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…

Competing for a Truck-Loading Job – Origin Story Part 25

Published May 4, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

I sat in my car, watching snow whip around the nearly-empty library parking lot.

Did I screw up? Maybe the open interviews were cancelled?

I decided I could only wait and wonder… until I saw the library finally open 5 minutes before 12PM, and people showed up in droves. Suddenly, my worries turned to the competition. Better, at least, to get ahead of them.

I strode inside, and found the right place on the second floor

People swarmed about. I was directed to fill out a bunch of forms. They prodded about any traffic infractions, which I found odd.

Finally, I sat in front of the head recruiter, a middle-aged blonde woman. She took one look at me and asked, “Can you cut your hair?”

“Yeah.” While working as a sign-spinner, I had let it grow to almost shoulder-length.

“… Can you cut it now?”

“… Yeah.”

She explained that the warehouse was stuffed with machinery and moving parts. My potential employers might worry about my hair getting caught. Plus, she reasoned, they’d prefer a more clean-cut look anyway.

“You’re my guy!” she affirmed

I could sense the shift in the energy – I knew I was in. Suddenly the room full of competition took on a new light. The recruiter was looking for just a couple people who fit the bill, and that was a tougher gig than I thought, even with the mass of applicants.

Suddenly, a woman sitting nearby chimed in, giving me directions to a local barbershop.

First comes the shift, then the stars align. I was enjoying the ride…

… but I had to hustle. This was just the first step. The next would take place at the company’s warehouse. And I had to squeeze a haircut in between.

I thanked the recruiter, darted out of there, and drove to the barbershop. There, I explained I needed a crew-cut fast… and a potential job depended on it.

For the next few minutes, I watched the locks of hair I’d grown over the past couple years, fall to the floor. Then, looking slightly spiffier, I sped to the warehouse.

The lobby was packed with applicants, patiently waiting for their second interview to begin

My confidence remained full-blast. Only a couple men were in the room (I doubted any of the 100-pound women were applying for the truck-loading position, which turned out to be an accurate assumption).

The HR guy, Bob, called me into his office. I immediately felt relaxed as we conversed.

I made sure to emphasize how I broke down and cleared out offices in my previous job. Sure, it was only near the end, but it directly related to unloading trucks.

“Did you ever transport the gold?” Bob asked.

Hmmm, I thought to myself… and then remembered the day I helped take it to the post office, when the owner let me borrow his SUV for an interview.

“Yes, I did, one time,” I said.

“Okay, so they trusted you… ” he said, while scribbling on his papers.

Whoa.

The dude was sharp

I made it to the next round, and quickly learned the day in the warehouse wouldn’t be so much an interview as a crucible of physical and mental tests.

Two other guys and I were lead through the heart of the warehouse, into another office. There, we were given timed tests to figure out number sequences and match certain names together. Both tests had four-minute time limits, and finishing on-time was impossible, by design. I admired the ingenious way to judge our abilities.

Before leaving us, Bob said, “We’re going to hire two or three guys so you don’t have to kill each other.”

I plowed through both tests. Of course, taking a test is one thing. Performing under “live fire” is quite another… as I’d soon discover…

Then another man, Ted, sauntered into the office. Each one of his arms looked about the size of my legs.

He asked us a few questions. One candidate, a large Hispanic man named Salvador, answered first and I jumped in second. The other guy spoke last, and began his answer with “I won’t regurgitate… ” Heh, not a good word to use. I could sense him slipping out of the running.

We were herded back into the main lobby. Bob popped in through the doorway, and asked to speak with the third guy.

We never saw him again

But the day was just beginning. Next, Salvador and I were lead back into the warehouse – this time for the weirdest part of the “interview” I’d ever experience…

Applying For a Shitty – Literally – Job – Origin Story Part 24

Published March 26, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

Life after working at the gold-buying store begins…

As we drove away from the store for the last time, my co-worker regaled me with how she was going to scam the unemployment system. The scheme was simple:

Say you sign up to collect unemployment. You must select your former employer from a database of recently bankrupt businesses. Then, every two weeks you get paid. However, you must submit proof that you’re looking for work. This can be done with something as simple as documentation that you’ve applied for five different jobs every two weeks. (When it comes to the specific numbers, I’m going off memory here.)

The deviousness, of course, is in the details

You can apply for jobs on the Department of Labor’s database. And you choose your standards for a potential job, which means you can select criteria that you’re grossly underqualified for. My co-worker made sure she was only sent information about jobs that paid almost six figures and required a PhD. She’d apply to them all, and would never hear back from a single one (probably). But she was still fulfilling her required “work” to collect unemployment for months and months.

For all I know, that’s exactly what she did while living off savings and her husband’s income.

(If you’ve ever attempted to hire employees, and were inundated with garbage resumes and applications… this scam might have been why. You were simply a blip on the sender’s bi-weekly effort to keep the unemployment spigot on.)

Anyway, I dropped her off, returned the Uhaul…

… settled back into my Aurora condo, and crawled under the covers for early sleep

The next morning, I awoke feeling like I was still in a dream.

The light shining through my tiny condo seemed stale and still.

Since becoming a sign-spinner, I’d changed cities… met dozens of new people… formed relationships… felt my heart open… blasted through challenges… heck even went through a bankruptcy… and through it all I had one common, comforting string:

The sign-spinning.

And now that was gone.

It felt like my tether rope had just snapped

I had managed to grab a few mementos. One of the business’s posters. A sign I spun. A t-shirt. And a pair of shoes gifted to me by a fellow sign-spinner. In the next three months, I’d punish them to shreds.

But for the time being, I rummaged through Craigslist, continuing my job search.

On Monday, I drove to what I thought was a simple unloading job on a dock… but would turn out to be probably the grossest job for which I’ll ever apply.

At the address, I found a little office nestled in between massive industrial equipment – like a refinery.

Inside, a secretary and little dog greeted me with an equal level of enthusiasm. He (the dog) sort of sniffed my hand a bit when I placed it near enough to give him the option.

“I guess he kinda likes me,” I said.

“Yeah, he’s not too enthusiastic.”

I was directed to a room with some forms to fill out. Another man there, was already halfway through them. We talked about marriage. He highly recommended it.

Then I went in for my interview

The patches of frostbitten skin covering my interviewer’s face revealed his decades of outdoor labor.

“Are you scared of heights?” he asked.

“… A little.”

I wasn’t going to lie. But, I suppose a more truthful answer would have been heights terrify me. This wasn’t going well.

“Are you scared of confined spaces?”

“No.”

“Now that’s a surprising answer. There are two kinds of people who can’t handle small spaces. Guys like me…” (he was a big guy) “… and guys like you.” He was referring to my height.

I pondered that a bit… and wondered if maybe I could get claustrophobic, if given the opportunity. But I wasn’t about to pontificate my speculative doubts out loud. Especially when a job was on the line, and I already had one strike against me.

At least he didn’t ask me about back taxes owed

Instead, he began describing exactly what the company did, and what my role would be. When I first saw the brief Craigslist ad, I had visions of unloading boxes of produce or something.

The truth was closer to this:

I’d don a protective Hazmat suit complete with oxygen tank, crawl inside a tanker full of human shit, and scrap the inner walls clean of shit residue

Maybe I had some details wrong, but that sounded like the essence.

The family-owned company contracted with other companies that used portable toilets. These guys would drive their trucks in, suck all the collected shit and urine out, and transport it back to their refining facility. They’d drain their trucks of the shit, and then a couple guys (in the position for which I was applying) would mop up the remainder from inside.

“It’s hard… dirty… smelly work,” he said.

Okay, maybe he hadn’t mentioned smelly.

Truth be told, I hardly recoiled at the nastiness of the work. Instead, I worried about how physically tough it’d be. Sign-spinning’s ease and simplicity was such a blessing. I feared my multi-year respite was over.

More than fear. I was terrified.

My interviewer grabbed a stack of filled-out forms from other applicants. “This is my week ahead.”

Oy.

So even getting this shitty (literally) job was a long-shot

Still, I knew the raw odds were an illusion – displaying a modicum of common sense and congeniality in an interview can be quite the leg-up.

As I drove home, I felt it went perfectly. Not because I knew I’d get the job… simply because I was meant to show up and do my thing, whatever the outcome.

Open interviews for the laundry company truck-loading job, were the next day.

It would be the strangest, multi-hour-long interview process I’d ever experienced…