Brown delivers; I didn#8217;t

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

There’s a wonderful line a from a not-so-popular musical group from about 30 years ago that went something like this:

“And you know that you’re over the hill,

When your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill.”

I hate that line.

Last year this week, I had some time on my hands and figured I’d get a part-time job. You know, fill that dead time, make a few bucks for the holidays, meet people, see the world.

Nothing particularly stressful, just a job where I was told what to do and did it.

Then I saw an ad that UPS — those fellows in brown — were hiring help for the holidays.

There were openings in a few of their departments, but the enticement that sealed it for me was that of a driver’s helper. I immediately liked the idea. Don’t have to drive a route. Just have to help the driver. Help the driver do what, I had no idea. Steer? Shift gears? Offer directions? Pump gas? Fetch lunch?

Still, I moved along, destination unknown, to a screening interview in a small meeting room inside one of the enormous malls in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, then on to an orientation in a regional shipping center. (Best tip of the training video: When exiting the truck, don’t step into the line of oncoming traffic. That tip can be used in so many other circumstances beyond the job.)

But the responsibility of the position was this: ride in the truck’s rumble seat (my phrase for that single, fold-down seat in the front of the vehicle) and do whatever the driver asked. I liked both of those ideas. I can sit. I can listen. So far, so good.

The “recruits” were issued brown work pants, a heavyweight pullover jacket and a choice of ball cap or wool cap.

So, before I set a single foot in the truck, I had cool pants, a warm coat and a cool hat (although we were told during orientation that, under no circumstances, could we wear the clothes after hours. Like some driver’s helper would walk into a bar dressed like that thinking it might help the chances of making a mating impression).

First day, I meet Wayne, the driver, in a 7-Eleven parking lot not far from where my cousins lived and their kids went to high school. So I knew the area a little. I was feeling good.

Ah, remember the lyric quoted above? I certainly do (this is where Jeff, The Tidewater News UPS guy, starts chuckling in a knowing way). My mind did make a promise, and my body reneged in ways I didn’t know were possible.

“Jumping,” as it’s called, from the truck looks pretty easy. We’ve all seen UPS guys vault with such grace (and NOT into oncoming traffic — they remembered the training video) and yet make haste getting to the office, the front door, wherever.

After the first day, I felt like I had a ballpoint pen shoved through my knee joints — but I LOOKED good in my browns.

I did learn the route, who got packages each day and where they were to be left, which dogs were friendly and which were not (inside baseball tip: The most important package in a UPS truck is the baggie of dog treats kept on the dashboard. They work wonders).

Every couple of days I had to wash out the smell of the stinky muscle balm from my brown pants.

Every night I soaked in a tub of very hot water to allow my knees to recover.

Every now and then I wonder what happened that now the body no longer does what the mind promises.

Paul McFarlane is the Editor of The Tidewater News. His e-mail is