34

Published July 1, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“If you keep making jokes, people will think you are a joke.”

My trainer rolled her eyes and continued…

“… Leave the joking to the 10-year-olds.”

“If I don’t laugh, I’m going to cry,” I muttered

In less than a week, the woman in charge of my training declared she was done helping. She broke this vow only to yell at my screw-ups. Which were almost non-stop.

For several days, I’d scrambled to escape, but felt trapped from every angle. First, I pushed to improve my speed, deluding myself into thinking I could get transferred back after just one week. As much as it embarrassed me, I cornered Ted and confessed my idea. He politely dashed my hopes. Then, I tried to find other jobs on Craigslist. I applied to moving companies, telemarketers, other truck-loading jobs…

Throughout it all, I saw only two lights at the end of the tunnel

One was knowing I’d be in a different position within days. I was only learning the ropes at the Cancels section, to have an easier time taking on my eventual position, order-pulling.

Bob, who helped me with this transfer, assured me that order-pulling was different.

In just a few days, I’d begin training there.

The other light at the end of the tunnel, was the three-day weekend.

When I made the switch, my body instantly received a reprieve from the brutal labor of truck-loading.

I took the opportunity to drive out to the mountains at least once per week – usually my first day off – for a small walk

Most of the time, I’d trek to Golden, Colorado. There, I strode up my favorite hill trail. Nothing much – just a few hundred yards. But a panoramic view of the front-range mountains waited for me at the top.

Gazing along the higher and higher peaks was almost like meditating on a view of oncoming waves. Except these were thousands of feet high.

Sometimes I stared for hours. And even enjoyed myself, forgetting the anguish I’d confront in just a couple days.

Back at work, my brain floated in a haze of cortisol-soaked confusion. Every shift was worse than the one before.

My trainer yelled at me more, and ignored my questions

My perspective slipped away. Was this right? Sure, I was screwing up, but how could she treat another human being like this, who was obviously trying to learn? Or was she really being so cruel as I imagined? After all, it wasn’t like she was cussing at me, or physically assaulting me. What truly constituted abuse?

I became even more confused when I considered how this related to my own development. In years past, I’d been so aggressive an uncompromising with other people. Was this a test to be more understanding? Or to stand up for myself? Both?

The only action-step I came up with, was to keep acting professional. If something really bad happened, I’d alert the company.

But very soon, I found out how distorted my perception was…

Just like with the load team, this part of the warehouse employed temps to keep up with the workload.

One day, during lunch, one of the temps approached me: “Can I ask you a question, when you have a moment?”

She was a kind-looking woman in her 50s.

“I have a moment right now!” I said.

She led me to a secluded spot outside, just behind the break room. Then, she looked up into my eyes and asked…

“Why do you think she has the right to treat you that way, just because she’s been working here longer?”

Tears welled up in my eyes. To ease the tension with a little humor, I admitted, “Heck, I’ve been working here longer.”

She shook her head.

In that moment, I got a shot of adrenaline, but more so…

… I got a shot of perspective.

It was one thing to feel trapped, pushed around, and disrespected. It was another to have someone else see me – as the temp would put it later – “get treated like a dog.”

I thanked her over and over again, and then confronted the supervisor about what had been going on

He did nothing. And nothing changed.

Later that day, I told him again.

Nothing. Except observing him freeze into a thousand-yard stare tinged with slight panic.

That afternoon, I told him a third time. He sent me to work in a different section and, while my trainer screamed and ranted, he finally confronted her.

Things quieted down… for a couple hours.

I could feel my trainer’s suppressed anger and disgust

And I also saw how tough the kind, old temp worker actually was, and how she stood up for herself. Instead of politely asking the trainer a question – like I would – she approached her and said, “Do you put nylon before or after cotton YES I KNOW I ASKED YOU BEFORE BUT I’M ASKIN’ AGAIN BECAUSE I’M FAT!!!”

Sometimes, success in life isn’t about the surface logic you employ but the energy you exude. Actually, that might be 100% of the time (but being logical can be a good catalyst).

While hanging some clothes with the temp, in a quieter part of the warehouse, I thanked her one more time for her help.

“I’ll be back tomorrow so I’ll see you then,” she said.

“Okay, great, see you tomorrow. Thank you,” I replied.

We clasped each other’s hands and said goodbye

I would never see her again.

The peaceful moment didn’t last, either. Minutes later, the trainer stormed into that part of the warehouse, after hearing I was hanging clothes unsupervised.

“You’ve been treating me like garbage all week!” I yelled at her.

She didn’t relent… but the week was over. The next time I set foot in that warehouse, I’d be learning a whole new position. I hoped it’d be better.

Trapped – Origin Story Part 33

Published June 15, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

On Sunday, I got a text that caused a cold wave of dread to ripple through my gut.

It was from Ted, confirming to show up Monday at 5AM for my new position.

Huh. Why on earth would that freak me out? It was the exact thing I’d been clawing for…

… but with the torture of the load team officially behind me, I looked forward with clearer eyes

What would this new position be like? Could I handle it?

In the afternoon, I prepared as best I could for sleep. Instead of shifts starting at 2PM and ending well past midnight, they were going to begin at 5AM. It was almost literally swapping my bedtime with my waketime.

I was also taking a pay cut from $13 an hour to $11. I figured the sacrifice would be worth it. Now it was more of a hope.

I got a few hours of sleep, awoke at 4AM, and began my commute

Before the transfer, I drove to work amidst the hustle and bustle of a young afternoon.

Then, even though it was the same road, everything was dark and dead quiet. Barely any other cars.

The warehouse looked vacant as I arrived. But I found some people milling around in the breakroom, waiting for the shift to officially begin, so I joined them.

When 5AM arrived and they moseyed out of the breakroom, I followed. And suddenly wondered just what the heck I was supposed to do…

… so I milled around the main clothes sorting station, trying to make eye contact with workers. Who was the manager?

I noticed a couple whispering while darting glances my way

Finally, an older woman approached and ask if I were starting. She looked pissed just for having to speak to me.

I explained that I’d just transferred over, and was supposed to start training for order-pulling.

“Before you do that, you have to work at the Cancels station otherwise you won’t know what you’re doing.”

Okay fine. As the workers began, the noise picked up. They worked machines sewing, imprinting, and moving the clothes along production lines.

The older woman handed me off to my new trainer, an overweight woman in her early 20s. She directed me to drag in several racks of returned clothes, so we could sort them.

She spat the rules at me rapid-fire: “Denim! Black! Blue! Buttons before snaps…”

She went on and on while we piled clothes onto the rack. Temps buzzed around, extracting some items before disappearing. Another worker darted in to grab some. I kept up as best I could, listening to all the instructions while claustrophobia ensnared its chocking grip on me.

What the hell had I gotten myself into?

Every aspect of the job was intricate, packed with tiny details…

… and fast.

In previous weeks, when I began my truck-loading shifts, I walked by the station I was now working at. I pondered what seemed like a calm workflow. Even a lazy one. That turned out to be an illusion. The very real frantic pace was hidden by the workers’ experience.

And then I was trapped in it.

Immediately, my mind scrambled for a way out.

They had said I couldn’t go back.

Was that true?

As I sorted through more and more hangers, tangling them, dropping clothes on the floor, stepping on them, bunching them up, drawing weary looks from everyone around me, feeling their stares… my mind reeled.

Maybe I could beg to go back?

Or say I’d quit otherwise.

Would they care?

Or even want to help me?

Maybe if I got my numbers up fast enough, I had a chance…

So I re-doubled my focus on the task at hand. And worked straight through lunch while everyone else disappeared.

As the day went on…and on… and on, my trainer told me to run upstairs with bunches of 10-20 hangers’ worth of clothes. Then to drag several racks into the endless aisles of clothes in the back of the warehouse. Tripping over wires, mats, and hitting other stations. Brushing by and knocking over clothes in every direction.

It wouldn’t stop. Until, finally, my trainer disappeared.

I asked where she’d gone, until someone angrily told me the day was over.

So I shuffled outside, feeling the glare of the midafternoon sun hit me. Then I drove home, through town, seeing all the college kids walking about, enjoying their lives.

What the hell was I going to do?

After getting home, I did my standing meditations. Then I immediately plopped in front of my laptop… scoured Craigslist for other jobs… and applied where I thought I had a chance.

Then I stuffed my face with as much food as I could for dinner and prepared for bed. With a 3:45AM wake-up time, I needed to fall asleep as fast as I could.

Then began my new routine. The next morning, before dawn even showed a hint of cracking, my alarm blared me awake. I showered, meditated, and attempted to soak up and cherish every single moment I wasn’t at work.

I measured my long, dark commute… watching the clock… and noticed how I still had a half hour of peace, or fifteen minutes, or several blocks to go.

Then came the few minutes in the breakroom before the shift began.

But as much as I tried to grasp at emotional relief, it never came.

The break always ended. And my panicked thoughts kept reeling…

I screwed up. I screwed up. I screwed up.

And I was trapped.

Out Of The Frying Pan – Into The Fire – Origin Story Part 32

Published June 13, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“If you don’t start finishing on time, we’ll find someone who will.”

The entire load team sat in a meeting room facing Ted.

For weeks, we’d been dragging ass. Never mind that we were already understaffed and trailing further behind as the company grew.

We’d never once finished a shift in under 10 hours. The overtime was nice, but not worth leaving the warehouse at 2 in the morning.

“See you in a few hours,” became the dark joke at the end of our shift

At the time, I was part of the two-person team that loaded trucks with freshly-washed supplies. It was by far the most complicated position, and took the longest.

Right as we started the shift, we scanned through spreadsheets to see what every truck needed. Then we scrambled to fill bags with clean towels, sometimes hundreds of them total. Then I ran up to the second floor of the warehouse to haul a snake-like row of clothes along a track back downstairs. The row was usually 25 to 30 feet long, and screwing up the transport could mean a big pile of clothes, hangers, wheels, and a pissed off crew.

Once we positioned the row in front of the open truck, we reached and grabbed, reached and grabbed, reached and grabbed bunch after bunch of clothes on hangers, filling the entire truck. Then came the mats. I grasped them two or three at a time, and threw them into the truck. The technique had to be just right so they slid along the floor, right into the hands of my partner at the other end, so he could neatly stack them.

Fifteen trucks total.

If you didn’t haul ass, you ended up stacking mats at two or three in the morning, delirious with exhaustion, knees, back, and shoulders aching… until you finally crawled out of the remaining space of the truck

As I did, more than a couple times.

In fact, too many times. Which lead to the meeting with Ted.

As the days went by, Ted zeroed in on me and the guy I was working with. He knew we were the real problem.

“I don’t know how much longer I can do this job,” I admitted to Ted. “I’m looking for other work. Are there any positions open in the daytime shift?”

I knew the work in the morning was physically easier. If I could get a transfer, maybe I could finally re-claim what I’d lost when the gold-buying store closed – an easy paycheck to cover my rent, food, and leave a little extra for funding my business.

He said he’d look into it.

Later, when I asked again, he said, “There are some things I need to see from you.”

I had to speed up… right as the daily exhaustion was driving me into the ground

I couldn’t see how. Day after day, Ted got more and more pissed at my partner and I, as we slaved away until 3AM. I’d lurch out of the final truck, giggling with exhaustion, and we’d return the last ignition key as Ted locked everything down without a word.

Then something happened.

My partner’s excruciating back pain forced him to work a different position. He was replaced by Jesus, the 40-something guy who could out-work all of us.

I scrambled to keep up with him. And my speed improved.

Ted approached me, and admitted they had an opening. “It’s the order-pulling position. I think it’d work for you because you have a good memory.”

Huh, I wondered what I had to memorize.

Eh, I was sure it’d be easy…

Later, I checked out the lay of the land on the other side of the warehouse, to see if I was still interested in transferring.

I stepped around the racks of clothes, noticing how calm all the workers looked as they sorted everything. As I scanned near-endless rows and columns of different fabrics, it seemed like an impossible amount to memorize. Maybe I wouldn’t have to? And, sure, I had to duck and dodge all kinds of pipes and wires in the parts of the warehouse built for someone half my size, but I could get used to that. Right?

As far as I was concerned, there was no time to think it over. I just knew the move was perfect for me! Of course I was going to say yes! Double-checking felt superfluous.

Still, transferring wouldn’t be instantaneous. Before I could get the wheels turning, the load team slogged through a schedule of five shifts in a row.

I unloaded the entire time, with a 19-year-old kid from Mexico who had just gotten engaged.

He blasted mariachi music from every truck’s stereo, spoke only about twenty words of English… and we had an absolute blast working together

One night, while I separated broom handles from their bases, Ted confronted me.

“Are you absolutely sure about this? Once we do this, there’s no way you can come back.”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

It still wasn’t a done deal. The load team was already stretched thin.

Eventually Ted confirmed, “You’re definitely switching on Monday. They’re even more behind than we are.”

It was hard to imagine that. The load team was scrambling to keep up with the company’s massive workload. Oh well…

On Friday, we unloaded the final truck. It was pure hell. But I knew how to do it, and could get in a groove on occasion. Especially working with a fun team.

“I’ll almost miss this job. Almost…” I admitted

I’d eat those words.

My Spiritual Baptism – Origin Story Part 31

Published June 13, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“These are the towels they wipe baby’s asses with!” Jesus said, with an impish smile on his face.

I perched atop the lift gate of a truck, grabbing little, wet towels by hand from a giant basket and tossing them into a bag a few feet below. They stunk of hospital disinfectant.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I replied

He laughed at his attempt to freak me out. Nice try.

Jesus had been working the load team longer than any of the other guys. He was from Mexico, married with the last of his kids going to college, and well past 40 years old. Yet he could still power through the trucks while the rest of us dragged our feet.

That day, he helped me out with my new position: Unloading.

By far, the dirtiest job in the entire warehouse

Unloading was done in teams of two. My partner backed the truck into the bay. Then I pushed open the rear door, grabbed pile after pile of dirty shirts, turned, and dumped them onto a conveyor belt. When enough were on their way, I ran to the other end of the belt, where the shirts fell into a bag. Once it was full, I pushed the bag to the guy working the sling.

Same with dirty pants.

The conveyor belt also acted as a scanning device, and every once in a while, it stopped scanning without warning. Depending on when – or if – we noticed, we’d have to drag all the clothes back to the start, and throw them in again.

Sometimes a single truck took almost ten bags – well over a literal ton of dirty clothes.

Most trucks, from what I could tell, transported clothes from construction crews, automotive shops… and the best by far was from the spice factory. Those shirts smelled like pizza.

The worst… by far… was from the dog food factory

My partner and I took turns throwing those shirts onto the conveyor belt, always holding our breath as best we could. Sometimes retching when we caught a whiff – and, one time, my partner threw up on the spot.

Every truck also contained dirty floor mats. Piles of them so huge, they’d reach the roof. Sometimes they were soaked from rain. My partner and I bearhugged as many as we could at a time, running from inside the truck to the edge, to throw them into the bags.

Before my first day unloading, Ted pointed to the metal roof of a truck, with pipes jutting out.

“You will hit your head when you’re unloading. You will draw blood. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’”

He was right. I’d have to hunch my back inside the truck for hours as I worked. And when I forgot for just a split-second (which happened many times) … BAM. My head would smack into some metal outcropping. Once, I fell to my knees in pain.

“Watch your head!” my partner chastised me

Finally, every truck had dirty broom brushes. We tossed them all in a bucket, and then stripped the brushes from the underwire at the end of the day, so they could be washed.

So much dust got kicked up in the process, we wore surgical masks while we separated them.

Fifteen trucks per shift. Then a big trailer full of clothes from Fort Collins. One break for lunch.

I still remember one night after we finished. I stumbled into the bathroom, and began washing the dirt and grime off my arms. Then, as I worked over my neck and face, I stared into the mirror… and decided I was going through a spiritual baptism.

Every bad thing I’d ever done… everyone I’d stiffed in my bankruptcy… every mean thing I’d ever said… was now forgiven

I just needed a ritual disgusting enough… and to suffer physically enough… to justify it. To make things official.

That was what I decided. At least it got a laugh out of me, sometime past 1AM in a warehouse bathroom in Lakewood, Colorado.

As the weeks went by, I realized that even though unloading was the nastiest position on the load team, it was also the simplest. You just had to work like a dog, as fast as you could.

One of the guys and I set the unofficial record, as far as I know, for the most number of trucks unloaded before the lunch break. Thirteen. That earned us a double-thumbs-up from Ted.

I also noticed the company burned through temp worker after temp worker in the unloading position. During lunch, I got to talking with one, and found out he’d recently gotten out of prison. Five years for punching a cop while getting arrested.

Five years of his life… gone…

After getting out, he’d settled in Fort Collins and took welding classes.

“Then I went on a bender and ended up in Denver,” he told me.

Must have been one heck of a drinking binge to end up in a city over an hour south, and quit school to boot. The man even admitted his teacher had called to ask where he went.

The teacher didn’t get an answer and, come to think of it, I didn’t get much of one when I asked.

The man had an ex-wife and a kid, too.

“The state keeps taking money out of my paycheck for child support. Between that and how little I’m getting from the temp work, there’s no way I can support myself. The only thing I can do is quit and hope the paycheck where I work next doesn’t get child support taken out of it.”

He went on…

“I’ll find out tomorrow if this place takes it out. If they do, you’ll know because you won’t see me here again.”

That was the last I ever saw him.

As the weeks went on, I slogged through my workdays, sometimes until two in the morning. One night, I stayed until past 3:30AM to help load the last of the trucks. The moment we finished, everyone scattered like they’d just robbed a bank. I ran to my car, turned the key…

… to hear only a sickening little click, and nothing else.

Not again.

I jumped back out to see the taillights of the last remaining cars disappear as the rest of the load team drove into the night. All was quiet.

So what was it going to be? Sleeping the rest of the night in the breakroom? I sure as heck wasn’t going to pay for a taxi (this was before Uber… and I wouldn’t have paid for that either). Then an idea occurred to me.

I ran back inside the warehouse

Only one person was inside – the first worker of the early morning shift. Because he spoke only a little English, I mimed how I needed a wrench. He gave me one, which I used to tighten my battery cables and…

… started my car.

Yes!

I drove home, collapsed into sleep… and started the whole process over again… for weeks and weeks…

Right when I thought I had a prayer of getting used to the job, my fears of getting fired started coming true…

Making Money On The Phone With A Business – Origin Story Part 30

Published June 11, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

As soon as I saw the audio files manifest in my DropBox folder, I saved them to my MP3 player. Then I drove to work.

Just the day before, I’d reached out to my friend Jason for some help (same guy I got the business loan from). For years, he’d made a living by building websites and online marketing campaigns for clients.

No boss…

No big corporation supporting him…

Which meant he had to get up every morning and hunt for his food

He had to sell every single one of his clients on paying him thousands of dollars. Sometimes he did this in-person, but usually it was over the phone.

If he failed, he and his family would starve. Or, even worse, he’d have to go get a real job.

In a little over 24 hours, a potential client would be calling me on the phone.

So I asked my friend for the best, quickest advice on selling over the phone that he could supply.

In return, he gave me the audio files of a talk by a man named Tom Hopkins. From what I gathered, Hopkins began as a belly-to-belly salesman, and succeeded enough to begin teaching others. And I’m sure he figured out that’s where the real money is.

So that work shift, while folding mats, I listened through my headphones and took mental notes of what he said

The selling process sounded simple enough, as Hopkins described it:

You listen to the potential client, make sure to know exactly what their frustrations, pain-points, and aspirations are, and then you repeat the important parts so they know they’re being heard. Then you present them with options for how you can deliver your product/service, and let them decide which one they want to go with.

There’s plenty more. And well worth looking into. (Hopkins fans, please excuse if I butchered the process – it’s been a couple years and anyone who’s truly interested can look him up and buy his books to get the real scoop. Anyway…)

The next day, while sitting in my condo, I saw my phone ring.

Go-time

My potential client and I chatted a bit, then I described my background as it related to what he needed.

Then I listened.

The man was helping run a business rocketing towards $100,000,000-per-year. They needed email ad copy. They were bringing in boatloads of new customers from the internet, but weren’t marketing to them afterwards. Just a single sale to a new customer could mean another $10,000 to them.

I knew it’d be an easy gig for me, because it was so close to my best skillsets. So I presented two options. One for 15 emails and the other for 30. The latter had a higher price, but not quite double the first.

The man on the phone said he’d have to ask his business partner.

(If you sell over the phone as part of your job and run into anything like this, take careful note of my reply…)

“Can you get him on the phone right now?” I asked.

He put me on hold to try, but the partner wasn’t available. So we agreed he’d call back once he had an answer.

Cool. I did what I could, and was proud of how smooth the entire process was. Like a good clutch hitter, I stayed centered when the stakes were high.

But after calming down, something occurred to me.

I had presented the two options. One for 15 emails and the other for 30.

But what prices did I name?

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “I think it was $1500 and $2500. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what they were. That makes sense.”

I had literally forgotten the prices I named for my services!

My phone rang. The potential client was back.

I picked up and the man said, “Okay I talked to my partner and we’d like to go with the 30-email option. For $3000.”

Aha!

“Okay, great, I’ll send you an invoice for the down payment and we’ll get started.”

It paid to be a good listener. I guess I had quoted three grand. Whew!

For the next few weeks, my life became a whirlwind of 10-12-hour work shifts, followed by freelance work.

While I worked on the contract job in the mornings, I continued to learn more about my truck-loading work in the afternoon and night. Every night I drove home, trying my best to ignore the dread of the next shift. Folding mats and the sling were only half the positions for the load team. And I was about to work the most disgusting one, by far…

Crying On The Phone With My Bank – Origin Story Part 29

Published May 30, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

Saturday morning. I slept in, soaking up the little taste of luxury… and then got out of bed for my meditations.

Something felt off.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it… until I got online, checked my bank balance…

… and saw something that made my stomach turn into an aching stone

A charge in my business account – probably some minor monthly payment – had overdrawn my balance.

So my bank sucker-punched me with overdraft fees.

One…

Two…

Three…

four of them. In one day.

At $32.50 each…

… dragging my account almost two hundred dollars in the negative.

“Okay…” I whispered to myself, “Okay just call them up.”

I dialed my bank and explained to the person on the line that, yes, I understood the first overdraft fee. After all, it was my fault that the account got overdrawn.

But four in a single day? Ridiculous.

“Yes, sir, we understand and it’s our policy… ” yada yada yada, they said they’d see what they could do.

After a brief period on hold, the bank told me they’d remove one of the overdraft charges.

As a courtesy.

The other three would remain. My account will still be well over a hundred dollars in the negative.

My breathing grew quicker. I asked to speak to a manager.

Someone else came on the line. I began talking calmly enough…

… but when I began describing how I was living week-to-week… and how they took the money I needed for food and rent… my reasoning dissolving into rambling.

“Oh, it sounds like you’re experiencing some hard times… ” the man said with a bit of sympathy…

… but he affirmed there was nothing he could do.

“Okay th-th-thank you,” I said as I hung up and burst into tears.

I buried my head into my hands and wept.

So much struggling for every penny, and now this? How the hell could I climb out of this hole?

For the next minute, I cried.

Then something snapped inside

My breathing deepened. And I decided what to do.

For the past few weeks, I’d been planning to send a letter to the man who’d been helping with my direct mail campaigns – Doberman Dan. I wanted to propose a deal with him:

I knew he was doing contract work for clients, writing advertisements and building marketing campaigns. To free up his time, he could sub-contract to me. I’d happily take a percentage of whatever he was charging his clients, and do good work. It was win-win.

Of course, to get the idea in his hands, and for him to take it seriously, I knew some random email wasn’t going to do. Instead, I’d print out and send him a real letter. But with a twist.

Many moons earlier, Doberman Dan expounded on the genius of something called the “Dollar Bill Letter.” It’s a letter with a real dollar bill taped to the top of it. When someone opens the letter and sees the billfold, it’s virtually impossible not to be enthralled. After all, who the heck sends real money in the mail and tapes it to the top of their message?

I planned to take it a step further

I knew Doberman Dan was passionate about precious metals. And, before the gold-buying store closed, I made sure to purchase a few silver dimes.

Although I’d written the letter, I hadn’t gotten around to mailing it…

… until that day.

Sitting at my desk, I wiped away my tears, and a newfound surge of energy pulsed through me.

I stood up and drove to the nearest Fedex Office, feeling propelled forward in a state of calm bliss. A smile spread across my face.

At Fedex, I printed the letter, taped the silver dime to the top, and mailed it.

There.

I put the wheels in motion

Then I visited my bank to deposit some cash… before they hit me with more overdraft fees! For the heck of it, I spoke to the manager there, to see if anything would be different. Nope, it was the same story – except I didn’t cry.

Six days of back-breaking work followed…

… until… one morning… my phone rang. I almost didn’t answer… but it turned out to be Doberman Dan!

He loved the letter – it had gotten his attention just as I planned.

He didn’t have any immediate work for me. Still, Dan said he’d keep me in mind, and promised to refer me to some companies that needed the kind of marketing I could provide. Sweet!

It turned out, I wouldn’t have to wait that long. Just a few days later, he referred a potential client to me. The two of us settled on a day and time to do an introductory phone call.

I realized I had to sell this guy on my services

He was a complete stranger. And in the space of one phone call, I had to convince him to give me some money. Possibly a large amount.

How the heck was I going to do that?

Fortunately, I had an idea…

[Funny note: As I was editing this chapter in a coffee shop, I turned my head and saw the woman next to me writing out a bunch of hand-written letters, and preparing them for mailing. We got into a fun discussion on how important a real letter can be for showing gratitude. Or opening doors.]

Losing Sleep, Dragging Bags, Soaking in Grime – Origin Story Part 28

Published May 27, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

As I prepared for bed after my first day (and night) of work, I took a single melatonin pill…

… and then lay in my bed, wired almost to the point of shaking. As if I’d just awoken in the morning and drank a pot of coffee. Even though it was past 2AM.

So I took another melatonin…

… and lay in bed, fixated on my next shift… starting in less than 12 hours… how tough it was going to be… how lack of sleep was going to make it much worse… how dwelling on it would push sleep further away…

… and took another melatonin.

Would I lose my job? Die? My mind raced. Somehow, the combination of a dark bedroom, sleeplessness, and stress always mangles my thoughts into delirium.

Finally, well past 5AM, I slept a few brief hours

Then I awoke, did my meditations, and drove back to the textile warehouse for another 10+ hour round of punishment. To steal myself from the impending chaos, I walked a short path behind the building and stood amidst a group of four solid trees.

The second shift of work was much like the first, except my fog of exhaustion felt even thicker.

On the upside, I slept better that night.

And after a week of folding mats, I began to mentally get the hang of it…

… just in time to be moved to a new position

The load team comprised four main positions. At the beginning of every shift, fifteen trucks arrived, packed full of dirty laundry. Mats, shirts, pants, towels, mops – things like that. We couldn’t go home until we unloaded and reloaded everything.

Folding mats was just one part of this process. Another part, and my new position to learn, was “the Sling.”

As two guys unloaded the trucks, they’d dump everything into giant bags hanging inside wheeled carts. Each cart was over five feet high, and weighed 250 pounds full (measured by a scale right beneath the sling).

Or 350 pounds, if they overloaded

In the Sling position, my job was to grab those bags, roll them over to the sling, tag them, and push a button to send them rocketing up to the warehouse-wide overhead rail system. Momentum and a couple strategically-placed pneumatic devices would zip them to the laundry room.

Working the sling required considerably more memorization than folding mats.

After dragging the bags into position, I had to tag them according to truck and item, and send them up in a certain order. When the sling came back down, it carried an empty bag with it. I had to hook it to the empty cart, dismount it from the sling, and shove it back to the unloaders.

In addition, I had to dump sacks of several different kinds of dirty towels into large bags myself, and monitor for when to send them up the sling.

Some carts had busted wheels, and dragging the 250+ pounds felt like trying to pull a car… sideways

It helped to remember which carts sucked, and use them for only rarer kinds of towels.

Sometimes the large bags wouldn’t be secured in the bottom. I’d find out after sending the bag up the sling, only to watch in horror as the bottom burst open like a chrysalis, leaving a couple hundred pounds of dirty towels behind in a perfectly-round, four-foot pile on the scale.

Many times, the sling would malfunction, and merely raise the bag to the top without sending it across the belt system. So I’d snatch a long metal rod and jab the bag hard enough to push it until the first pneumatic device.

On one occasion, the bag snared the metal cart, so the sling pulled everything about ten feet up, before the cart slipped loose and crashed onto my right shoulder.

A headshot might have snapped my neck

I also had to monitor the bag’s progress until it was out of sight. Many times the bags got stuck on the other end of the warehouse. So I’d have to grab a thirty-foot metal poll, race across the floor, climb up some metal racks… balance myself at the top… and use the poll to jam the trolley’s hooks back into place just so. Like shooting pool, and aiming for a cueball on the ceiling of a basketball court. Then ramming the bag onward.

Solving every one of these malfunctions meant losing precious seconds, which could mean falling behind the unloaders in the trucks.

On top of all that, I also had to practically swim through sacks and sacks of wet, sloppy, nasty towels.

Picture an auto body shop using rags every day to soak up oil, gasoline, and sweat. Then they stuff all those rags into plastic sacks… and send our way for sorting and cleaning.

Some soaked with cleaning fluid… regular old grime… and sometimes cadmium

The cadmium towels were marked off and specially sealed for separate cleaning and handling. At least once, they showed up with the seals burst.

When the laundry guy got ahold of them, he made sure I was looking, and exaggeratedly pretended to lick them.

Oy.

If I fell behind (which I did) then the unloading crew didn’t have any bags in carts to fill. So they’d sit and wait for me. For the first three days at this position, I had to be bailed out during my shift.

I feared my job was on the line

Then came Friday. The final shift before our three-day weekend. My 72-hour solace in a world of miserable chaos. I vowed that I’d get the hang of this new position, so I could enter my weekend feeling secure in a job well done.

I even affirmed to myself as I drove to the warehouse, “Earn your weekend… earn your weekend… EARN your weekend.”

From the very start, I attacked the bags without mercy. Even if I risked damaging the equipment as I slammed the cages around.

I almost made it… but Ted had to jump in to help, near the end of my shift. Still, for my first week at the position, it felt like a victory. And now I had the three-day weekend to look forward to, feeling like I earned it…

… little did I realize, the very next day something was going to cause me to break down and cry uncontrollably. The first of many breakdowns I’d have over the next few months…

The Labor Begins – Origin Story Part 27

Published May 24, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

One week after I was officially hired, I returned to the same warehouse at 2PM, ready to take on my new career.

Two in the afternoon was my new workday’s “morning.”

And unlike a typical 9-5, there wasn’t an official end to a day’s shift. The load team stopped only for one reason:

We loaded all the trucks.

Maybe we finished at midnight. Usually not.

More likely, it was 1AM… and sometimes 3AM

We got one break for “lunch” which was – as I recall – at 7PM. And sometimes, when we worked past 1AM, we sat in the breakroom for about fifteen minutes, to recover.

During the few months I worked there, two guys out of a crew of less than ten, got injured. One required surgery.  It’s fortunate no one died – and our supervisor Ted almost did meet a gruesome fate.

I had no clue about any of this, as I stood in the waiting room, thinking I was ready to begin.

Salvador showed up just a couple minutes after me. But, after a short visit to Bob’s office, he barged his way back outside again, his face twisted in fear and anger.

“I’ll probably never see him again,” I thought

I never did.

(My best guess is, he failed the drug test but didn’t realize it, until Bob delivered the bad news, in person.)

Ted lead me back to the same mat-folding station where he tested me before. This time, it was the real deal.

In a blur, he showed me what to do.

Turns out, there was much more to learn. One of the toughest parts of the job was working through the brutal conditions while still assimilating new information. Describing everything this textile company did, would require a book (and people passionate about business operations would probably love every painstakingly-detailed page). But I’ll cover the basics.

Throughout my ten-hour shift, someone from the giant laundry room would push a cart of freshly-washed mats my way. The cart was about half the size of a four-door sedan (so, the same size as your average Subaru).

It was loaded to the brim with perhaps a couple thousand pounds of mats

My job was to push this cart onto a hydraulic lift, which would hoist it into the air, and partially spill the mats onto a station.

Then I’d grab, fold, and wipe them over an electronic scanner, before tossing them onto the appropriate section of a rack. Each mat weighed between five and twenty-five pounds.

Then, when the rack was full (it would typically end up weighing 400+ pounds, by my estimation), I’d drag it to another part of the warehouse, for loading onto trucks. As I recall, I did fifteen racks per shift.

The mats were usually still a bit wet and stuck together. The carts and racks were warped and I had to grapple them to get anywhere. And during a single shift I folded thousands of mats. From what I heard, sometimes the hydraulic lift shut down in the bitter cold of winter, necessitating the use of a forklift.

Then I understood why the company tested people before hiring them.

Nobody with an average build – or mentality – could do this

So I began. Soon, Ted walked away to let me learn the ropes by trial and error.

Carts kept getting wheeled in. Soon, I was two behind. As fast as my body was capable, I plowed forward, folding and folding and folding. Every time I dragged a full rack to the trucks, my shoulders and back were pushed to the limit.

Over time, I learned the finesse required with the job. Sometimes the mats were so tangled in the cart (especially the 10-footers) that if I couldn’t easily yank them out, tugging and tugging would only tighten the knot they were stuck in. Wasted effort. Instead, it was smarter to test different mats, and “unfold” the massive pile like a snaky version of pick-up-sticks.

Frequently, I pondered how much this was like unravelling a personal issue.

Folding the mats had a technique as well. Tossing them into the rack had a technique. Guiding the load across the warehouse did too. Every task had a three-dimensional path-of-least-resistance that could be learned only through practice. It’s how my co-workers made everything look easy… while I struggled and sputtered, exhausted.

Hours flew by…

… until our “lunch” break came at 7PM.

I took maximum advantage of the hour, first stumbling to the oasis of my car to do an Inner Smile meditation. Then I wolfed down the meal I brought in.

Just before the break ended, I chugged some more coffee, and limped back to my station…

… to gain a new appreciation for the myth of Sisyphus. Except, instead of rolling a boulder up a hill, I was folding endless carts of mats.

As the minutes crawled by, nighttime descended on the warehouse, which only grew louder and more chaotic. And I discovered I was only halfway through the shift’s mats.

“No way… that can’t be true…”

They brought in another worker to speed things up. Together, we paced in an odd circle, each of us grabbing, folding, and tossing a mat before doubling back to do it again.

My exhaustion seeped deeper and deeper, until I was floating in a stupor.

Finally, it ended. Except then we had to sweep things up, close down the doors, and grab our stuff as fast as we could before Ted locked the place down.

My hands trembled from the shock

Ted said I exceeded his expectations for the first day. A shallow wave of relief washed over me when I took the news in. Because mixed in my mental and physical exhaustion, was the pulsating fear that I would fail. And get fired.

So I felt a little safer, at least for the time being…

I didn’t realize it as I drove home, but a certain hormone was going haywire in my body, driving me towards partial insanity. And the suffering would linger for the next few months…

Stop Whining About Money

Published May 22, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

Several entries ago, I wrote about how one of the proudest achievements of my life originated from the money my friend loaned me for business. Now I’ll reveal why.

It wasn’t the advertising campaign succeeding – it failed.

It wasn’t either of us making a ton of fast money – we didn’t.

Instead, it was how I paid my friend back.

Every month, without fail, I wrote and mailed him a check for $500. Somehow I made it work, even when I was earning $12 an hour, paying for rent and food and car repair… and then eventually state taxes owed on top of that.

Then the gold-buying business went bankrupt.

Few people living a middle or upper-class lifestyle in the United States understand how vital it is for those near the poverty line to get their hands on consistent “right now” money. A mere missed week of income can mean the difference between paid bills and a roof over your head… or penalties, a repossessed car, or worse.

Imagine being cut off from oxygen… for a “mere” five minutes

 (Which is why savvy employers offer daily pay for low-wage jobs.)

In 3 days, I landed a new job. But it didn’t officially start for another week, and that gap punched a near-deathblow to my finances.

I called my landlord, explained the situation, and asked for a few more days to send my rent check. He allowed it.

Then I wrote another $500 check to my friend, and sent. Paying back my business loan would absolutely not be delayed.

That was, I as much as I can remember, the second-to-last check.

Eventually, I paid off the entire loan. Not a single payment was even a day late.

No drama. No whining…

No twisting his arm because he was a friend. No avoiding the issue. And no making excuses because I was near-broke.

When it was complete, I knew I had planted a multi-million-dollar seed, in a way no other action could have done.

After all, anyone can talk shit about money. It seems most people do. How they want to make more, how they try to save, and why they should definitely, totally, really really should have some. I PROVED when the chips are down, you can count on me. How rare is that? What repercussions would it create?

These are just off the top of my head:

  1. My friend will always remember that I paid him back on time, so he’ll see me as a safe investment in the future. This has a number of benefits because I predict my friend (who is already a successful, connected businessman) will continue to grow and prosper. Plus, any loan I ask for in the future will have a higher likelihood of being granted, and I’ll be able to ask for much better terms.
  2. I’ve trained my “money muscle” to be much stronger when it comes to savings, asset allocation, awareness, and discernment. Simply by going through the struggle of repaying a business loan, I’ve developed an unconscious proficiency related to wealth, that people who read and ponder about abundance can only dream and hope for.
  3. I have a success story I can refer to, when negotiating with others.
  4. I have a success story I can refer to, when instilling confidence within myself.
  5. I have a neat story to write about, that could inspire others to financial stability and abundance, possibly when nothing else could strike a chord within them in just the right way.

Not a bad return on investment, just from doing the right thing.

If more people understood and practiced this, there’d be many more rich people out there

 

Note: I’m compelled to answer the question permeating the energetic airwaves: What would I have done if I truly couldn’t pay back the loan on time? Like if the new gig had fallen through and I was unemployed for 30, 60, 90 days or more?

Again, off the top of my head, I would first determine that I truly couldn’t pay him on time. Then I would immediately contact my friend to explain the situation. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy would not be an option as I’d done so only a couple years prior. Filing a Chapter 13… eh, maybe, but I’d rather negotiate in private.

I’d ask to change the terms. Longer payout in exchange for more interest. And even if my friend turned into a cold-blooded animal, the profit derived from him squeezing me wouldn’t be worth the financial expense and mental effort. So I’m sure he and I could have reached a fair agreement.

Another note: If I had used the above process with all my creditors back in the day, including the IRS, I might have been able to avoid my bankruptcy and even ended up in a much better financial position – let alone the better credit history. Live and learn. Or, perhaps in the case of some folks reading this, read and learn so you don’t have to live and learn.

Weirdest Job Interview I’ve Had – Origin Story Part 26

Published May 19, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“I’m only going to show you this once,” said Ted.

Salvador and I stood at attention amid the warehouse’s chaos. Around us, workers unloaded trucks… dragged rows of clothes along rails… and giant bags zipped overhead. I barely took any of the action in, as I focused on the task ahead.

Ted grabbed a couple floor mats from a giant cart, folded them in a certain way, slid them around a tabletop just so, setting off a scanner. Like checking out a supermarket item. Then he tossed them into their respectful places on a rack.

“Alright, who wants to go next?” he challenged

For the next five minutes each, we were to fold mats just like he did.

Salvador instantly raised his hand and strode forward.

“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll probably get more points for accuracy, than for going first.”

I had a chance to watch his mistakes. He only made a couple.

Then I did some folding, scanning, and plopping into the cart. All good.

“What you just did, is the most physically challenging part of the job,” Ted said.

Huh. It didn’t seem too rough.

I wondered if looks were deceiving… especially considering how long the job’s shifts were…

Ted lead us both back to a meeting room, sat us down, and said he’d like to make both of us a job offer. We accepted.

In the parking lot, Salvador and I shook hands, congratulating each other, and parted ways. I was excited to work with the guy. But the day wasn’t over. I drove to a local clinic for a physical and drug test. Then, after drinking a celebratory coffee, and while driving home… I got a call from the recruiter who first asked me to cut my hair!

She congratulated me, and let me know her hopes that I’d eventually be promoted to a driver for the company, and make the big bucks. Later on, I checked my voicemail and discovered a call from a lawn-mowing company I applied to. Heh, I’d have to call them back and deliver the bad news.

The ground beneath my feet felt plenty more secure, and the gnawing fear in my gut had evaporated…

… because I was completely ignorant of what I’d just signed up for

But I’d discover in time…

A few days later, I went to a bar with a few co-workers, the owner and his girlfriend included, for a final hurrah before we went our separate ways.

Who knows if I’ll ever run into him again, but the last time I ever saw the owner was at 3AM, at Shotgun Willies, watching him make it rain for the strippers there.

I had a few more days to relax, before the physical assault on my body and mind began…