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The box on your porch

Sun Advocate publisher

This time of year almost everyone ends up with boxes on the porch. They may come from USPS, UPS or FedEx, but they almost always have something to do with presents. Either you are receiving them or they are something you ordered for someone else.

Most of us are happy they are there, and we just are glad they arrived. But most of us give little thought to what it took to get them to our homes.

Regardless where they originated, and unless they are one of kind, somewhere out there in the great unknown they were assembled with what we ordered, labeled and then set off with one of the delivery companies that bring them to our door.

Simple right? East right?

Well not quite.

I don't want to get into manufacturing because that is too diverse, but suffice it to say that whatever you purchase is either made or grown. That in itself takes major efforts and involves many people.

What I want to reflect on are those that package, then ship and then take care of delivery of whatever you order, whether it be oranges, toys or electronics.

The fact is someone has to put it in the box it comes in. In high school and part of college I worked on a factory floor preparing items for shipment. Later in my life, when things were lean, I worked as a temp in a couple of different kinds of manufacturing plants, packaging things that were made there.

It seems easy to people who haven't done it, but packaging things is not that simple, especially when you first start and things move down a belt line at a certain speed and that speed never changes no matter what happens.

When you first start doing this, depending on the training they give you, and the number of different kinds of items that must be packed in a box. Depending on the operation, you have to pull what you need to fill the order, get it in the box and let it move on. Again, each operation is different, but idea behind it is to get as much packed as fast as possible and out the door, especially during busy parts of the year, like the holidays.

All jobs have some stress, some much more than others. That stress occurs for various reasons. In some it is deadlines with certain quality controls. In others it is a lot of things coming at you at once. Some involve dealing with people, with others it is dealing with objects. With some one mistake can destroy a business relationship, or leave someone hanging or in trouble. In others it could create a dissatisfied customer who may never come back.

In packaging it can be a lot of these kinds of things, although most of the time the person putting the package together never sees the end result. They are distant from what occurs when the person gets the package. If it is not packaged right, it could break or be damaged. Packaging the wrong item (which when there are items that have slight differences can happen easily) will disappoint someone.

The job makes a person very tired. You are on your feet all day; your hands get paper cuts and rough from rubbing all the cardboard. You have to think quickly and concentrate on what you are doing. For some that have done it for years, they almost become machines. But for many it is repetitious and mind numbing.

Many of the people who do this make little money; a large group are temp employees, others are always looking for something better. It is not a career position for most people. There is little place to grow in many companies. We always hear the stories about CEO's of big companies who started out on the assembly line or the shipping line; but those people are unusual.

Basically it is tough, hard, and stressful job.

Thank goodness, for all of us, someone does it.

Then there is delivery. I can't speak for the shipping between the factory and the point of where it is distributed to customers, because I have never been around that. But watching triple trailers over the road and having seen how these distribution centers work, there is a lot of hard work done there by shipping employees, regardless of the company.

Home delivery may seem simple to many, but it isn't. Sure there are good systems to do it, but that doesn't mean things don't always work the way they should.

For many home delivery people, the weather is a huge factor. In nice weather it is enough of a challenge to find the correct addresses, make sure the right item is selected out of a loaded truck and it gets on the doorstep. Watching for holes that can break ankles and dogs that can bite legs is just part of it. Delivery trucks often seem invisible to other drivers, so the driving part, with have to park in odd spots, lots or starts and stops, can be dangerous.

It all becomes worse when the snow flies and then the cold turns what has melted into ice. Icy roads, other drivers who don't understand how it is different driving a large box van or bobtail than it is a Honda Accord and uncleared sidewalks that make for tough, wet, cold and slippery situations face them daily, especially during the holiday season.

All these people are the unsung heroes of getting us what we want when we need it. During the holidays, they are busy, and sometimes overwhelmed. Many work right up through Christmas Eve, in fact some work on Christmas Day.

So when you watch your family open that perfect present, or you get something from someone you cherish for Christmas, remember these people. While it is there job, their way of making a living, they are doing it for you.

So when it arrives on your porch, don't just take it for granted. It really is up close and personal.

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