This piece originally appeared in Side by Side Magazine.
I quit my job this week. This is why:
I wake up at four, angry, dark as the sky. I lay in bed a few seconds, then throw my upper half up. I change the music on my laptop and start working out. Around 4:20 I alternate between making lunch and working out. I’m making spaghetti. At 4:55 I take a shower. I start wrapping up the odds and ends of my morning: snacks, keys, decide what I’ll be listening to as I leave out the front door. It’s old jazz. It’s February so I’m on the 30s in my jazz discovery program. Next month it’ll be the 40s.
It’s cold, I’m still angry. The walk soothes me, somewhere deep inside. I’m still smiling on the bus, on the train. “Good morning. Thank you!” We huddle.
I brush my teeth at work. I look in the mirror. I look good. I go out to the floor.
There’s always something. There’s always something not right when I get to the unit, something to compensate for, to ask a supervisor for, to restock, to reorganize, that just isn’t there but should be. I’m angry and I’m moving fast. There is no trickling in for me, I am the bowl.
I am the Expediter.
That means I have patience, discipline, balance, speed, strength, empathy, and hopefully, eight hours of sleep. It means I am everything I was not growing up. It means that when I f*ck up, or when someone tells me I f*ck up, it soaks me deep. It means I’m angry. It means I’m grinding my teeth. It means there’s nowhere else in this building I’d rather be. I only started grinding my teeth after I started expediting. I started expediting around the same time I got back in school. The employees who were doing it before me all quit. An employee and her friend, the supervisor, got me to do it one day, two days, three days, weeks, and now they’re both gone and it’s my job. Time flies when you don’t have enough of it, and I have mail falling always. Always containers getting full, always containers to pull out and dispatch, always containers full of mail designated for a flight that’s leaving in 30 minutes 20 minutes 10 minutes right now it’s late, always people asking me to make a new container, always something late, always something they can’t find, always homework to do, always lover, always lonely, always independent, always an attitude, bury the attitude with love. By noon I’ll be fine. I’m just underrating the day because I’m grumpy. But this is my life, this is all I have, this is work, this is production, this is beautiful. Look at all these people. I love them. And I am the expediter. They depend on me. Always never knew I’d be here.
Written summer, 2014
One of the last things Bruce told me was “Don’t Panic.” He told Benjamin I had a good heart. He told me I was a kid, that he was in high school in 1992, a year after I was born. Bruce was working 7 days a week, 4 hours overtime. Bruce was in the Marines eight years, was a sergeant. Bruce got there an hour early every day, at six, to get paid, but also to clean. “I hate chaos,” he couldn’t work in an unclean area.
I’ve been trying to reorganize myself. Make this writing thing happen, make healthy veganism happen, make being a weed smoking genius artist happen, befriend everybody everywhere. Watching Bruce, talking to, working with Bruce is the most fruitful work relationship I’ve ever had.
It happened fast. I was asking him and Marcus to stop making fun of me, they had taken to calling me “MIGOS!” I don’t know why, and chuckling to themselves. I’d been “experimenting” with sticking up for my self. I asked them, in front of another guy, to stop calling me “Migos,” I had asked Marquez if he was making fun of me for my pink hat. Both experiments changed their attitudes toward me, toward one of quiet respect and deference, both confrontations rattled my bones and made me anxious as hell.
Then, the holidays started again. I started telling Barbara I was going to need help expediting. For a while last holiday season every day someone or multiple someones told me I needed help. Expediters from other shifts, people in my unit, the military people watching the mail. This past November, I got Bruce.
I had just started listening to Dr. Dre’s 2001. While playing some from his speakers, Bruce looked at me “Best producer of all-time” I said “I dunno. Maybe Pharrell” he winced skeptically. The few days Bruce and I worked together before the speakers shorted out, every day at 2:45 PM, 15 minutes before closing time he would put on “Still D.R.E.” I loved it. One time after the speakers shorted, I played it on my phone and showed Bruce my screen from far away. It’s been very hard for me to connect to black men, to feel comfortable to love. To feel worthy as a friend. Everyone at my job was my friend.
My job was rife with prostitution, illicit drug use, fat black women, tired mothers, nepotism, abrupt and unexplained regime changes, corrupt supervisors, an easily manipulated justice system, a corrupt and cantankerous union, white people in button-ups with power, brown people covered in dust, in-fighting, gossip, repression, oppression, safety hazards, sharp and drastic personnel changes (Firing/hiring hundreds of people in months), failures of command, gambling, sexist men, sexual harassment, fights, unsafe driving, and deaths on the workroom floor. I quit because that’s fucked up, and hopefully I can make it as an artist or at least a human being out here.
Oh, and it matters because these are these are the people in the system handling your mail.