The House of Pain was staffed with a wide variety of folks. The Human Resources officer who hired me confided that his favorite description of it was the ” Foreign Legion” of workplaces. We had people from all races, ethnicities, and education levels. We had a mini-United Nations in the building and could have credibly fielded students and instructors for every grade from seventh through high school and university.
Within a week of taking over as supervisor of “30 door” I had a note passed to me by way of a Teamsters’ pony express. It was from an anthropologist on the night shift wondering which grad school I had attended. Over the next several years, we exchanged notes regularly on matters that our Teamster colleagues thought idiotic. But they were of interest to an anthropologist – like which dysfunctional society we had read about was most like UPS.
One of the package sorters had a master’s degree in chemistry. After burning out in corporate America, he needed a way to gather a retirement and maintain health care coverage for his family; much as I did. A Shop Steward was a stock market day trader. UPS covered his benefits for his children.
We also had many people who came to us after a “complicated work history” elsewhere— I fell into that category in some ways.
My immediate manager was a guy named Jim. Jim had a master’s degree in special education. None of us knew why he was at the House of Pain. Just like the Foreign Legion legend, people might tell you why they were there, but it was not allowable to ask. Someone leaked the information about his education one night at a party. Jim, had a habit of talking to you while talking to his right shoulder. Some wag cruelly labeled it as him talking to his parrot. The sad thing about it was that they weren’t listening to what the man was saying. And, he had lots to say of great value for surviving in the House of Pain.
One day I was complaining loudly about a new loader who was exceptionally slow and clumsy. Jim did me the courtesy of taking me aside before chewing me out. And then he told me this: ” Louie, this company can’t always hire the very best. It’s up to you to give them the tools they need to become successful.” Over the next several years, Jim struggled to give me the tools I needed to be successful at making my disparate group onto a team of successful individuals.
Success is an interesting item. Start with minor success in one part of your life, and you can learn to build upon it—success upon success.
*Hub Rat -is a UPS’ers term for someone who works at a hub ( a sizeable central package processing center). For many, it’s a badge of honor, and we are never ashamed of describing ourselves as Hub Rats – not everyone can do the job.