“So how much does a bundle weigh?”, Peter asked.
“20kg,” I replied.
“That is too heavy!”, he said.
“Well, your boss said the maximum weight is 25kg, so we are still under.”
Peter was a driver for a courier company that we contracted to deliver all of our products around the city. He was pretty healthy for his age, around 60 at that time. Nevertheless, he did throw a complaint or two about the weight of our parcels.
Our warehouse staff was rather young, in his 20s, so he did most of the heavy lifting. He never complained though. We were lucky to have such a compliant worker. Although sometimes I caught him checking his Facebook account at work. He did put in the hard yard, so I turned a blind eye.
In the meantime, my wife couldn’t stop complaining.
She always found something, somewhere, to criticise on. Who cared if the floor was not swept yet? Or if the rubbish bins were not emptied? We were busy making money. We did not have time for all of those little things.
We had everything under control between me and our warehouse guy, Tom. So the last thing we needed was a headache from a clean-freak wife. Don’t get me wrong. I loved her deeply. But regarding my business, there were just three people: me, myself, and I. There was no one else. I did it all.
Business was picking up. Our customers couldn’t get enough of our products. Everything was flying off the door. The warehouse was as busy as Tokyo central train station. I was contemplating whether to get new staff or not.
Well, until such time when Tom rang at 8am that morning.
“Hi Fred, I am sorry, but I need to leave by 11am today,” Tom said.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“It’s a little bit awkward to explain,” he replied.
“Alright, that’s fine,” I said. “I am coming shortly anyway.”
I had butterflies in my stomach. Something was not right.
The following day Tom came to work. He worked hard as usual. Peter, the courier driver, threw some complaints again about the weight of the parcels.
“Hah, weak little old man,” I thought to myself. “I could lift those parcels easily.”
My coffee was too hot that morning. I was just holding my cup in the warehouse, waiting for Tom to arrive. He was unusually late that day.
“Tom, you are finally here,” I said to him as he came through the door.
“Ah, yes, I am here,” he seemed somewhat flustered.
“Ready for work?” I asked.
“Umm, before that.”
“I have something for you,” Tom handed me an envelope. “This is my resignation letter.”
And that’s how I finally knew where Tom went a few weeks ago when he had to leave at 11am. He went to an interview at another company.
I didn’t have the time to get a new staff straight away. So for the following few weeks, I worked extra hours in the warehouse. It was like an exercise anyway, I said to myself, trying to justify it.
Peter still said the same thing about our parcels, that they were too heavy. Of course, I didn’t pay any attention to it. If he couldn’t lift them, I would do it for him. And so I did, loading all the parcels from our trolley to his truck.
My body started to feel the pain from lifting all of those heavy parcels. In particular my back. I guess I wasn’t as strong as I wanted to be. There were times when my back froze in the morning. It stiffened up like a block of ice.
“Maybe Peter is right about the way we handle these parcels,” I thought to myself.
We did interview few people to replace Tom, but we didn’t feel right about any of them. It was not an easy job, what Tom was doing. I wanted to make sure we got the right person.
In the meantime, I kept plodding along.
The back pain got worse. It was a regular thing to get a stiff back in the morning. I couldn’t care less though, we had work to do.
“Hi Peter,” I said.
“Fred, you are here again,” Peter said.
“Yeah, we haven’t found a new warehouse guy.”
“O well, at least you’re still young.”
“Well, not really, but I can lift these up for you.”
And as soon as I picked up the last parcel, I felt a knife jabbed in my back.
I felt on my knees. I could still feel the knife. The sharp pain shot deeper into my middle back. By then I felt my back almost collapsed. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak.
Peter closed his truck door not realising what happened. He drove away, leaving me on the warehouse floor.
I waited for a few minutes before trying to stand up. I felt a sharp pain every time I tried to move. I finally pulled myself up. I walked towards my office holding on to everything I could find.
“Hunny, I think I hurt my back,” I called my wife.
“What do you mean you hurt your back?” my wife replied.
“I was lifting this parcel, and I felt severe pain in my back.”
“What? Are you ok?” she started to panic.
“Not really, I could hardly walk.”
“Ok, don’t move, I’m coming now.”
My wife took me to a Physiotherapy.
It was a disc-injury.
The gel in-between my spinal bones was pressed so hard that it was swollen and hurting the nerves around it.
The Physiotherapist said it would take at least a few weeks before I could start working again. And he specifically told me not to do any heavy-lifting. He said if it happened again the damage could be permanent.
I couldn’t believe it. I lost a good employee. Then I lost my back. I lost everything.
“I could help in the warehouse,” my wife suddenly said.
“You?”, I said in disbelief.
“Yeah, I can lift those parcels too.”
“They are too heavy.”
“I’ll figure out a way.”
My wife ended up helping around in the warehouse for the next few weeks. I was recovering slowly while she worked hard. And she did figure out a better way to lift the parcels. She used the forklift. I never knew why we did not think of it before. I felt stupid trying to handle all those parcels by hand.
A forklift, of course!
So basically, she packed the goods and then put them on a pallet. Sometimes she used two pallets when the day was busy. She would then used a forklift to raise the pallets so Peter could just push them onto his truck easily. What a great idea! I have to say, she was a better warehouse worker than the previous guy.
You know what, all her complaints about floor and bins. It meant nothing now. She was the one that held me up when I needed help the most. She was the one that came to the rescue when there was no one else. And she was the one that put up with me and my massive ego.
I never knew how weak I was. I never knew how much I needed someone to support me when I got myself in trouble.
I thought I could do it all.
I realised that in this business journey of mine, I don’t have to go it alone. In fact, I cannot go it alone.
I need support.
I needed it then, and I still do now.
“While good support is essential, during difficult times, it is non-negotiable.”