Shipping time

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I don’t need to raise my head from the desk to know he’s here. Hysterically loud ska punk music introduces him, then a handbrake sound: the courier has arrived. He drives the same route twice a day, serving the whole industrial estate.

The usual wide smile appears before he steps through the door. He must be about 25. He lightheartedly walks into the office, ignoring the weight of the box full of spare parts. It’s hard to guess his ethnicity: light brown hair, fair skin and something about his facial bones say Eastern European; cheerfulness and high-pitch voice say something else. Judging from his musical tastes I’d say South American, possibly Argentinian. I’m not a good observer. I’m probably a better listener. As a linguist, in order to frame a stranger I have to hear him speak. I don’t have enough input here: not many words are spoken between us. There’s no time to chat. Parcels must be delivered, a schedule must be met. A greeting, thanks and the occasional joke.

He types on his device. After a few collections he already remembered my last name. I sign on the display. Sometimes I’ve run out of packing envelopes: no problem. He walks back to the van and returns with a pile of them, and a ream of shipping forms. Once I was late and made him wait a couple of minutes until I finished printing the shipping notes. He didn’t show any sign of anxiety or bother. Same laid-back attitude. If he was under pressure, it certainly didn’t show. “Everything will be alright”, his smile said.

I wonder if he’d show the same aplomb were he in my place, talking on the phone to annoying customers. I’m sure he would: he’s accurate and has good problem solving skills. He’s good at his job and doesn’t need to stay put: he can afford the innocent rebellion of a full-volume radio and a surfer necklace. I know this, because we never had any mishap, although logistics is potentially a big source of trouble in sales. The only time he was absent, we found a parcel abandoned near the gate the day before, and when we opened it, the content was damaged. The replacement had to refund us out of his pocket. The next morning, the ska punk hullabaloo was back and we sighed with relief.

Whatever his nationality, no doubt he’s not from here. While frustration and ambition gnaw at us natives of this once flourishing city-state, he strides around as if being a driver carrier was the best job in the world. What does he do once he’s finished his round? I can easily picture him meeting some friends in a pub, on the promenade, or on the beach. He wears no ring, which doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t have a family. Maybe he has kids.

Whatever is personal life is like, he has a secret that makes his radiant. His batteries are charged. He has the smile of someone who finds the drive to face his daily tasks in positive and enriching relations that will be resumed off working hours.


Written in response to Writing 101, Day Six: A Character-Building Experience


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