Box Runner

Written by EvanC

This work was last updated February 11, 2020

Tyler, or as everyone called him at work, T-Man, was ranting during Joe’s break.

“I can’t believe I’m spending New Year’s Eve here. I’ve been talking to management since November saying I need New Year’s off. And yet, here I am.”

Joe never got any rest from T-Man’s constant talking. Every time Joe visited the break room for some terrible coffee, T-Man would be there. His fat form always sitting in the same seat at the table, center of the small break room.

T-Man continued, to no one in particular, as Joe poured the room temperature coffee into a paper cup.

“Like who does management think I am? I have a life, and New Year’s Eve is a part of that.”

Joe always wondered how T-Man still had a job here. Joe had never seen T-Man actually leave the break room. And to be honest, T-Man seemed a bit out of shape to be working this job.

Joe checked the clock on the wall and saw that his one minute and twenty second break was about to expire. Joe downed his coffee, tossed the cup into the trash, and made his way out.

“I’m not being lazy. I’d gladly work any other day of the week, but this is an offense to the code of human nature. My brother had a similar experience…”

T-Man’s throaty voice slowly disappeared as Joe quickly walked down the hallway.

Somewhere in the world, someone pressed the express order button on an Amazon purchase. And instantly when that happens, Joe’s tablet is notified with a floor number, an aisle number, and a box number. Joe’s a Light Carrier, meaning he only collects relatively light boxes that are easy enough to carry by hand. There would always be multiple items to collect, and the fastest way was to carry them all at once to deliver at the Staging Area. Joe doesn’t know what happens to the boxes after the Staging Area.

Joe’s good at his job, in fact he considers himself the best. He figures it’s his calling, to be naturally good at running and carrying boxes. Others can’t handle it. Either they’re too slow or they drop too many boxes and they’re fired, often immediately. Not Joe.

Joe has found the optimal strategy of efficiency at the Amazon warehouse. The trick is to take the fast but tiny personal elevator to the top floor. Then to work downwards using the slow, large, service elevator, drop all the boxes at the Staging Area, and then go to the adjacent break room. Work hard for 20 minutes followed by a minute and twenty second break.

The break room is always the same. The coffee is always room temperature. And T-Man is always there along with an occasional poor soul forced to listen to his rant.

“You know, I think of all the parties happening out there. All the people, dressed up, drinking from their little glasses. With their smiles and laughs. And that’s happening everywhere, at so many places. And yet, here I am.”

Joe watched the clock. 9:48pm and eleven seconds. Joe downed the coffee in one gulp and left the break room.

Joe checked his tablet. Sixteen orders were displayed with their locations. Order #5 was the highest located, on floor 22. Joe rode the express elevator. Aisle G, section #17. Joe found the package, about twice the size of a shoebox. Sometimes Joe wondered what the boxes contained. What did people need for tomorrow that they didn’t have now?

Joe was getting slower. The box running just wasn’t filling the void. Maybe he was thinking too much about other stuff and not focusing on the boxes. Maybe he’s been reading too many books on his off days. Maybe it’s because he’s listening to slower music. Maybe it’s because his best friend has left and moved to Vancouver. Maybe it’s the recent departure of Andrew, the old fastest employee at this warehouse. Maybe it was because of a little of everything.

The service elevator rides were the worst part. It was uncontrollably slow. There was nothing for Joe to do, but think. And thinking was something that slowed Joe down. It made him tense with questions like “what am I doing here.”

This was a bad run. All of the boxes were collected but Joe was still on floor 19. It was a slow ride down. And the thoughts were becoming annoying. Being here at the warehouse on New Year’s Eve didn’t help. Joe took sleeping pills when he went to bed to avoid thoughts, but being slowed down at work was the last thing he could do.

Out of desperation, Joe took his phone out and called Sean.

“Hello?” Sean’s voice was undisguisable. Joe couldn’t explain why Sean’s voice was so unique, just that he could hear it in a crowded bar without a problem.

“Happy New Year’s Sean.”

Sean returned the pleasantries to Joe.

“How the hell is the Vancouver life?” Joe asked.

Sean explained that it was the best decision of his life. The new location and opportunities were exactly what he needed.

“How about you Joe?”

Joe saw the elevator was approaching the ground floor.

“I’m spending New Years at the Amazon warehouse.”

“Yeah and I gotta get back to work.”

“Talk later then eh?”

“Of course.”

Joe carried all sixteen boxes stacked together from the elevator to the staging area.

Joe visited the breakroom so often for only a minute and twenty seconds that no one paid attention to him on his routine coffee chug. Especially not T-Man.

“I was there in 1968. I was there at the first Can show in Cologne.” Joe left before he could even get the gist of what T-Man was talking about.

If Joe ever got a chance to talk to management, his number one complaint would be that it seemed all the important boxes were on the higher levels, and never on the lower floors. Meaning he spent most of his time riding the elevator from the high floor pickup, all the way down to the Staging Area.

This time he phoned his brother while descending the slow elevator.


Joe’s brother was in the country for the holidays. Away from the city and all the bullshit.

“What the hell, you’re working on New Year’s? I can’t believe you’re still with them.”

Joe didn’t really have a reason why he was still working at Amazon. It’s just what he did. It kept him busy and paid the rent. What more did Joe need?

Again, Joe had to cut the conversation short as the elevator neared its destination.

T-Man continued his endless monologue. “A year ago, I can’t remember what I did for New Years. But I can tell you this, I sure as hell wasn’t here.”

Joe downed his coffee. Collected boxes. He rode the elevator. He phoned his roommate. He downed his coffee. Found boxes. Elevator. Phone call. Heard the beginnings or endings of T-Man’s rants. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Joe phoned his cousin. He phoned his other friends. Some were at parties. Some at restaurants. One was alone watching a movie. Another at a hospital with a broken leg. Some didn’t answer their phones at all.

Time was passing and the year was coming to an end.

Joe was in the elevator when midnight struck. It was a long slow ride down with nothing to do. He thought about calling Alison. She was probably busy doing something exciting at this moment. She wouldn’t want to be disturbed with a phone call. Joe started to dial her number, but put his phone away. He rode the elevator down, alone with his thoughts.

T-man was alone in the break room. Regardless he was deep in rant as Joe entered.

“Sometimes I wonder why I’m here. Why don’t I just go home? Or get a better job. Sometimes I wonder.”

There was silence afterwards. T-Man just stared at nowhere, his lips closed for once. A somber silence filled the space as Joe held the room temperature coffee in his hand. The rest of Joe’s short break was in limbo. Finally the clock on the wall indicated Joe should leave. He downed his coffee and exited the silent room.

His tablet showed only one order located on the 30th, top floor. It was a small box that could fit in Joe’s hand. He could’ve ridden the personal elevator down but out of habit he entered the service elevator. It was going to be a long ride down.

The time was sixteen minutes passed midnight.

In one hand Joe held the box, in the other his phone. Joe took a deep breath and called Alison.


“Happy New Year Alison.”

“Happy New Year.”

Tags: contest, box, runner, new years, elevators, phones


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