8 Unexpected Things I Learned Delivering Packages For UPS

This holiday season, I helped UPS Drivers deliver boxes during the highest traffic time of the year. By the time I enrolled, the only uniforms left were Men’s Large — dressed like a box, delivering boxes, these are the lessons I learned:

  1. Every UPS employee has passed a criminal background check. Since UPS drivers are coming to your front door, each are carefully vetted, along with their helpers.
  2. UPS uniforms are rentals and must be returned. I could get just about anywhere I wanted wearing the UPS-brown, which is why at the end of the season, the security team is sure to get each one of their uniforms back from employees.
  3. It is a federal offense to put anything in a mailbox if you are not a USPS mail carrier. Nobody else: not a neighbor, not a FedEx driver, not your apartment manager. The only person who can drop something into your mailbox is a certified mail carrier.
  4. Most apartment complexes actually have legit security codes. The security codes aren’t just 1234. They are often random codes and many complexes change their entry code each year for the safety of their residents.
  5. Apparent wealth of complex or neighborhood has no bearing on whether someone might steal. Some of the poorest neighborhoods were safe to leave packages (though not most) and some luxury apartment buildings were not.
  6. If UPS calls you (which they will) it is using their own personal cell phone. The drivers are dedicated to their customers and intent on getting things delivered.
  7. Tons of LA-related trivia:A Spanish-speaking driver taught me that Mexico has 23 languages, derived from the Aztec. Calling the ground outside ‘the floor’ is technically English, and a Southern California thing to do. There’s a woman who roams Santa Monica Blvd at dinner time, singing opera and selling chicken/bean/veggie tamales for only $1.50/ea!

Thanks to UPS, I’ve been inside Capitol Records, the Scientology Building in Hollywood, an LGBT retirement home, outside Jessica Chastain’s house, in the arteries of Glendale’s Americana Mall and behind the counter at an AIDS testing facility.

I met the man who delivered an entire truckload of flowers to Michael Jackson’s grave and a vet who served two tours in Iraq.

After the five weeks were up though, the most important lesson I learned was introduced on the first day, by the gentleman running the three hour interview orientation:

8. Shortcuts are called shortcuts because they cut your life short.
Cheesy and totally true. Anytime I tried to multi-task by checking my phone, or save a minute by over-packing the dolly, my efforts ended in a package avalanche. The moments I spent focused on getting the work done, I learned the most and the time flew by faster than any desk job I’ve ever had.