United Package Transportation

December 19, 2007
By Dillon Welch, Derry, NH

Spit and profanities flinging from her mouth, the furious customer screamed at Charlie for a minute and a half. The shoddy training video new UPT employees were required to watch taught Charlie how to deal with situations such as these. Step one: nod in agreement with the customer’s complaint. It is 100% necessary to show that you care about the client’s current situation. Step two: relate to the customer’s crisis with a stressful story of your own. Relating to the customer generally helps him/her feel more comfortable. Step three: tell the customer you will do everything in your power to resolve the dilemma. Although lost packages are normally not found, you must convince the customer without a doubt that there is hope.
That video sat in Charlie’s trunk and collected dust from the day he was hired. “Listen lady, I have no idea where the hell your laptop is.” Standing three feet from the customer, Charlie felt safe behind the stiff, wooden desk that housed office supplies, a computer, and stray papers.
If I don’t get my laptop from you in 24 hours, this whole damn company will see me in court,” she shouted as she slammed her fist on the countertop.
Glaring up at the clock, Charlie let out a lengthy sigh, “Okay, listen,” he said, resting both hands on the desk. “There’s at least 300 packages that come through this store every day, and at least two million packages that UPT delivers on a daily basis.”
The frustrated woman rolled her eyes.
“Chances are your package went to the wrong store. I’m sure it will end up here once the store realizes it’s at the wrong location,” he murmured. He was lying. Most lost packages are gone for good. UPT has dealt with numerous lawsuits in the past due to misplaced packages.
Charlie glanced down at the woman’s order form that she rudely slammed on the desk in front of him. Under the extra charges category, the woman had left the package insurance check box blank. Charlie’s eyes lit up.
“But,” he crossed his arms and leaned onto the desk, coming down to meet the eye level of the customer, “unfortunately you decided not to pay the extra fifteen dollar fee to insure your package a safe trip to the store.”
Grinning at the now fuming customer, Charlie reached for his mouse and jumped back into his interrupted game of solitaire.
Almost speechless, the enraged mess backed towards the exit. “This won’t be the last time you’ll see me,” she said as she kicked the door open and stormed out of the store. Smirking at the front desk as he placed a four of hearts on a five of clubs, Charlie knew he would never see the laptop or the woman again.

Watching the minute hand leisurely tick by the 11 on the wall clock, Charlie tapped his finger impatiently on the surface of the counter. As far as he was concerned, he was done working at 4:30. Any schmucks who skipped out of work early to ship off their TV to the repair center, or to pick up their birthday card from Aunt Genevieve were out of luck. Why should they be allowed to leave work early when I’m still stuck here? he thought as a man, with a rather worried look plastered on his face, battered on the storefront window.

Blatantly turning his back to the door, Charlie strolled into the break room, snatched his clock card out of the plastic holder hung loosely on the wall, and punched out. He flicked off the lights in hopes that the man, who desperately needed to pick up his navy blue Armani bow tie or his shiny new GPS system, would get the point. Heading for the door, the clearly offended customer stared at Charlie like he was Stalin.

“Um…” as Charlie opened the door, the man stepped in front of him, “can I just grab my package?”

Charlie nudged by him, acting as if there was no one standing in his path to his beat up, bronze pickup truck.

“Sir, it’s a small package. It will only take a second,” the man insisted as Charlie stepped off the curb and onto the crisp dry pavement.

Without turning around, Charlie fed him the generic one-liner. “Sorry pal, store closes at five.”

Glancing down at his gold band wristwatch and then back up at Charlie, his aggressive expression intensified. “But, it’s only 4:58,” he persisted as he began to stagger towards Charlie.
With his silver key in the car door, quarter turned to the left, Charlie looked up at the annoying fly in his coffee. “In that case,” Charlie turned his key as far left as it could possibly go, “why don’t you wait two minutes and ask me again.” He vigorously yanked open the car door, barely missing the man’s ruby red convertible parked parallel to Charlie’s truck.

The multicolored tree line rose above the expressway like the sun hiding out on a cloudy afternoon. Charlie spent the better half of his homebound commute imagining he was drifting above the road, floating alongside the tops of great oaks and majestic pines that ran down the side of the highway. The foliage that time of year was much like a beautiful, misunderstood painting.
With a slight smirk dwelling in the space between his nose and chin, he watched as the dreary-eyed workforce headed home to their nagging wives and their spoiled rotten kids. They spent most of their ride staring at the pavement 10 feet in front of them as if it were all they could aspire for; that is, when they weren’t looking for roadside accidents to spice up their monotonous lives.
Most people can’t see past the mammoth billboards promoting “Moe’s Wacky Music Store” or “Darrel’s Sports Emporium and Warehouse.” Charlie wasn’t “most people.”
The 5 o’ clock trek home was usually quite pleasant. Toyotas and Cadillacs zoomed by with their operators only half concentrating on the road and half on their stock DVD players suspended from the ceiling. Cell phones chiming, music blaring, and movies rolling: all the distractions mixed into one delightful recipe for fender benders and side swipes. All the necessities feasible to assure him he was better off.
Slamming on the breaks, Charlie’s eyes flew back to the road in front of him as a man in a forest green SUV carelessly drifted over the dotted, white line and into his lane. No blinker, no hand signal, no nothing.
Aggravated by the vulgar lane-to-lane maneuver, Charlie decided to veer into the lane furthest to the left, and pull up besides the ill-mannered pilot of the dark green boat. Crude, black smoke and thick fumes spewed from the SUV’s filthy exhaust pipe, climbed up Charlie’s hood, and danced across his windshield as he coasted into the left lane. Gagging, Charlie rolled up his window in attempt to blot out the putrid smell. The needle screamed past 85 as he plunged his right foot into the pedal.
BWFFFF, tsssssssss… thud, thud, thud, thud. Charlie slammed his clenched fist onto the center console, rattling the spare change inside. Cars and trucks swerved around him as he steered his now wobbling, bronze box on three wheels towards the right guardrail. As Charlie came to a rough halt in the breakdown lane, he caught a quick glimpse of the SUV before it sped off in the distance. Head bobbing to the harmonious tune of blissful ignorance, the man hadn’t even turned around to see what happened, let alone know that anything had happened at all.
The dark gray, fabric strap buckled into the armrest was the only thing restraining Charlie from bashing his head off the steering wheel in anger. He thrust his thumb into the red “release” button on his seat belt and jerked on the door handle, stepping out into the road and narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic: traffic that wouldn’t even think twice about pulling over to help change a flat.

He trudged around the hood of his truck and crouched down to inspect his now completely deflated front tire. The culprit, a large, jagged piece of glass, was lodged deep in the tread. Engraved on the side of the glass in elegant, gold letters, the word “Rolex” was half buried into the rubber.

Charlie grimaced knowing that at least ten people had passed by wearing the brand that had pierced his tire. Reaching into his pocket, he grabbed his phone and dialed three numbers on the keypad.

A lifeless voice on the other end of the phone responded, “City and state please.”

“Manchester, New Hampshire,” Charlie said as he leaned against the guardrail and kicked rocks into the road, hoping someone else would be forced to join him behind the yellow line.

After a brief pause accompanied with the sound of tedious keystrokes, the voice replied, “Alright… What do you need, sir?”

Charlie watched as car after car rolled over various sharp rocks strewn across the two-lane highway, completely unharmed. “I need the number for the nearest tow.”

Charlie rummaged through his pockets while the portly man readjusted his light brown baseball cap. “Fourteen dollars and twenty three cents,” Charlie pulled his hand out of his left pocket and handed the cab driver his fare, “I knew I had the change on me.”

The driver forged a slight smirk, followed by a decency nod, and shifted his car into drive. Before Charlie could shut the door, the taxi had driven off. The last thing Charlie could see as the cab trailed off in the distance was a large, white sticker slapped on his bumper, with the words “time is money” written in bright green letters.

The early morning darkness dispersed into the shadows behind parked cars and trash cans as the sun crept over the horizon. Few souls were out at 7:00 in the morning: the tandem jogger slimming off those pesky extra pounds, the daybreak enthusiasts dragging their still drowsy pets behind them on chain link leashes. Charlie reached into his pocket, grabbed the store key, and started for the front door.

The inside of the store seemed dark and gloomy from the curb, especially in the faint glow of dawn. The UPT sign flickered above the doorway. Charlie was told to fix it months ago, but constantly got sidetracked by more important tasks such as beating the computer in online chess or shooting crumpled order forms into the waist bin across the room.

As he unlocked the door and placed both of his hands on the silver metal bar, a car pulled up at an angle and parked behind him, two wheels in one space and two in another.

I hate early bird mailers, Charlie thought as he ciphered through the excuses he could feed this guy as to why the shop was closed today. They’re painting the store? No, there’d be cans and paintbrushes all over the place. I seemed to have misplaced my store key? Well, the key’s in the lock, so that one’s out. Someone called in a bomb threat and the police are on the way? At a UPT store? No one with half a brain would believe that. The car door opened behind him as possibilities rushed through his head.

“Ahem,” Charlie stood motionless in front of the door as a woman cleared her throat.

“All right, I get the point lady,” he murmured as he gradually turned to face a familiar looking woman, dressed head-to-toe in royal blue formal attire. On the opposite side of the car, stood a man in a gray, pinstripe suit grasping a black suitcase under his arm. Leaning against the car door, he tapped feverishly on the roof with his free hand.

“Charlie’s the name, right?” she asked with obvious enthusiasm in her words.

Standing five feet away from the car, Charlie’s face grew dim. A gleam of defeat flickered in his eye as soon as he realized who the woman was.

“Well Charlie…” she raised her hand and pointed to the man in the pinstripe suit, as if she were flashing triumph in Charlie’s face, “I’d like you to meet my lawyer.”

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