The courier thing isn’t tough. It’s boring and it’s stressful, depending, and it’s either fun or a pain in the ass, also depending, but it’s not tough. You get a call, you drive, you steal a parking spot, you run into a building with your clipboard and your smile, you fill out a tag and take your package, you run outside in time to beat ticket, you drive, you steal a parking spot, you ride an elevator, you get a signature, you call in. And then wait and get a call and drive and whatever. It’s monkey work. It’s something that generates paychecks. It’s a job.

You make little friends, the places you go a lot. The pregnant receptionist at the lawyer’s office where you always have to wait around, she tells you about her husband and about how the fetus is growing and she nibbles on little snacks behind the potted plants perched on her station and laughs when she tells you about how much she eats. The black English chick at the mortgage company, the one who looks like hiphop but talks like Masterpiece Theater, she’s flirty with that accent and gives you the web addy for the online Goth bondage club she runs. The latina lab tech who calls you cute little pet names and tells you about the guys she dates and shows you the biopsy samples that you’re about to deliver to Long Island, spongy little masses of lung cancer, bloody cuts off a tumorous cervix, a yellowed wad of cirrhotic liver floating in cloudy saline.

It’s ten or twelve or fourteen hours a day of moving things from one place to another, the last vestige of analog in a digital world. You’re entrusted with things that can’t be reduced down to code and shot through a modem, stuff that’s too precious for inhumane handling. You’re a replacement for email, for faxes, for text messaging. An mp3 can travel all around the web in the space of two heartbeats, but the master tapes go from Hartford to NYC in a dented Crown Vic doing 90 mph down the Meritt Parkway. I’ve held in my hands the financial security of first-time homebuyers, the legal writ that gets an 18-year-old bargained down from Murder One to Manslaughter, the blood sample that can match a newly deceased heart in Philadelphia to a dying housewife in Mahopac.

And for all of that, I’m nameless and faceless. I’ve got a badge that nobody ever looks at and a green polo shirt that’s all the identity I’ll ever need. I wave a clipboard and a security guard with aerosol mace and a 9mm barely looks at me as I run up the fire stairs. Receptionists hand over the confidential financial data for a multimillion-dollar company without even looking me in the eye. I get paychecks for a hundred employees, cases of twenty-year-old single malt scotch, I get diamond rings and $50,000 paintings. My signature is a scrawl. My last name is nowhere to be found. I’m a shaved head and a noxious grin and $20 shoes heading for the lobby with the potential end of someone’s career under my arm. My only trace is a yellow flimsy from a three-part form embossed with a phone number that’s two years out of date. I’m the ghost in the machine, the oil in the gears. I’m anonymous and essential and hold nearly endless power over the bastards who pay me to run their one precious, perfect, absolutely necessary thing from here to there.

Really, it’s a good thing that I’m such a nice, honest boy.


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5:35 PM  

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