“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.