Tales From the Jump Seat

the UPS jumpseat

Where I sat on the truck

Well, my short career as a Driver Helper for UPS is over and I can say that it was quite an interesting experience.  Here are some of my stories from a month in the jump seat:

This will go down on your permanent record  – This was the first job interview I had ever been to where they tried to intimidate you and convince you that you didn’t want the job.  If you walked through the wrong door on the way out?  Your job application would be ripped up and they would assign you a “no re-hire status” which would be linked to your social security number.  If you put your hand inside a package, you would be assigned a “no re-hire status” and fired.  If you didn’t return your uniform?  You would be assigned a “no re-hire status” and then be arrested for theft.  After this they informed us that a driver helper had actually died on the job the week before.  Seemed like a lot of possible harm could come from a temporary job that only pays $8.50 an hour.

Is she your trainee?  Drivers only have helpers for one month of the year.  The businesses were always asking us if I was a trainee, which I thought was ridiculous.  Yes, UPS decided to pick their busiest month of the year to hire a bunch of new drivers and train them all month.

We are idolized by 3 year old boys – One of the highlights of the job was bringing joy to kids who viewed us as one of Santa’s helpers.  Some little boys just love the big shiny truck.  One in particular ran / toddled his way down an entire city block to get to the truck exclaiming “TRUCK, TRUCK” the whole way as his grandpa tried to keep up with him.

Greeted by a gun – Usually we didn’t interact with residential customers, we just drop the package and go, but occasionally a resident would greet us at the door.  One time, I was carrying a large printer up to a house when the door opened.  I assumed the resident had seen me coming and was expecting this package.  Instead I saw a man holding a rifle with a confused look on his face.  Since he wasn’t pointing it at me I wasn’t too freaked out, just surprised.  Turns out it was an air-soft rifle and he was on his way out to shoot the pigeons.  On top of all that, he refused the package.

Don’t mind the dog – The real threats to a delivery person are the dogs.  It seemed like every house and several businesses had dogs.  “Don’t trust them”, my driver advised, “Don’t trust the dogs or their owners”.  Sure enough I had one escape from behind his owner and jump up at me, but luckily he was just curious and not aggressive.  Other driver helpers were not so lucky, we got a safety message that another helper had been bitten and we were advised not to deliver packages where there are any unsecured dogs.

Cookies, beef jerky, and hemp lotion – One of the fun parts about delivering to businesses at the holidays is that they often treat you to small gifts or share their holiday spoils.  When your burning hundreds of calories a day running packages it’s easy to give in to temptation and eat as many cookies as you want.  We delivered to an office with a scale near the delivery entrance.  The driver and I would weigh ourselves and compare notes.  I did not lose any weight on this job.

How to survive riding around on a truck with no doors all day?  Pigtails and toddler snacks – I kept experimenting with different hairstyles that could withstand the wind and foods that I could eat as we kept moving.  Turns out that braiding my hair in pigtails and stealing my 2 year old nieces, applesauce pouches were the winner.  UPS is a pretty macho environment so needless to say I didn’t fit in well.

Separation anxiety – It’s a strange arrangement for a driver, they work alone all year long and then for one month they have a helper in the jump seat.  Most drivers don’t choose their helpers so it can be nightmare or a blessing.  My driver remarked on one of our last days together that he was having separation anxiety already.  I knew how he felt, having spent 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week driving around together and sharing stories, it was strange to say goodbye.


One response to “Tales From the Jump Seat

  1. I also worked as a UPS driver helper in Dec. 2012 and the driver I spent the bulk of my time with had a helper that died on the job. We talked about it a bit. I asked him if he knew CPR and he said yes, he was trained as a medical first responder but the helper who died had been conscious and talking although he had been flat on his back and apparently couldn’t get up. CPR wasn’t necessary. What I found alarming was this driver went on to say that if the situation had required some type of life-saving action it’s unlikely he would have done anything for fear of being fired. He also mentioned he had the homeowner call 911. I know he carried his cell phone on him so that made me wonder if he was reluctant to even do that. Honestly, I’m not aware of any employer ever covering company protocol on how to handle a medical emergency…. But I was a bit surprised this hadn’t triggered a conversation by management on the subject. In general, I came to the conclusion UPS drivers operate on a premise of fear of being fired or demoted. They literally don’t take breaks (but according to 1 driver they report they do to make their productivity look better); relieve themselves in bottles in the back of their trucks and can be asked to work 14 hour days routinely like this. Perhaps the pace is more livable many months of the year. Overall, it was a brainless job for decent pay but this company makes no secret they require you to work part-time for years in many cases and all the drivers mentioned there is a lot of game-playing they are expected to put up with or pay the consequences. Oh, and while I loved the being outside and the exercise, apparently most drivers eventually need knee surgery or replacements!

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