October 22, 2008
Dear Schwan's Home Service and whom it may concern,
I have recently finished my employment with Schwan's. I worked there as a customer service manager (route driver/manager) for the last 7 months. In some ways I finished as I started, covering routes for others and fumbling through it. In other ways my innocence was gone, my willingness to put my best foot forward day after day had waned, gone from me like my frozen breath on a cold and windy day. Where did it go you might ask? Maybe a more appropriate question is how could it leave, with our precious elders and mothers and fathers and children all clamoring in their own way to witness the Schwan driver on his appointed rounds. How could a compassionate person like the typical Schwan driver ever give up his part in the awesome responsibility of bringing good food and delectable desserts to the people?
When I did my ride along day with the senior driver of the depot I started out not knowing if this was the job for me. Within a few hours I was so taken with the procedure I was almost crying. This was no sales job. This was a service job. The relationships the customers had with the driver were amazing. And they were all so different. For some it was like a grandparent and grandchild. For others it was as siblings or friends. Others were more superficial but there was always a high degree of respect. Yes, some customers were ignorant and/or painful. But even those were shown a good example of respect and positive regard. Life can be so very interesting.
When I first started I was overwhelmed with the myriad emotions emanating from my customers. Many were hurt with the many changes in drivers. They expressed this in varying degrees of anger and frustration and even actual pain. I felt personally responsible for helping them to alleviate their pain by being dependable and trustworthy. I facilitated their process not quite realizing it was going to happen again and again, even as I became the focus of a healthy continuity I was also headed toward becoming a reason for more abandonment and suffering. I must admit I am carried away with the romance of my role in my customers' lives, but if you saw the tears and heard the fears it might not seem so grandiose.
The majority of my time with Schwan's I did a lot of math. There were times when fatigue won out and I just continued on automatic, much like I imagine a dog sled racer does in the far north when their endurance has reached a point where they continue to travel but the higher levels of consciousness fade to the point beyond exhaustion, the point beyond taking in the minute details of information and strictly concentrate on staying upright, staying in the race, staying alive. I imagine this is what happens with the drivers who stay. They shut off parts of themselves in order to survive the long hours, the constant fatigue which becomes almost a permanent part of their lives. I say almost because I do not wish to put into the world the thought of these drivers dying in the saddle, not ever realizing the joy that is present when mental/emotional/physical fatigue is not their constant companion.
The pain and suffering a Schwan route driver goes through is no joke. Whenever the long hours are mentioned to anyone in management the 1 person in 100 is brought up who somehow manages to not work too long of hours, maybe only 50 or 55 sometimes. Somehow they make their good money and don't sacrifice a big chunk of their life in the process, but they are not the norm. The average is nowhere in that ballpark. When I first met my regional manager I was just returned to the depot after a long day, one of many long days. I did not know he was going to be there and I was tired enough to just shoot from the hip. I told him that I did not ordinarily participate in pyramid schemes as too many people were left at the bottom and when he did not bat an eyelash I guess I knew right then what was what. As I was doing my paperwork I delved into what made him tick, as this was my chance to observe a somewhat upper manager in action. He was articulate and funny. I could not help liking him even as the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I managed to ask him the most important question in such a way as to that he actually responded to me with his own truth. He was getting his. I thank him for his honesty. With the addiction of greed running rampant in the world and this country today I guess I could have known, but this verbal confirmation hammered it home all the more.
When I watch television I see a world where what is best for the individual is to lie, cheat, steal and win the million dollars. What I know to be true is that what is truly best is when what is best for the individual is also best for the immediate family, the extended family, the community, and the whole world. Schwan's management has stepped over the line. They have gone down the road of repressing their fellow workers in the name of their own personal bottom line. I guess I am angry with this but most of the time it just takes too much energy to go around mad about it. If the long hours produced a reasonable income then I could have afforded music and martial arts classes for my daughter, at least some form of paternal endearment. Alas, I started Schwan's behind on my utility bills and I ended Schwan's behind on my utility bills. I miss it very much.