It’s a swell feeling when you realize that you’re accomplishing some of your life’s aspirations just by going about your day to day business. Alright, I’ll admit I’ve been over-lavish with aspirations at times. I doubt I’ll ever get to be a pirate, or even a trucker. I probably won’t ever get around to moving the state of Oregon to France so that I can host hippies in my chateau. I’d rather not turn into the recluse misanthrope that I’d have to become in order to write all the books I’ve aspired to author. Who reads Feed Store Memoirs anyway. Nevertheless, as I’ve said, some of my multifarious aspirations have been and are being actualized.
The particular goal I’m referring to is an odd one, moving Oregon to France is elementary in comparison. You see, there was a point when I resolved to someday get a job in some large, dark, dank warehouse. I suppose this idea was the child of one too many Wonderings in combination with a little Insatiable Curiosity. I’d read in books how just about everything that we consume is the product of some prodigious productive process involving assembly lines and fellows with moustaches in hard hats. But I couldn’t help wondering what really went on behind the educational picture books. Behind the neatly ordered aisles of mass-productivity at the grocery store. Behind the moustaches. The only way to figure out the truth* was obviously to become my own inside man and just hunker down and get a job at one of those massive warehouses where everything that’s anything ever happens. It was the only way. Answers would be had, moustaches or no. And then I would write a book about the whole experience to check off yet another aspiration. All in a day’s work.
A day’s work.
Let me tell you a little about my Summer job. I ride my bike 2.5 miles down the road to a warehouse the size of a small country. A country in which busy people in work out clothes and steel toed boots drive around on contraptions of all shapes and sizes and accomplish things. We build huge pallets of groceries for Aldi stores, so you could call it the store for the stores. It’s a push and a rush. We have to construct those pallet puzzles at a certain pace (270 cases per hour) or we’re out of a job. Our days are spent lifting, sweating, building, and talking into a headset that don’t take no nonsense. People use terms like “maximizing” and “efficiency” and “rate” and “picks” and a lot of other choice words unfit for the ears of women or children. I’m convinced that it’s just about the most unromantic place on earth, which makes life interesting if you’re a die hard romantic.
It’s downright tantalizing most days. I can’t help but think about the Rime of the Ancient Mariner as I toss a 30lb box of bananas on top of hundreds of cans of soup: bananas bananas everywhere, nor any bite to eat. But despite the struggle and strain and toil and sweat and blood (cardboard cuts are 17 times worse than paper cuts), there’s something noble about what goes on in that little country. Everyone who works there does so not because manual labor is fun or entertaining, but because they have to. Because there’s a good paycheck somewhere at the other end and they need it to get by. To just live life. Some days it takes a four course breakfast and a couple tylenol washed down by an entire pot of coffee just to get back to work after the previous long day. So you can see why I deeply respect all of my mighty coworkers despite the fact that none of them actually have moustaches.
Yes, it’s very unromantic. Yes, it’s hard, hard work. But certain golden little moments make it worth a little more than a paycheck every two weeks. Like the time the machine I was driving got stuck slipping around in peanut butter left on the ground from an earlier spilled pallet. Or the time I splashed through a huge puddle of pickle juice (from a fallen case of of pickles) as I liberally unleashed 5 paper towel rolls into it. There’s the delightfully earthy smell in the produce aisle that comes from sack upon sack of potatoes freshly plucked from the ground. Then there’s the fact that I’m doing something every day that I’d aspired to and Wondered about for a rather long time in one way or another. And life is very good.
*I realize that most of these sort of wonderings could’ve probably been easily appeased by watching channel eleventywhatever daytime television, but I grew up without a television. So that’s that.