Finally…I’m Out…Almost…

I got an unexpected gift in the mail this week…another check for $600 from Federal Express as part of their Contractor class action settlement…I guess there were some in the class who never claimed their portion of the money?…

After I signed the check and handed it over to my wife to deposit electronically, two things came to mind…the first you probably already guessed…why the hell did I waste my time signing something that just got deposited electronically?…and that this check officially ended any business relationship with Fred Smith and his management team of  hired thugs, backstabbing thieves, and overpaid lawyers…I only say overpaid because even the lawyers couldn’t defend that ridiculous contractor model FedEx they had…and still have by the way, they just call it something different now…but who knows?…maybe I’m wrong and FedEx was elated to be paying hundreds of millions of dollars to We the Uneducated Rabble who chose to Rebel against their authoritarian rules…yeah, right!…because that’s what soulless dictators enjoy the most…a little rebellion…

Anyway, I took this opportunity to do something else I’ve held off from doing…getting rid of all that FedEx clothing I had to purchase through the years…the shorts and long pants I bagged and sent off to the nearest clothing collection bin…the shirts, which I obviously couldn’t give away or give back…although, I really would have enjoyed sending them back to Fred down there in Memphis, or to his minions in Pittsburgh…but no, these I took delight in ripping them in half making them of no use to anyone…and for me this really signaled that I’m out, for real, that part of my life is now in the past…almost…let me clarify…my days of driving a truck…of working 10+ hour days with no overtime…working 6 days a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with no overtime…working with no paid time off of any kind…ARE OVER!

I still have a connection to FredEx…a business arrangement with my former employer who is a FedEx contractor…and it still has a couple of years to go…but as of now…and I can’t say this negatively enough… “Fred Smith, you can kiss my Irish @$$, I’m through with you! I’m a grocer now. Never will I ever write about you and your independent contractor sham of a business model.”…on these pages…for the most part…(however I do reserve the right to re-post my holiday classic FedEx mutants post…)

And to my former employer…don’t sweat it…I didn’t cut up your shirts with your company logo…I’m saving them for you…you know, the ones without all of the salt stains from my sweat…

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Worst Christmas Card Ever…

Most of the time I try to add humor to my posts, but this won’t be one of them…I found out this week when I received a Christmas card in the mail, that a friend who I grew up with had been tragically killed when he was run over by a police car…as hard as that card was to receive, I can’t imagine how difficult it was for his wife to send…

For close to 30 years, Tom was the person who knew me better than anyone…at least until my wife came along anyway…my wife…who Tom introduced me to one hot day on the beach in Cape May, NJ…

…of course, as friends will do, Tom and his girlfriend…his future wife and now sadly his widow…also then took us (me) for a round of drinks that day at one of the beachside bars after a round of couples miniature golf they shamed us in…if I didn’t know any better, I would have said THAT was Tom’s true motivation for introducing me to my future wife…she was really bad at miniature golf…

Tom and I were part of a group of 8 friends who, starting in high school and into our 30’s did everything together…there were always other people who passed through our little Communal group from time to time, but once the nolvety of them wore off…well, you get it…mostly what we did together though, was drink…we also played a lot of bad golf together…it was Tom who took me golfing for the first time…he taught me a couple of lessons that day…Tom bounced a tee shot off my rear end as I was reaching into the cart to get a ball, then walked over, picked up his ball claiming a mulligan (a free do-over in golf)…still hear him laughing…he also taught me what a $2 Nassau in golf is…and how expensive it can be to lose every side of one…

As a friend, Tom was also supportive…when my mother passed away too soon, he (and my other friends) all came to the viewing, but it was Tom who took off work the following day to come to the burial and spend the next day with my family as well…some years later, after my wife and I had moved to PA, my father passed away…even though we had lost contact for some time…when my father was buried, it was Tom who came to pay his respects to my family…

Tom and I took a couple of vacations together…a week skiing in Killington, VT…a week where we each skied our first expert hills, ready or not…none of the other guys enjoyed skiing as much as we did…we also went golfing down in South Carolina…Tom’s father and mother once took Tom, his wife and newborn son, and my wife and I with them to Montego Bay for a vacation one cold winter…I remember Tom and I took a walk one afternoon off of the estate and surprisingly ended up in a beach bar where we spent several hours just talking and catching up on things…drinking too…but not like the old days…and watching some sort of photo shoot with women who were wearing varying styles of swimsuits…what can I say, we were still young…I remember walking home that day and we decided that we each had to get a coconut to take back with us…we also learned that it’s a lot harder than it sounds…especially after you’ve spent the last couple hours drinking Red Stripes…no matter how hard we tried to just shake them from the tree?… they weren’t coming down…not until we found a couple of large sticks laying close by and put 2 and 2 together…I remember a group of local girls walking by and laughing at our ridiculous efforts…at least we got one coconut any way… 

I was the Best Man at Tom and his wife’s wedding…and him at mine…we went to Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers games…I remember his father had gotten tickets for us to Game 5 of the 1983 World Series…even though we knew the Phillies were going to lose the series, I was still excited about going to the game…Tom felt the tickets would be more valuable if we scalped them for whatever we could get…the Phils lost 5-0 that day, ending the series…Tom was right…

…neither Tom nor I went to college, we were blue collar workers right out of high school…he worked for his uncle installing gas mains and services and I worked for the township where we lived…at least I did until I got a DUI one night on my way home with Tom after celebrating his birthday…sadly, my mother passed away the following year, on Tom’s birthday…I never celebrated another birthday with him again…and he never asked me to…

Tom and I saw less and less of each other after my wife and I moved to Pennsylvania…something I’ll forever regret…this week has brought back a lot of memories…some good…some not as much…I could write a book about growing up with Tom and our group of friends…I’m sure if I had taken more time I could have come up with a better tribute to my long-time friend…one thing Tom’s passing has taught me is I need to be a better friend…somehow I’ve forgotten what that means and how to do that…

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The Final Ride of Johnny and His Immortal Short Pants…

As a deliverer of supposedly small packages…(150 lbs or less and size don’t matter)…last Friday I took what I pray is a final lap around the town which I both live and deliver in…cheerily delivering packages that my fellow friends(?) and Neighbors  lacked the ambition to go to the store and pick-up themselves…after 16 plus years I’m finally moving on…you win e-commerce, I can’t take it anymore…

Depending where you live, you’ve probably noticed a UPS or a FedEx courier running around in his (or her) shorts well into winter…for me, the goal was always at least Christmas, it seemed like the most logical day since I always tried to take the week between Christmas and New Years Day off…and for some childish reason I felt I always needed to be the last man standing, the last guy in the terminal to wear shorts everyday…like it was some badge of honor that anyone other than me actually gave two craps about…so thanks to global warming…what else could allow a grown-ass man in southeast Pennsylvania to run around in short pants until Christmas?…upon me was bestowed the name Johnny Shortpants…

Yeah, it’s not anything to be real proud of, but at my age, it’s all I had…so I took it…and as I sit and write this, I ask myself, how ridiculous must I have looked on those cold winter mornings wearing just shorts and 5-6 layers of clothing and a winter coat to keep my upper body warm?…like some kind of blue Stay Puft Marshmellow Man…

So I move on to the next job in my life…in the grocery industry…indoors…wondering how I ever got the job and praying Amazon doesn’t screw that up for me too…knowing for what it’s worth I did the best I could in the last one…knowing after a week or two, probably sooner, nobody will care that I’m no longer there…knowing my friend and former boss who couldn’t see it in his heart to bring in a cake, EA164E10-C2FD-4190-A954-F50535481935or a box of donuts on my last day, not even a simple Hallmark card signed by my co-workers…guess he didn’t know they have stores with aisles filled with cards for just this kind of thing?…he will now be able to make more money off my departure…maybe not at first, but eventually…good for you boss, you deserve it…

Thanksgiving Leads to Chaos…

One fool’s endless journey into the infernal regions of his own Christmas hell.

Chaos can lead to hate…An all-encompassing hate that drags me kicking and screaming all the way into Christmas. I know this all sounds a bit harsh and overly dramatic, and while I can’t speak for the thousands of us who deliver Christmas one package at a time, it’s true beyond anything you can write about in that cute, little Christmas poem you’re creating for your blog. And unless the Russians or some other cyber terrorists create a long-term solution to shutting down the Internet today,(about a month should do it comrades), this upcoming Cyber Monday will send the chaos into overdrive. And the hatred of Christmas that fuels the darker side of me will be in full bloom like poison ivy on a Boy Scout.

Chaos isn’t the only culprit in my trip to the darker side…frustration, anger, and disgust have their own roles as well. Rarely a morning in December goes by without at least part of that three-headed monster rearing its ugly head; frustration over a situation out of my control; anger at consumerism gone wild; disgust at retailers who have poisoned our world with Black Friday sales that now begin on Brown Thursday?; remember when it was just called Thanksgiving Thursday? And days that now grow dark at 5 P.M. making an already difficult task harder with the absence of daylight. You want even more chaos? Try adding some snow or ice to the roadways, I can promise frustration, anger, and disgust will be fighting it out to see who rides shotgun with me into my personal Dante’s 10th ring of Hell.

There is no doubt in my mind that retailers (and their associated e-commerce websites) combined with the pungent smell of their corporate profitability are responsible for a great deal of the ruination of the Christmas meaning. How many families can say they now spend the time after Thanksgiving eating desert, plowing through store circulars and clipping coupons for in-store only prices? All in the name of cross-referencing and updating their Excel spread sheet with the best door-buster price of the movie Deadpool at Wal-Mart, Kohls, Target or Toys ‘R’ Us. Retailers have trained us well. I suppose we should be happy the retailers let us have most of Thanksgiving dinner to ourselves; starting at 6 PM on Thanksgiving through the month of December, they own our asses.

So as we rush headlong,  financially out of control into Christmas and retail’s upcoming blitzkreig of endless multi-media advertisement and wallet-busting sales, keep one thing in mind; Hell’s coming. I’m coming. And your Christmas presents are coming with me!
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Santa And the e-Commerce Mutants

A Christmas story of endurance, exhaustion, dedication, and the hope that just maybe somebody will appreciate these over-worked mutants enough to share a plate of holiday cookies.

We were never seen as superheroes like Iron Man or Thor or Captain America even. And we weren’t anti-heroes like Magneto and Wolverine, at least not until November and December. Most of the year the public tolerated our existence, a necessary evil in a consumer driven society. But in those final months of the year, when a certain sled driving, long white beard growing, red suit and hat wearing, overweight, elderly gentleman relished us more than the children of the country would ever know, we became the most tracked people on the Internet, even more than the jolly fat man himself. And possibly the most vilified mutants the world would ever know if we failed in our endeavors.

The jolly fat man asks us to do unspeakable things to compensate for his inadequecies, to work longer hours and more days than even that band of miniature, miserable little toy makers he keeps hidden away up north. We are his e-commerce face, his face to the Internet shopping public, his face to people who couldn’t wait until December 24th for their gifts. The face the shopping public would hate the rest of the year if little Jimmy didn’t get the latest, hottest toy available on-line and delivered on-time. We often grew sick and tired of Santa and his persona, his tricked-out sleigh (compensating for something he is), those vile beasts he calls reindeer (actually caribou), and it showed in our public faces, in our contempt for the mutant beings that him and these 2 months would turn us into. There’s a reason why Santa’s always smiling and it’s because we deflected any of the potential criticism about his so-called world class distribution system. 

Did you ever wonder how white beard does it? How he could fit all that stuff into one tiny sleigh? How he could get a pack of flying reindeer (caribou) to circle the world in one night? What happens when there’s no fireplace? Tim Allen aside, I don’t know about the fireplace trick, but the answer to the first three questions is…he doesn’t. He has lots of help from the mutants who cover large land areas such as the continental United States. Sure, he takes a lot of the small boxes and bags and poses for the publicity photos, but the backbone of his Yuletide network begins with those elves and their old-fashioned little toys, ( why he feels compelled to keep them around is a mystery; how many kids really want a little wooden train or airplane?), and ends on the backs of us, his merry-making mutants. Oh, and Amazon. And of course, loving moms and dads everywhere who relish the idea of him to kids not quite ready to do the math on the possibility of his existence.

I’ll bet you’re asking, what could send a mutant into a rage that would scare even Wolverine or Deadpool? It’s not just one thing, it’s everything. An unappreciative pot-bellied boss who gets all the credit, which yes I’ll admit, that’s a pretty common thing; a buying public (say this next part with all the disdain you can muster) who starts buying in early November and doesn’t stop until the last of the after-Christmas sales; drivers who lack the skills to drive in the snow, yet jump in the car at the first sign of snow; homeowners who insist on decorating every inch of their home, especially the house number and mailbox; daylight savings time and the ensuing lack of daylight; those high-beam lights people shine on their front doors to show off a Christmas wreath and are absolutely blinding if you look at them; all the hard to see electric cords and tie downs used to inflate and hold in place those cheesy Christmas yard decorations  that can easily take a mutant down to the ground; and the most asked questions of the season,”What’s this?”, “Who’s it for?”, “Where’s it coming from?”, “Will you hide it in the garage under that green moldy tarp for me?“, and “Can you come back later, I don’t want my kids to see you, or see you bringing it up to the house?”. 

And then there’s the worse insult a mutant endures. The fire truck Santa Clause. For weeks we freaks work tirelessly delivering Santa’s e-commerce packages, and on the Saturday before Christmas these wannabe Santas show up, driving their trucks down neighborhood streets, working their sirens, and tossing those awful candy canes to any kid who comes running. And they do come running, often ignoring the mutant walking up the driveway with a box containing something they really want. It makes a mutant want to climb up on that fire truck and rip that phony…

…thank the pretend Santa for his courage and service…he is a volunteer fireman after all. And when one of his also-phony elves, who by the way is not wearing the requisite green jacket, red stockings, brown shoes, and hat with a feather in it worn by the union boys up north, offers me a candy cane while blowing cigarette smoke in my face, this mutant has had enough,”No, I don’t want one of your candy canes, what I want you to do is move your truck to the side so I can continue with my 14 hour day!”

So this year, as you’re busy spreading your holiday cheer; please give Santa’s e-commerce mutants a happy thought; because we deliver the Christmas you so relish, and all that stuff you bought.

HO-HO-HO! It’s not just his laugh…it’s item number two on Santa’s after Christmas list of things to do.

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Take Down Those Lights and Put That Tree Away!

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

It happens every year and the older I get the worse it gets. It could be a neighbor, maybe a Target or a Kohl’s, or even a grocery store. The Christmas season envelope gets pushed further and advertised earlier than it ever has in the past. Raise your hand if you’ve already seen a TV commercial or department store display aimed at potential Christmas shoppers. Enough already, I haven’t even given out my first fortune cookie for Halloween yet. It is amazing how many of these you can save up after a year of eating take-out Chinese food. If you were a kid which would you choose, the cookie that could explain your future or some nasty old pennies wrapped in Saran Wrap and tied with orange ribbon? The cookie I’ll bet.

The point, which I’ve obviously lost track of, is I’m a kid from the 1960’s and for me, October through December was defined by the celebration of three events, Halloween and the preceding night, Mischief Night,  Thanksgiving and all of the creative ways to cook left-over turkey, and Christmas with all of its toys and the birth of our Savior. I would be a liar if I told you as a kid the birth of Jesus ranked ahead of getting a year’s worth of new toys. Anyway, with each of these three important events, there were TV specials that defined that holiday and triggered a series of events culminating in Christmas and the just as important, Winter Break in the Evesham Township School District. And the birth of our Savior.

Charlie Brown and the other apparently parent-less Peanuts kids had no competition when it came to shows celebrating the joy of Halloween or the feast that was Thanksgiving and the importance of having enough bread to make all of that toast. Or for wandering the neighborhood at all times of the night. A Charlie Brown Christmas had much more competition, but even at my advanced age remains my favorite, sorry Grinch, mostly because we both have Beagles. Maybe if Max were a beagle I would feel differently.

My point is, each of these holidays owned a portion of the calendar, not to be infringed upon by either of the other two. You didn’t make out your Christmas list or mail your Christmas cards at Halloween, you didn’t wear your Halloween costume at the Thanksgiving dinner table (unless you were an Indian or a pilgrim for Halloween, then you could probably pull it off), and your parents didn’t start decorating the house for Christmas until at least after the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing were disposed of during the long 4-day weekend. In my parents house, the end of the Thanksgiving holiday signaled my father to send a kid up in the attic to retrieve the outdoor Christmas lights and to go into the garage and retrieve the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood he used to begin the month long construction of the train platform my family enjoyed every year.

If you’re still wondering the reasons for this semi-incoherent rant; it would be the neighbor who this week I saw has already put out Christmas lights. No, they’re not Halloween lights, these are the red, blue, and green lights of Christmas, not the orange lights one would expect in October.

And the small package Halloween costumes I used to deliver have been replaced by giant artificial Christmas trees. Already. In October. Before Thanksgiving even.

And the oversized Amazon boxes containing the biggest toy a parent can buy. No, not big as in popular, big as in the bigger the toy, the more a parent must really love their child. Whatever happened to love comes in smaller boxes? And nothing says love like a nice 6-pack of tube socks or underwear.

And the endless arguments about stores opening or not on Thanksgiving Day. How about retailers (and FedEx and UPS) give employees Black Friday off as well. Consumers will still spend their hard earned money 24 hours later. You can call it Cafe Noir Saturday which is the color of brewed coffee, but still a shade of black. Think of the impact to the coffee industry from  consumers saying Cafe Noir Saturday instead of just Black Friday.

I’m not trying to dictate how people should enjoy their holidays because not enough people will even read this to make a difference. People should do as they please no matter how over the top it appears. And if you’re the only one in you’re neighborhood who already has their Christmas lights up, I would be willing to bet you’re neighbors are saying the same thing, just behind your back.

It’s not Halloween yet and I’m already pushing burnout from the overselling of Christmas. 

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Giant