The summer I turned 14 my parents became very abusive.
They insisted I find work for the summer, instead of sprawling on the living room couch to watch improving television programs like Soupy Sales or the Mike Douglas Show.
I have no idea why they turned so vicious on me, their own flesh and blood, in such a brutal manner. But the fact remains that one fine day in early June I found myself with a weekend job at the Rollins Company Warehouse, conveniently located six blocks from my house.
The warehouse was closed on weekends, and I was expected to sweep up and take out the trash on Saturday, and then bring up empty cardboard boxes from the basement on Sunday to be placed in long rows down the center aisle of the main floor.
And for doing this soul-crushing slave labor I would receive $2.50 per hour. I contemplated leaving home to join the Foreign Legion, but my mother made the best lemon meringue pies on the planet, and I was not quite yet ready to give that up in order to preserve my dignity.
So that first Saturday in June I bicycled down to the warehouse, my dad having previously given me the key to the front door along with a penciled list from the warehouse foreman describing in detail my responsibilities and how to perform them.
The Rollins Warehouse was an ancient brick structure. Built in 1889, it had tall arched windows and the original oak flooring was still extent, albeit warped and patched in places with metal sheets bolted down at the four corners. These sheets were a good quarter inch higher than the surrounding floor, so that the unwary teenager, shuffling along with a surly gait, occasionally tripped over them and took a painful nosedive.
It may be hard to credit in today’s hurly-burly world of warehouse management and inventory management, but 50-some years ago almost every factory and warehouse closed for the entire weekend. Unions and federal legislation had given blue collar workers their weekends off at long last. So I was all by myself in that big dusty warehouse.
And naturally enough, I got up to mischief sooner rather than later. Back in those less complicated and more trusting days a simpleton teenager such as myself would be trusted with the keys to a huge warehouse without a second thought.
At first I conscientiously followed my written instructions to the letter, but soon found my work load tedious beyond the limits of human endurance. So I began to improvise.
There was a nifty trapdoor right in the middle of the main floor, which was raised by hauling on a rough length of sisal rope. I soon discovered that my work went much smoother when I swept up the trash and simply pushed it into the trapdoor, where it fluttered silently down into utter darkness.
The warehouse foreman had indicated in his notes to me that I would be using the basement stairs to haul up the boxes. Instead I hot-wired the freight elevator so I could use it to bring up all the cardboard boxes at once. And instead of folding the flat boxes into squares and then taping the bottom one by one, I simply folded them out and left them untaped and scattered in the vicinity of the main aisle, helter-skelter.
That way, my work was done in under an hour each day, and since it was expected I would need at least five hours each day to complete my tasks I jimmied the lock on the shipping clerk’s office door and spend many instructive hours watching the tiny black and white TV set he had perched on a file cabinet.
This story should end in an edifying manner by having me found out and given a sound tongue lashing for my egregious dereliction of duty, so I could repent and become a model worker; but strangely enough that never happened.
I finished out my summer’s indenture without any incident. And without much of any kind of thought — except that I decided that working in a warehouse was not what I was cut out to do. Being a circus clown seemed much more sensible to me.
Apparently warehouse management never noticed, or didn’t care, about my sloppy work. Each week the warehouse foreman gave my dad my wages in a small manila envelope, which was glued shut and also had a string twisted around two red buttons on the upper and lower envelope lips to insure perfect security. Dad gave the envelope to my mother, who extracted most of the loot for my savings account at the Farmers and Mechanics Savings and Loan. I was then given the rest — a mere pittance; just enough to buy a Batman comic book and a large fountain drink at the counter of Schnieder’s Drug Store.
Of course, such adolescent shenanigans could not possibly take place in today’s modern warehouse, where software and technology have gotten rid of the cobwebs where a boy like me could goof off with impunity. But just to be on the safe side, you should get with the experts at Brandow Consulting to make sure there aren’t any overlooked nooks and crannies where inefficiency might still lurk.