Shipping Day: Emperor Pius Dei

At the beginning of the shipping day we scramble to explain process to an ever-growing group of volunteers. twenty people stand and wait for me and Janci to sort out what we are doing. We have to pull out our dusty memories of what worked last time and make them fit over the physical changes in the store space since the last time we shipped. We have to assess quickly and assign jobs. Everyone is kind and patient. They are glad to be there, but I feel frazzled.

In the middle of the shipping day we have five tables with 4-5 workers at each. They’re working fast and smoothly. The book boxes are beginning to empty. The stacks of packages near the back door grow. Janci and I have time to stand back for a minute and agree that everything is going well. Two of my volunteers brought their toddler sons. These little boys walk with their dads, grabbing stray papers and putting them into the trash. I would not have expected it to work, but it does and they are adorable. Another volunteer has her infant bundled to her chest and reaches around to apply labels. Everyone is working and talking and laughing. I take some pictures and tweet our progress.

Later in the shipping day, we have begun to run out of things. The lists of invoices and labels have gotten shorter. People are asking for new lists much more often. There are more questions. The orders are more complicated. I scramble to help find missing books which have the Elf sketch, resorting to having Howard draw new ones. I stare at the tall stack of Ebbirnoth sketched books and know that the stack is tall because somewhere I made a mistake. I think I just counted wrong, but I look at the packages stacked by the door and wonder if these Ebbirnoths should go in there. But we don’t have a matching scarcity of something else to balance the extra Ebbirnoths, so I must have counted wrong.

At the end of the shipping day, we run out of labels and lists. I tell the volunteers that their job is to sit and wait for the sandwiches to arrive. They must eat the sandwiches because my kids would rather eat pizza than left over sandwiches. The food arrives and so do two new volunteers. There is nothing left for them to do. I tell them this and they look a little disappointed. I point them to the sandwiches and to the table of give away items, saying they earned them by showing up. I hope that is enough to make up for their trouble in coming. Howard sits down and draws a little sketch for each volunteer. He draws in all the books that they bring to him.

After the end of shipping, most of the volunteers are gone. The few that remain help us return the tables to their correct configuration. We pull out a vacuum and clean up the array of potato chip crumbs. My van is full of left over boxes and packing paper. And books. I drive these home and leave them to sit in the hot afternoon. In the cool evening I will get my kids to help me unload. Until then, I sit and try to quiet the fretful thoughts. It all went well. People had a good time. Just over 1000 packages were assembled and shipped in four hours. Once again we broke our own record for fast shipping. I think we can call that a job well done.

Photos and Tweets from the day:
7:45 am: Today is Schlock book shipping day. It is probable that I will tweet as we go. There may be pictures.

7:50 am: Me to @howardtayler : We can start shipping now, I have alerted the medias. (Twitter, Facebook, Google+)

8:30 am: Minions finished loading my van. Babysitters have their instructions. I’m off and running.

10:00 am: The chaos has settled in some. Note to self: next shipping stagger the start times. 30 people waiting for instructions is stressy.

10:30 am: Both the complicated orders tables and the simple orders tables finished Parcel Post simultaneously. Think this means it is going well.

10:30 am: Note to self: Three tables simple orders and two tables complicated is the right balance.

10:40 am: Boxes of postage starting to empty. This is good.

11:00 am: Youngest ever Schlock shipping helper. Three weeks old today. We’ve given her a supervisory position.

11:00 am: This is crazy. We’re going to be done before noon. I credit the record turnout of awesome volunteers.

11:30 am: …and we’re done. New volunteers showed up in time to eat food and visit. Sorry we ran out of work. #sortof

12:30 pm: Mailman brought the small truck. He’s going to have to make a second trip.

1:30 pm: With the work all done, @howardtayler sits around and draws picture for folks.