I hate Bike Builder Skip. He hates me, or maybe he hates everybody, but I hate that this place hasn’t gotten to him. Somehow he’s worked here for years and it just hasn’t broken him. He needs the money too bad to quit but they can’t get anybody else to do as much in a shift as he can so they don’t fire him. His six foot by eight foot bay is packed, he has to climb in under diaper storage or over the ten foot high pile of unassembled bikes to get at the mishmash toolbox and broken display model stereo he had cribbed out of claims. He loves this time of year because I can’t fuck with him, he smiles widely at me and scrabbles over the pile with an energy drink in his hand to go play some kind of race anthem speedmetal and turn out some bikes.
It’s two weeks until Thanksgiving. Every rack and bin is stuffed. The steel, enormous warehouse racks, are jammed with with poorly stacked pallets of cheap chinese shit. And one of the most space consuming and time consuming to make ready for sale items in the store is bikes. This is crunch time. I’m trying to pull down a load of diapers that has half fallen off its pallet fourteen feet up in the air with the electric lifter. It’s a huge pain in the ass and maaaybe a safety violation to take the lifter across the floor to main receiving so we try to only do it once a night, so I am in a rush to get everything on the floor so I can go finish unloading the fifth and sixth truck and pull the pallets from the steel on that side too. I’m gonna have to climb up this stupid thing and get the boxes back on the pallet.
I set the forks on the top steel and begin climbing up the cage. You’re not supposed to do this but there is usually just no other way. There’s two or three leaners up here I might try to tape while I’m up here. I wedge myself between the diapers and a drop display of shampoo and legpress the diapers back onto the pallet so I can get them down. Now I just need to get behind that leaning tower of dogfood and maybe I can…
“Aaron we have a safety situation here.”
Shit. I look down to see the guy who stocks shoes is looking more morose than usual over two huge cardboard boxes that skip has ejected from his area overhand, pointing at two corners which fall over the tape line on the floor. Christ on the cross Dale it is two weeks to blitz and you’re fucking whining about two boxes at ten pm.
“Give me a minute Dale, I’ll be down and I will fix that.”
Skip is building bikes at a frantic pace and using that as an excuse to leave an enormous mound of cardboard boxes on the floor in front of shoes storage racks. This, sad and small as it sounds, is a political event, as I am technically in charge of safety in this area, according to the “warehouse manager” sticker on my badge, and the occasionally blooping walkie talkie hanging from my ass. Shoes is a shit department but for reasons nobody can explain to me they have clout. And they have the line, the yellow and black asphalt tape that home office installed as the “designated footpath”. You can’t have cardboard on the footpath, that’s a safety violation. Which you report to your nearest manager. And in the warehouse, you report it to your nearest warehouse manager. And despite the fact that he can be a pain in my ass Dale is a sweet old man that nobody really hates. Except Skip. Skip hates that shoes has clout. He may not understand that but it is true. Skips department, a department of one, butts up against shoes storage, and since shoes storage area had unique bins, and since there was no other place for bikes to build, they gotta beef. And when they beef I get to clean it up.
I climb down and set the boxes up on end. Dale looks unsatisfied, so I yell over the pile of bikes to put all empties on a pallet. Skip does not respond, except to turn up the speed metal he is playing on his cobbled together sound system, but that is all the time I have to soothe Dale’s ego today. I shrug at him and pull nine hundred pounds of canned cat food down and set it next to the diapers.
“Macaroni, do you need help with that cardboard?”
He snuck up on me from the grocery side door. What the fuck was he doing over there.
“Yeah, Thomas can you go bale those guys.”
He’s high as hell. I can just tell with Thomas now. Smoked some meth out in the parking lot. Probably chugged one of those beers he stashes out there too. I sorta want to go grab one of mine but I have too much to do.
“Macaroni may I have one of those pieces of gum.”
Thomas is very chivalrous when he’s tweaking, at least to me. I fish in my apron for the gum and hand it to him, after reflexively checking my cigarettes and lighter were still in my pocket.
He jams the gum into his mouth and squeezes past me and the lifter, throws the wrapper into the trash can in a chubbily graceful jumpshot, grabs a double armload of bike boxes and bounces toward the shoe department doors.
“Where are you working tonight, Thomas Tudbury?”
“Assistant Manager Joel (always full titles when he’s tweaked) speaks perfect Spanish, Macaroni. I heard him talking to an old mexican woman out front.”
“Oh yeah what did he say?”
“I don’t know I don’t speak that shit.”
And he’s gone. Skip throws another bike box over and it hits Dale on the foot. Dale gives me a look and heads for the breakroom. The walkie squawks.
“Anybody seen Thomas, I need him to bust out Housewares for me tonight.”
“Headed toward main receiving with a load of cardboard for me.”
“Speaking of main receiving where is that lifter Walker are you making a career out of that back room? We got a full truck over here.”
“Six more things to get out of the steel then I’m on my way.”
“Unload the truck first.”
Shit. Shit shit. I stuff the lifter under the steel between the racks and jog over to main receiving. Robert hands me the invoices, he’s sweaty, they’ve been working since four. Despite what Assistant Manager Doug says we have three full trucks, the, fifth, sixth, and seventh of the night. Each one is a semirandom jumble of crap. It’s not even christmas crap anymore, we have to be ready, the NIGHT after Black Friday, to go in and reset half the store to New Years/Storage Totes (always binge purchases then BIN purchases heh heh oh no I have jokes about this place I’ve been here too long).
“Nah you go man, you need a break.”
“Fuck it yeah OK.” Robert walks off. He’s too old to be doing this kind of work, it’s still a hundred degrees in the back of this truck. All you can smell is human effort. Mario the stud is throwing. Conan is outside throwing up. He does it for attention. Roberto sees me coming.
“Pelon.” (bald guy)
“You want me to throw or stack.”
“We need somebody on 7-8, diapers, man we got so many diapers.”
God damn it I just pulled down diapers. Well, everything I pulled down was Huggies this is all house brand, it’ll be fine (oh god I know the inventory I’ve been here too long too long). Stacking sucks. You use a lot of tape and stretch wrap and you swear a lot. You put a lot of unsafe stacks of shit on pallets and pull them out to the floor at unsafe speeds. You knock a lot of endcaps down. It’s pretty fun. Stacking diapers sucks a LOT because every size has a different sized shipping box so they never stack well. It’s annoying and repetitive. This is why Conan is outside throwing up, so he can avoid stacking diapers. Jesus christ.
Half a truck of diapers. What in the hell was going on with that order. Mexican Maria and Indian Debbie are both back telling me to stop sending out diapers because they don’t even have room to work in their department.
Joel flips me off and tells me to suck his dick in his deaf pantomime way. Then he laughs and pretends to be Indian Debbie bitching me out, and gestures at the diapers. I make a circular hand gesture and point to layaway. He gives me a thumbs up and runs off. He’s the hardest worker at the entire store. Conan comes in and tries to explain himself to me. Despite the fact that he works for Robert, he seems to only acknowledge caucasian superiors, and I am the closest thing he can find to an authority figure. I wish he’d stop talking to me with his barfy breath. I walk into the truck and tell Mario the stud to go get a drink. I take off my shirt and start throwing in the hot dark.