UPSsence of Insanity…

This post clocks in at around 1,600 words so perhaps you’d like to take a break and come back later to finish. And thank you, as always, for stopping by.

Barely secured, jostled about on a slim stiff seat, a bumpy cold ride as brumal winds whistled through an open door, I was on my way to deliver packages to folk who cared not a whit to our plight. Yes, such as it was, my brief stint as a UPS driver helper during these past holidays.

Luckily my driver Mike was a good-natured sort and during those long hellacious days, he provided much needed laughter. You had to have a sense of humor for this job. That, and be a masochist.

Mike’s route consisted of locations around the Sturfield environs, encompassing a few  expensive enclaves as well as hovels and a smattering of businesses along the way.

As we got to know each over the course of three weeks, I told him not to expect any holiday tips from the townsfolk, the wanna-be rich who reside in preposterously over-priced, maxed-out mortgage McMansions, cookie-cutter structures flimsily constructed, replete with immaculate tiny verdant lawns carefully groomed with unnecessary, expensive sit-down mowers. Folk who wish to appear wealthy, who want to believe their town was special, like a Newton, Brookline, or Holden. But it was all an illusion.

The rarefied air was unfounded, the stink of elitism was unwarranted, the kind of town where brown people are hard to come by.

“You don’t think so?” Mike asked, peering at me as we drove at ferocious speeds to our next icy destination.

“I’ll bet you get absolutely nothing. Maybe, just maybe, if you’re lucky, a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts. But I doubt it.”

“C’mon, it can’t be that bad.”

“Mike, you will learn that Sturfieldians are, in two words, fake and cheap.”

We bounced along rutted roads, in back the overstuffed van tossing packages indiscriminately. There was no discernable rhyme or reason to the load, packed to the ceiling.

Mike only had this route since September, so he had no idea of the type of people who lived there. He was in for a rude awakening.

There were some townsfolk , I told him, who thought it beneath their status to shop at Walmart, preferring to purchase their skillets and Skittles at Target or, for less bang for your buck, at Crate & Barrel.

I told Mike a story of some people (we used to call them friends) who complained how they had the smallest house in the neighborhood, a desirable enclave of eclectic structures that spoke of old money.

“We walked with them one Halloween,” I began, “and whenever we met their friends or neighbors, they never introduced us. It was evident we were beneath their social status. At the time, we were renting a house, as if the word ‘renter’ was taboo, to be whispered only, hushed like the word ‘cancer’.

Mike looked at me, wondering if I was pulling his leg. But something in his eyes told me he knew I spoke the truth.

“No, Mike. Sorry. No tips for you!” I said in my best Soup Nazi voice.

Fighting bitter winds and miserable snapping curs, my job was to jump out the open door, take packages and sprint up ice encrusted driveways or cut through lawns and deposit parcels on icy stoops. This was the routine—sometimes for nine or ten hours straight.

I had to chortle over this temporary job. It was surreal, a job suited for unstable folk, people who were a bit touched, those who must enjoy the pain and misery of relentless cold. Did I fit the bill? I must, as I was paid a paltry sum to brave these brutish conditions: $11 an hour. Christ, at some of my past modeling gigs I made three times that amount, just for baring all in unbearable frigid rooms, standing in the all together whilst students sat and drew me, a circle of strangers bedecked in fur-lined frocks and woolly scarves. I endured that—for three hour stretches—because I did not mind making $30+ an hour.

Here though, donning an over-sized UPS coat over several layers and wearing flimsy orange work gloves, I dodged frozen dog turds and toys submerged in snow, leaping over guy wires holding up enormous kitschy Christmas balloons, all to deposit packages on doorsteps.

We averaged over 200 stops each day. Since it was December, sunlight was fleeting, disappearing before three in the afternoon. Flashlights were paramount, as who knew what mongrel dog or forest creature lurked on the fringe, awaiting a surprise attack to sample the tenderness of my thigh.

It was godawful. I had to laugh to myself, though, at the sheer absurdity of it all. (Camus was correct.) But during these darkled forays onto strangers’ lands, balancing ponderous parcels on my shoulders, Mike managed to keep me in stitches, allowing my cold tired soul to realize the rather risible nature of such employ. I marveled at how he was still doing this after 17 years. Yes, my driver, like me, was a true masochist.

December 22nd arrived, and I yearned for days end. I called Mike “Eeyore” as every day, especially this last day, he assured me that we ‘were screwed!’, that we wouldn’t finish until 10:30, maybe 11pm. I assured him, like every day before, we’d be done by 7:30, eight at the latest. And we did. We cranked it out, mainly because I wanted to be at home with my lovely wife and two boys, sitting before the woodstove and indulging in a questionable libation. It was certainly better than caromed about in a frigid van, with winter winds seeking passage between collar and sleeve alike.

The day merciful ended, and I bid Mike a splendid holiday. My stint as a driver helper was complete. I could now return to my frozen RAV4, stuck amongst the snow in the far reaches of a strip mall.

Sitting in my vehicle, waiting for a hint of heat to thaw my pre-hypothermia state, I was quite sure I’d be stopping at the local Packie, to purchase with my meager earnings a soporific that would both relax and induce a semblance of sleep.


Forward a week later (still having not received my last check) I found myself traveling eastward to—you guessed it—the UPS hub, where I was to be interviewed for a package handler position. Did I mention to you that perhaps I might be a masochist?

But let’s face it. I needed a job. Working briefly as a driver helper did not constitute a real job. Especially at an embarrassing eleven dollars per hour.

So there I was sitting in a room, with others who dreamed of becoming package handlers. (Could that really be possible?)

I sat and perused the papers before me, information about the job, what to expect and the hourly rate. And there it was, in black and white: $11 an hour. Fancy that. ‘You must be joshing me,’ I muttered, oblivious to the banter and joking of others who seemed eager—eager!—to readily submit their bodies and minds to such meager and menial labor.

The perky young assistant, Melissa, guided us through the paperwork and then took us in a rag-tag fashion to “The Hub”, where all the action took place.

I was horrified. It reminded me of a mechanical nightmare, as though immersed in a ghastly scene straight out of a Bosch canvas.

The interior was dim, with whirring conveyor belts slowly moving packages along, some parcels dropping to the floor with a bang.

Melissa showed us several stations: loading or unloading trucks, sorting a mountain of goods, all at an astounding rate best suited for a cyborg.

Sheer and utter madness. Insanity within dim, cavernous walls. I saw workers in semis, unloading parcels with light dimmer than candles, the constant whining and clattering echoing along endless corridors as though we somehow entered a three-dimensional Rube Goldberg device.

Did I mention I was shocked? But the kicker though, despite the minuscule money offered, was that you were only guaranteed 3.5 hours a day. And maybe, if you were very lucky, five hours a day.

We fled the clanking, darkened interior and wended our way across the bitter cold tarmac. My subsequent interview was brief: “Not for me,” I said to a still smiling, still perky Melissa. “The hours and pay and working conditions are atrocious.”

Still, she tried to reassure me that after twelve months of slave labor for pittance pay, I was ‘guaranteed’ a fifty-cent raise. I suppose she was less than ecstatic by my gaze. Deep down, she must have realized how incredibly absurd and laughable it all was. I bid her goodbye.

Buffeted by arctic blasts, I crossed the immense parking lot to my car and cranked the heat. No, the job was not for me. And this certainly is not a knock against UPS, not at all. I know, first-hand, how hard the drivers work, through all kinds of hellish weather and conditions. My brief stint with Mike was enough to make me realize I was not destined to drive one of those rollicking ‘Brownies”, as the vans are called.

Mike, here’s to you and all your fellow drivers. I salute you in your tenacity, your perseverance and, most of all, your camaraderie during our month of hell.

A few days after it was all over, after the holidays, I gave Mike a call, inquiring about all the tips he made.

“Yeah, Paul, you were right,” he said with a sigh. And then added, “Although I did get a $5 gift card to Dunkin Donuts!”

‘Ah, Sturfieldians at their finest,’ I thought.


Copyright, Paul Grignon, 2018, All Rights Reserved.



Season’s Greetings, et al…

Yes, ‘tis yet another brand-new year, one filled with possibilities, dreams yet realized, days spent sitting in a chair–writing. That is the goal.

I must maintain the energy and vibrancy of August 2017, when I partook in the WDC in New York. It was a wonderful experience, eye-opening and packed with reams of information, a lot to digest since.

But I am writing today to put myself out there once again, to let sundry folk know that I am committed to getting published, that I will find myself in that chair despite the urge, at times, to lay a little longer under comforters, just a little more shuteye before rising, before that first hot cup of healing joe.

I would also like to give a shout out to some fine blogs out there, sites that can only help you maintain your own writing path. These are places I return to often, to get a dose of their respective takes and I believe you, too, will gain wisdom and calm, knowing that you are truly a part of this long and arduous process, that you are not alone. : a true gentleman, one who always replies to your comment in a generous and gracious way. His site brims with poems, stories, haikus, and other relevant writing material. Do stop by and give Eric a hearty hello. His words will propel you along. Mr. Chuck Wendig will give you the lowdown in an unfiltered delivery, one laced with humor and in’cite’ful observations into the craft of writing, and he also has some great contests! A little rough around the edges, but his bawdiness only enhances his posts. a welter of info about writing and getting published, she is a go-to for up-to-date news into the world of literature.

Luckily, in this new year, I located a timely post from another writer who speaks of that desire to plunge into the writing world and not letting the hounds of hesitancy drown you in indecision. You will find his post here at Michael Moreci

I wish all you fellow travelers on this never-ending road of writing to have a wonderful year, one of productivity and publishing!

Take care,


Copyright, 2018, Paul Grignon, All Rights Reserved.



Flash Fiction Friday…

Since I have a welter of writings scattered here and there I thought I’d start a series, culling various pieces from piles of papers. There is no set word count here; it could be from 100-1,000. I believe this simple exercise will allow me to free up the writer’s block that sometimes plagues me. (Especially now, since I am engaged in NANOWRIMO.)

Anyway, here is my first post of flash fiction, fashioned from my own prompt. It just came to me out of the blue one night, right before bed.

Thank you for stopping by.

The Cornfield

Effie was barefoot and giggling as she sprinted ahead of me, down the dusty dirt trail, wearing her usual summer clothes, frayed cutoff jeans and a billowing white shirt tied at the belly, her long curly auburn hair flowing over her shoulders, running just ahead of me past the bend, and me only knowing you left the trail by the broken stalk to my left, sticking out of place, as though the unity and wholeness of the cornfield was somehow breached, now broken.

I stopped at the break and, in the distance, I heard your laughter. I plunged into the fragrant stalks, breaking my own fair share, laughing to myself as I sought you through the dense vivid green foliage, the tasseled ripening corn tickling my arms as I raced forward, searching for that unseen mirth. I ran, wondering how you could be so far ahead, marveling at your grace, your speed, your ebullience, your loveliness. Yes, we were only 14. Well, you were; I was 12. But I knew, deep down, that I felt something toward you, something inexplicable, something warm and comfortable and pleasing.

And you were out there, somewhere, laughing in the wind, nothing but vast fields of brilliant blue spread out above, us running and slapping at lush green stalks as we raced through the field, me winded and excited and wishing to just gather you in my arms, to hold you, breathe you in, to fall amongst the shattered verdant limbs and let the full sun embrace our youthful giggling madness.

word count: 257


Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2017 All Rights Reserved.

Addendum and Note About Flake, et al…

It seems that in my last post I did not provide a link to Senator Flake’s powerful speech from the Senate floor, denouncing the president and his ill-advised visions for America and the world. Here is the link.

Also, my letter applauding him and his speech has subsequently been soured by his vote for corporations and against consumers. My fellow blogger, Chuck Wendig, says it best here.

It is a shame that yet another Republican Senator has decided to relinquish their post and not stay to fight the nonsense that permeates Washington. Bannon and his ilk (Trump and his sheeple) have won again.

Besides eloquently execrating the soulless world of the occupant in the White House, Mr. Flake and Mr. Corker should remain, to fight against all they rail against. It is only through such spokespeople that the world has a chance to reclaim a lost dignity, one that has been slowly eroding for decades.

Is it possible to recover from the invidious nature of the current power structure? The world and its people yearn to heal, to become whole, to become one with all people, to become one with our wonderful blue planet.


Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2017 All Rights Reserved.

In Response to Mr. Flake…

Dear Senator Flake,

I would like to personally commend you on your speech made on the Senate floor in front of your fellow colleagues. I applaud your speech.

I am neither a Republican nor Democrat, but an Independent, and I could not so easily sit and dismiss such a profound and heartfelt and urgently needed message. I, therefore, felt compelled to reply to your strong, evocative, and powerful message, a speech filled both with passion and concern, a speech that will, I am certain, render others in your party—and the White House—speechless. (One can only hope the latter refrains from an infantile tirade within a 140-character format.)

Thank you, Mr. Flake, for allowing a citizen HOPE that others will, after listening and absorbing your perfectly balanced yet fiery speech, follow your lead and reign in the nonsense and horror that has plagued our country for over nine long months.

I rarely reply to anything government-related as I remain a steadfast cynic, censorious in everything to do with Washington proper, a disillusioned citizen who had given up all hope in change for the better, watching with utter despair our descent into the maelstrom of ridicule and oblivion in the eyes of the world.

Perhaps with your words of wisdom, of heartfelt pointed anger, your patriotism (in the correct sense), things will slowly change, for the better, for all humanity. It is in America’s best interest that we all embrace the world’s people, from every country, to welcome all into the bosom of the United States, without judgment, without hatred, without superiority, but rather with open arms and open minds. We are not exceptional, we are indispensable, but just one country amongst others.

Thank you, Senator Flake, for eliminating—at least temporarily—my disregard for our leaders in government, for making me believe that another avenue, another course, another direction in a positive light can be wrought by men and women who humbly serve our great nation of citizens.

We shall see if others in all facets of Washington heed your clarion call to change and action.

Paul Grignon

There, but for the Grace of…

Buddha, Beelzebub, God, Allah, or whatever you call your higher power, it remains the power of an instant to realize the true importance of what matters in life and in your own individual existence on this spinning blue orb.

Yesterday I had to suffer through a dilemma of sorts, something that has plagued my mind for months now, something that gnawed at me during the night, eating away the hours of slumber; wide-eyed at 1am, then 2:20, then 3:45, then…well, you get the gist.

It was something that I do not care to go into any detail. Suffice it to say it played a huge part in our financial situation, something that should not have played out as it did at all.

There. I will leave it at that. I will add, though, that whatever ‘it’ was—and is—still preys upon my mind, at times oppressive and consuming, and all thoughts eventually lead to my sense of self-worth, my self-esteem, my own existence here and now, wondering what in hell to do. The mental anguish, the myriad of unanswered questions, the inner turmoil, the sense of hopelessness that, at times, rears its unwanted and hideous visage into my consciousness.

All this was renting space in my head as I returned from this ordeal in western Mass, heading east to home. But before ensconcing myself in my house, errands remained essential. After a bout of dodging ponderous pachyderms as they plodded along the corridors of Walmart, hunched over squeaky-wheeled carriages, I had to pop into the supermarket for a few items.

It was there that I witnessed humanity, how grand life is outside your own self-pity, your own self-wallowing, beyond what you perceive as life itself massed against you.

I got my groceries and, normally, I go to the self check-out lane, not wishing to spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for a bona fide human to ring me up.

But this time, given my trials out west, I opted to stay in line and wait for the cashier. I placed my groceries on the belt, and waited for the couple in front of me to finish with their purchase.

It was then that I noticed for the first time who the cashier was, someone that I knew from being a customer at the place I worked at, a kind older woman who, in the past, had confided to me her own financial difficulties.

My immediate thought was to collect my items and go to the self check-out registers. But I hesitated. I told myself, no, I’m going to stay right here and talk with this kind woman.

When the customers in front left, I chatted with her, asking how she was doing. She hesitated, with tears in her eyes, and proceeded to tell me how drained she was: physically, mentally, spiritually. I inquired as to what was wrong. She said that her son, 47 years old, had lost everything and she was sure he was about to commit suicide.

It seems he had indulged in drugs and alcohol, was now behind bars, his wife was leaving him after almost 20 years together, that he has nothing left to his name, is hooked up to a house monitor and, as she said, was sure he had nothing to live for and will soon take his own life.

During all this outpouring, I stood there and listened and thought about how utterly trivial my own plight was, how minuscule it was compared to her own story, of many stories out there; the horrific hurricane that decimated Puerto Rico, the conflagration in California, the myriad of problems all over the United States—the entire world.

What right did I have feeling sorry for myself, how pathetic it was in the grand scheme of human suffering? Jesus. After she rung me up, I walked around the register and gave her a long, lingering hug, wishing her well, sending both her and her son white light for healing as she trembled within my embrace.

Before I left, I told her there must have been a reason why I was in her line, instead of the self check- out, and I believe that. It was to make me realize that, despite my inward worry and stress, there are always many more worse off than me. That is what I told her; there was that reason I was there, at that moment in time, to give her a semblance of comfort, to perhaps provide a tiny portion of calm to a soul so troubled.

I left the store with my groceries, made my way to my truck, and thought how lucky I was—am—to not have to go through such anguish. It put things in perspective.

There are—always—others who suffer more in ways we cannot possibly fathom. The experience taught me a lesson.

I thought I’d share this with you.


©Paul Grignon – 2017

A Gem from a Gentleman…

Once again my dear friend from across the miles has generated yet another wonderful, insightful haiku, a thought-provoking poem that perhaps will intrigue you to compose one of your own. Here is the link to his wonderful site, and here is a link to the comment page.

Eric Alagan is a prolific writer and possesses a most generous soul, always regarding his followers with poise, grace, and gracious comments. Take the time to peruse his excellent site and may his own musings provide a spark for your own artistic soul.

Take care and enjoy your writing!