Stanley’s World


          Some the journal entries written in the 1990s to reflect what went on during those four years in the mid to late 1970s tended to repeat information and description, but also gave a better overall picture of what Stanley was all about.

          In the 1997 journal, I wrote about how similar the card company was to the cosmetic warehouse, and why I felt so at home there.

          “The only real difference was that I had Stan across the packing table from me rather than my old friends,” I wrote in that same entry. “And for all the chill Donald brought into the work area each time he wandered back, he was infinitely more sane than Carlson had ever been.

          “The shelving at bottles of fragrance instead of greeting cards, so I had to be a bit more careful when I picked orders.”

          As with the card company warehouse, this warehouse had shelves filled with merchandise along the left call, and pallets lined up against the right wall. The biggest difference was that the shipping and packing table sat in the middle neared the front door, and instead of metal pallet racks, the rest of the rear had one level of pallets lined up in the middle of the floor from which we pulled cartons our loose pieces out of cartons, with two aisles running up and down the warehouse.

          The other big difference was that this warehouse had many more items than the card company did, and much more volume – and a lot more dust. Some of this dust came out of the boxes themselves as the result of leaking face power. Even though we swept the place daily, we could never get rid of it all.

          This was Stanley’s world.

          He had arranged it and developed the system and though Donald often questioned some of Stanley’s processes, it was Stanley who managed the day to day operations – even if Donald sometimes prodded him.

          It was to this world that I was admitted on June 3, 1974 and where I would remain until late 1975 when Donald made the move to the new digs on the other side of Fairfield.

          I might not have lasted the first week had Stand put me on the road right away, a matter I was extremely nervous about. Instead, Stan went over the internal operations with me, giving me an overview of what work I was expected to do when not on the road.

          I was not nearly so nervous about picking orders as Stan was – although perfume was significant more valuable and fragile than the cards and wrapping paper I had handled previously. The job still called for me to pick items off shelves or out of cartons then repack them for shipment.

          While Stan was perpetually feature of making a mistake and thus checked and rechecked each and every item even before he got them to the packing table where he checked and rechecked them again, I was more confident in my ability to get it right with fewer checks, something Stan thought was reckless. But this seemed to sit better with Donald, who wanted both speed and accuracy.

          This would ultimately lead to Stan’s demise.

          In a journal written on Feb. 2, 1995 – after attempting and failing to meet up with Stan at the Kaplan Drive warehouse, I wrote that “he took his job seriously, though Donald, the owner, more than once commented on Stanley’s inability to do things quickly. It wasn’t laziness, it was a sense of perfection…Stanley didn’t take to leadership. Despite his claim and efforts to become Warehouse manager, he was paranoid about small issues of responsibility.  For instance, each night Stanley had to lock up the warehouse. This was easy enough in the old warehouse where there were only three doors, two in the rear and one up front. But by the time he got to the front, he sometimes panicked over whether or not he had locked the rear doors and rushed back to check them again. When he got to the new warehouse with seven doors instead of three, he nearly went mad until he decided to do the doors clockwise. But if he got disrupted – if a phone wrong which had to answer or someone asked him a question – he had to do the whole locking routine all over again. Even then when he reached the last door, he couldn’t be certain that he had locked them all, and went back counter clockwise to check. It some times took him over an hour just to lock the doors.”

          This is not to say that Stan didn’t have good ideas as the 1997 journal reflects.

          By positioning the packing table in the middle, Stan figured that two or more orders might get packed simultaneously, allowing for increased speed without risk of a mistake. But with the exception of the last few weeks of the busy season, one side was mostly used.

          Picking order involved two vehicles: a pallet jack with pallet for bulk items such as full cartons or mostly full cartons, and a wheeled tray to collect loose pieces from the shelves – some of these carts had multiple layers. Armed with an order sheet which early on was hand written, we collected items for shipment.

          The work table in the old place was a kind of outward reflection of Stan’s personality, something he seemed to bring in with him from his days dealing with sheet metal. It was never a pristine environment. Things always encroached upon it, even during those times when we had no orders to pack. Things leaned in from adjacent shelves or items were left over from some order and waited to be returned to the shelves.

          The tray with paper work for orders perpetually had some paper in it, a note for some future chore or something Stand needed to remind himself about.

          The table also included two paper tape machine with plastic water bottles filling small reservoirs that kept the tape-wetting sponge moist. We were constantly running to the bathroom to fill these bottles up during hectic days. These tape machine had a handle we yanked down, learning to gauge the size we needed before we let go.

          Common to both warehouses were the stencil labelers we used to mark all the boxes we shipped with the name and address of the company to which the boxes had to do. In the card company, one of the secretaries typed out these. Here, we generally typed them ourselves or hand wrote them. Since the volume of boxes was significantly large at times, we often had to make a number of these stencils.

          The applicators were ingenious, if a bit sloppy with a plastic bottle containing ink for a handle that fed the curved, sponge-like applicator to which we attached the stencil. We rocked the slightly curved surface against the surface of the box, leaving inked address on the box. Stanley, never satisfied, insisted that we mark the top and the sides of each box.

          These applicators hung on metal holders which also decorated the surface of Stan’s work table as did at least two ashtrays, a collection of cassette tapes, a cassette player and other things.

          With the table as the center of any operation, we generally put a pallet on the pallet jack – a forked vehicles with two prongs that slide into holes under the pallet, and then these are jacked up so that we could move the planet from one part of the warehouse to another, and sometimes we used the jacks to drive whole pallets up a ramp and onto the back of a truck or unload pallets in the same fashion.

          Although as a drive I would have to pick up many of the more posh items from posh stores throughout the region, D & B’s warehouse got a lot of direct shipments – particularly during the Christmas season that started in August and ended by Thanksgiving.

          In filling an order, we loaded full or partial cartons onto the pallet and once we filled out the bulk items, we took to the trays to collect individual pieces.

          The always meticulous Stanley had developed a system of his own for keeping track of how many pieces we needed to collect, once we had gathered the cartons, writing the number of loose pieces in the margins of the order form, which he later circled once they were collected.

          Stan’s system got more complicated when it came to actually packing up these orders, a system that so slowed down the operation that Donald often complained in frustration over Stan’s lack of speed.

          But Stanley needed to document what exactly went into each box shipped. Full cartons were easy. Not so with cartons that contained numerous items. Stan’s system required us to mark down where each item went in each box, numbering the boxes and the ordering sheet accordingly. If someone claimed they had not received something or got shorted, Stan could prove otherwise.


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