These runs never make sense or go smoothly. The second I saw it, I tried to refuse it. Somehow dispatch managed to overlook my independent contractor status and left the run on me. Sigh...
They follow a general pattern. There are parts storage caches here and there throughout the metro. When I say parts, I refer to parts for repairing a certain type of machine commonly used in many businesses. It's one of those machines where if I told you which kind of machine, you'd instantly put a company name to it. It's the same as if I mentioned needing to wipe my nose and you thought "Kleenex" because the brand name has become synonymous with the product. The product and company are not going to be the one everybody first thinks of, but I'm still not giving you any more hints. I did sign a confidentiality agreement and you don't get the names of our customers.
These storage caches are, logically, in large storage units. What we are given is the address, the number of the unit, and a number for the specific box we are to pick up. They always give a couple "suggestions" for which shelf we are most likely to find the box on, such as 1D or 6A. The number matches a stack of shelves and the letter matches the shelf in that stack. They may not be on that exact shelf, however, but we are promised it will be near. Most reassuring, that.
What they do not give is the code for the gate into the storage unit. Nor the combination for the padlock securing the door. So we have to call dispatch, and they have to call the customer for the gate code. The padlock code they have, just don't bother to give it to us with the run. Ever. We have to call. Write them both down. You may need them more than once. Oh, and if it's the dark half of the year, since these always come around suppertime, a strong, reliable flashlight is handy. The storage units are not lit. Headlights don't quite manage the job.
Once you are in the facility, pulled up to the right door, and are entering the code into the lock, there is always the question of which of three positions visible the numbers line up in. Hold out your three middle fingers so they are parallel. Imagine you are writing the numbers on those fingers. Do you use the top finger? Middle? Bottom? That's what these locks look like, with those numbers on the bottom, and locked as they are, they line up at an angle distinctly unfriendly to necks. Just for fun, imagine it's January, you can't move those tiny numbers with gloves on, you can't really see the numbers because there's no light, and you have to hold this danged piece of sub-zero metal while you try to figure it all out.
Well, at least that didn't happen this time. But it has.
Are you starting to get the picture? We're not done yet. Once the lock is removed, you have to figure which piece of what moves where to enable the door to open. The colder the metal is, the less likely it is to cooperate. Even more fun is when somebody's gotten a little too close to the door and has bent it. Yeah, that close. And don't forget, you have to, eventually, put it all back together, no matter how bent, frozen, or whatever it is. In other words, you damned well better remember what goes where and in what order. And don't forget where you put that blasted lock, and hope to hell you haven't relocked it before it goes back on the door, or that you remember what the combination is and where it lines up.
The real fun, and I mean this most sincerely, is locating your box. Remember, it may or may not be where they said it was. You have no idea of size or shape. All you have is a 10-digit number to compare to all the long numbers on each box. And each box is covered with long numbers, in fonts ranging form a 4 to about a 10. Your number could be any one of these. You won't know until you find the one that's an exact match. Perhaps you find one where only the last four digits are wrong, and you think, "Ah-hah! That's the part number, just the wrong number this time. Now I know where on the boxes to look for the numbers!" The next box will cleverly have its numbers in different orders and different locations. And once again, if it's January, there will be less light, colder air while you are forced to search through more boxes on more shelves, smudged ink making some numbers unreadable, and the flashlight is sure to drop at least once as your now frostbittten fingers lose capability for motion. When it dies as a result, you can carry each individual box out in front of your headlights while you check numbers. It you have to resort to that, it can be useful to remember which shelf it came from. Regardless of where your give-a-shit level is by then.
Eventually you locate your box. You double check that they only wanted one of them delivered. That's not necessarily significant, as I found out last year when I was questioned the next day as to why I only brought one. Fortunately, the order was my alibi. They can ask a lot, but they can't force us to be psychic and know what they meant rather than what they typed in the form. It works with my kids just fine, but not so well at work.
The box is placed in the car and the locking back up process begins. That's the plan, anyway. Today it wasn't a dented door, warped cold metal, missing lock and any of the other "usual" issues. The door opened all the way up, and it was a very tall door. Unlike me, being not so much in the tall department. My rotator cuff injuries have healed enough that I can reach reasonably high over my head these days, like for closing the hatch on the car, or getting something on or off the closet shelf if it's not too heavy. But dang! that door was tall. Now, somebody in the past had thought of that, and attached a piece of rope to the door handle now sitting way over my head. Said piece of rope, however, was about 8" long, not quite enough had it been straight, but even more hopeless as it was curled back up to about 4" from the handle it was attached to.
So now I have to leave the open storage unit door, with all those presumably expensive components inside, and head over to the storage company office and ask for help. Lucky somebody was still there, close and in sight of the opening, and actually had a ladder available. It seems this particular problem happens a lot over there. Imagine that!
The drop can be almost as interesting as picking up the package. Today I had a very easy address, though a completely nonsensical name, and the notation "Suite 2". I figured at least that last would help. Once there, I reaffirmed to myself that the nonsensical name was indeed useless. There were several doors to the building, most with tiny unreadable faded-lettering company name signs. Perhaps if I walked up close to each one... Nope. Not gonna happen. How about a number? Nothing, nothing, 107, nothing... Wait, that wasn't going to be of any use. A 2 against 107? What kind of numbering system is that? I did the only logical thing and picked the door to the business that had at least one person inside, since I'd just watched him walk up the steps and in. Maybe he knew the trick to finding Suite 2. Goodness knows none of the company names listed on the door remotely resembled what I had written down for a destination. He declared that they were indeed Suite 2, not offering to explain what the company name or whatever it was referred to except that it meant them.
There comes a time when you decide to go with the flow. He offered to sign, and I let him. It was time to head home. Somewhere in the world there had to be some sanity, and by then it was much more likely found at home than anywhere else. Especially work.