As part of our series on sleep, work and dreams, Al Tucker dreams about temporary warehouse work.
I am pulling into the old parking lot. It looks like it should look. Large tumble weeds growing up from decade old cracks in the asphalt. The painted lines faded away to almost nothing in afternoon sun. I should be off by 2:30 AM, unless there is forced overtime and I have to stay until 6:30 AM. Either way I am still sleepy right now. Why did I answer the phone? Why did I agree to come in? Why did they even call me? I haven’t even worked for them in over 15 years.
Will I need to be retrained? Shouldn’t I be filling out a new W-2 before I clock in? Shit, I am going to have to see a manager and tell them I lost my employ badge before I can clock in. They will have to understand, won’t they?
There’s only a handful of cars in the lot. Strange. Why would they be calling in casuals to work if the hundreds of regulars weren’t all working? Was there some kind of strike going on? There was no picket line. The economy is dead, there is not freight moving of course there won’t be hundreds of people working at a time anymore. Why was I called in though? I really want to get some sleep.
I park my car in the first empty stall closest to the gate leading into the yard. As I get out and old timer has driven in front of me and is yelling and screaming about how parking is done by seniority and casuals need to park in the back of the lot. What the fuck? When did this happen? We aren’t even on the clock yet. Besides there are hardly any cars in the lot. Old dude is gone. I didn’t see him drive off. With a shrug I grab my lunch box and water thermos and hop out of the car. Somehow I know that the car will be missing by the time my shift is over. That’s a reoccurring theme.
James Hoffa is at the gate again. He shakes my hand and tells me we got to beat Ron Cary as I do my best to get past him as fast as possible. Fuck. Now I am struck by the thought that I never payed my dues for the last month I worked. Of course that also means I never got a withdrawal card. Am I going to have to pay initiation fees all over again? Or worse am I going to have to pay all those years in back dues!? What am I even doing here? I should go back home and go to bed. No way this is worth it, no matter how much I will be making this time around.
Walking to the wall where they post the shift assignment list to see what dock I will be working at this evening when I remember that the inbound dock was shut down while I was away. Wait, not just that, this whole facility was shut down. They moved the whole brake bulk operation to Bloomington. I am at the wrong place and am gonna be hella late by the time I drive out to the new terminal. Maybe I better check in with someone here, and try to cover my ass for the time being.
After walking for far longer than I should have the unmaintained pavement has given away to full on desert. I see a large tent link structure in the not so far off distance. There are dozens of trailers backed up to it. Hundreds of workers pushing carts full of boxes here and there. This is it. Back to work. Once I am on the dock everything is just like it was the last time I was here. I fall into the groove of unpacking trailers checking shipping manifests, checking addresses labels, counting boxes, chalking up carts. On top of needing sleep, now my body is aching. How many hours does this go on?
At long last the break alarm buzzes. Walking to the non-smoking break room a guy who was hired about the same time I was, all those years ago, catches up to me. We engage in a few minutes of ‘long time no see’ small talk. I can’t help but mention how sleepy I am. He tells me that they now have trailers set up with cots in them on the other dock, and they let workers sleep as long as they want when ever they want. He explained that management decided that it was cheaper then having the the free espresso machines.
Yeah, this has got to be a dream. I’ll be glad when I wake up. I will also be disappointed when I wake up. But for now, please excuse me while I go look for one of those cots.
Originally posted: April 12, 2012 at Recomposition