Friday, August 30, 2019

The Brief Time I Drove A Truck For Ace Hardware

As many of you know, I haven't had a proper day job since February. For those that don't know...I haven't had a day job since February. 

I left my position with the Pima County Library for various reasons. It was the day job I have had the longest, 7 years, second only to working in kitchens before becoming a food writer. 

The scoop on me leaving the library came down to getting in trouble with administration. I had made a comment on a friend's Facebook post in October of last year, one regarding the guy who held up Mi Nidito and him getting 30 years in prison. I stated something like "Oh yeah, I think that dude used to come into my library and use the computers. Total dipshit." Then on Xmas eve, at work and an hour before we were about to go home, I get a phone call. It was the three head honchos of the library inquiring about the post. Having it been 2 months later, I didn't know what they were talking about. It took some prodding on their part to get me to remember. They then asked that I delete the comment and that my employment was now under review. 

Since the friend in question has thousands of Facebook followers, it took a while to find the post, find my response and delete it. Needless to say Xmas was ruined. I spent all day, not just hungover from worry drinking, but confused about what had happened. When I returned to work after the holiday, I decided to take a break for a bit. I really needed to think about things for a week or two along with sobering up. For one, how did they find my comment? Was I being monitored? If so, do I want to work for a place that does such things? And who lays down crap news like that on Xmas eve? They couldn't have waited a day or two? 

During my leave, my wife got really sick and was in hospital for a week. So I took more time off. After being away for nearly 3 weeks, I was finally back at work. Nothing was said about the phone call or the "incident". My supervisor and branch manager hadn't heard a word from the higher ups. I guess deleting that comment was all they needed.

Then one day I get a visit from the head of HR who handed me a folder full of paperwork. She said that if I wanted to fight for my position, I would have to show up, with representation if possible, in a week or two at the main branch offices. Again, this happened an hour before I went home for the 3 day Presidents Day holiday.  

I showed the paperwork to my wife who immediately said "When you go back to work on Monday, hand in your letter of resignation. You're done there and I am done with them." She had recently gotten a big promotion at work and we were doing quite well financially. So I typed up a quick letter of resignation and when I went in on Monday, I handed it to the librarian in change, then cleaned out drawers of my stuff, took one last look around and left. 

Afterwards, I slept for almost a week. 

Because of the nature of me leaving the library, I couldn't get unemployment. I got an interview with the Community Food Bank, helping with their marketing department, but didn't get it. Then I passed all of the steps to land a position with a company called Imperfect Produce, which provides "ugly" food that would normally get thrown out but are perfectly edible, for customers and restaurants. Sounded like an ideal job for me. The interview went really well and they said they would contact me in a week or two. That was on a Friday. On Monday I got an email from them saying that I would not be moving forward. Wait...what? Why? Very strange. I totally thought I landed that gig. 

Then...nothing. Just the Weekly. No responses to inquiries or applications for a part or full time day job. Summer was about to hit and nobody was hiring a 48 year old weirdo like me. Admittedly I did fall into some despair and there was a moment or two that my mental health was being closely monitored. I do harbor a chemical imbalance that rears it dark and stupid head on occasion. I don't really remember most of April to be honest. 

Then an opportunity fell into my lap. The owner of three Ace Hardware's, who frequents my wife's restaurant, heard about my plight and offered me a job. 

"We need a guy to drive the truck a few times a week. Move transfers from store to store. Deliver items to customers. Stuff like that."

So I filled out the application, passed the background check and before long I was now the official IST (inter-store transfer) driver for a trio of busy Ace Hardware's. 

And this is the truck I got to drive...  

Nickname: Big Red

Now, I am not a macho guy. I do not frequent hardware stores. I haven't driven big trucks since my time working film production in the mid/late '90s. So I was a little nervous taking this job. 

After 2 days of training, I was set loose on my own. Driving "Big Red" was pretty easy, and a whole lot of fun. It was cool, and, yes, slightly macho to sit in that truck, raised above everyone else, and power through the streets of Tucson. Yeah man.

Anyway, here is what the job entailed:
A couple of times a week, usually around 10am, I'd arrive at the Ace on Campbell Ave., clock in, say hi to whomever was in the back and go check on my agenda for the day. They had set up a dry erase board with customer deliveries, special requests, errands, etc. After I put my backpack full of water and snacks on the passenger side of the truck, I'd go back and see what items had to be transferred to what store. The Campbell store was 'store 1' and designated with green sheets, the Wetmore store was 'store 2', yellow sheets, the Ina store was, yep, '3' and used pink sheets.

Since I started around the beginning of summer, most big deliveries were outdoor grills and smokers. But mainly what I did was drive customer requests from one store to another while also delivering folders to the office managers, which contained, well...manager stuff. Say that the Campbell store had a specific hose that the Ina store didn't but an Ina store customer really wanted that hose so I'd move it from Campbell to Ina. No big deal. Not a lot of brain work here.

What I did like is that I was physical again. I haven't sweated that much since being a cook and working in kitchens. It was nice. And pretty fun. Driving Big Red was a hoot. I'd just play NPR all afternoon while jamming around town in this big truck with a lift gate on the back. Look at me. I'm a tough guy now!

Some days were pretty easy and I'd be done in like 2 or 3 hours. Grill delivery days, especially if I had to go to the outskirts of southern Arizona or way into the deep reaches of the foothills or Marana, would take a bit longer. The longest days were delivering goods to the prison way out on Wilmot. That was interesting. After I passed my background check I got the go ahead to deliver stuff to the prison, which took forever. Not only because it was pretty far but due to the fact that the officers on duty had to check every item and double check, leaving me just standing around looking at dudes in orange jumpsuits walk around the yard behind massive fences laced with barbed wire.

One time a prison delivery was short a few items, some gloves I think. The next delivery day I had to drive all the way back out there, pass the big security gate where they take my backpack, driver's license and anything that might pose a "threat", such as rope, drive down the dusty and very bumpy road and hand them a packet of gloves. It probably would have been cheaper to mail them but, whatever. I was getting paid so it really didn't matter. 

One time coming back from the prison, I began to get really lightheaded. It then dawned on me that the air wasn't working and it was a good 110 outside. So over the weekend they had it fixed which set them back three grand. The look on the face of the big boss was priceless. He was not happy.

There were times when I delivered just a hammer or shovel to someone just a few blocks away from a store. And sometimes I got a tip. It was rare but it did happen. 

Everything was going okay though. I was making some extra money. I was getting out of the house a few times a week. I'd come home dirty and covered in sweat, which the wife always found enticing. It was pretty alright.

There were, unfortunately, some slip ups on my end here and there. It happens right? Accidents do occur in a line of work such as that.

One was a can of white paint that literally leapt from the cab of the truck to the back parking area of the Ina store on my first solo drive. Parking there was a bit precarious because you were on a slant so when I went to open the passenger side door, whoosh!, the can of paint just flew out. Almost comically. So if you ever go the back area of the Ace at Ina and Thornydale and see a big white paint mess...thats me. You're welcome.

Another was delivering a grill to a nutty lady who resided on a very narrow street. After I put the grill on her back patio, and her tipping me in some loose change and some crumpled 1's, I backed the truck out and knocked her mailbox over. Oops. When I got out I noticed that the mailbox was secured by some wire but no real damage had been done. So I latched the mailbox back on, went to the front door, rang the bell and explained what had happened. She didn't seem fazed at all. It looked as if my apologies were enough. Whew!

Then a few days later she calls the Wetmore store to complain.  She was probably sitting around thinking about all the free stuff she could get off of that oopsie. Funny thing is, if I didn't tell her about it she probably would have never noticed that I had bumped that box. Oh creff, is there anything you can't do?

Then on a Monday, my last stop at Ina, I hit a big bump while moving a bunch of stuff from the back to the truck and, you got it, spilled another can of white paint. The big boss was actually there, saw it, went "Huh" and moved on. I guess it was no big deal.

Then after my run on Friday I was called into the office by the Campbell store manager. She said she had to let me go because I was dropping too many items, that I was costing them too much money. I tried to explain that sometimes humans drop things, sometimes you bump into a big mailbox on a slender path of a driveway. I was never late, I was always flexible with my schedule and ready to help out whenever needed...but that wasn't enough. So I just shrugged, clocked out and came home.

Some of the guys that work at the Campbell store frequently come into my wife's restaurant. Over some beers they said that the super slow time was approaching and having an extra guy on that was making slightly more an hour just wasn't needed. I had also heard that they go through employees like tissue, sort of like the mom and pop burger place where I was kitchen manager. One mistake and out you go. How do people run businesses like that? It's so odd to me.


A week later I picked up my last check and that was that.

So now I am back on the hunt for a decent day job. No real bites yet, a nibble here and there, but it is rough for a 48 year old kook like me to land a straight job these days. For now I have time to work on book projects, proposals, the Weekly and this blog while being the best house husband I can be.

Being around hardware store folk has kind of rubbed off a bit. The bathroom sink leaks a little bit if you don't shut it off right. Guess I better get on that.

Yeah man.


Welp, it was fun while it lasted

Camera, Typing and Back on the Day Job Hunt
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Just a Few Months in 2019

Metal Influence: 


1 comment:

  1. My hero macho boy "DO!" Loved the article and hope you will find something soon. You have to be working if you are going to take care of me one day..... LOL ! KIDDING ! ! ! ! ****