Sunday, February 27, 2005

Can a thing be both cool and depressing? If so, then's warehouse is truly that. On the one hand, it's enormous, like a forest of books and cds and DVDs all waiting quietly on three endless floors. Eighty-seven miles of shelves and pickers pushing carts back and forth and up and down. You order a book and immediately this massive system sets to work to fill your order. Books and the other items come from all over the warehouse, converging first in bins, then on conveyer belts, then on shelves, then cardboard trays. Then everything is wrapped in plastic, put in a box, stuffed with bubblewrap, labeled and taped, and sent. Above the hot machinery in shipping--each piece of equipment making its own rhythmic noise--snakes a white tube of cool air undulating under the power of fans, lined with holes to direct the air to the hot workers below. My favorite part, and my least favorite, was at the end, watching this lone woman sorting all of the boxes onto four conveyor belts--one below her and three behind her. There, in those boxes, are the words that we write and carefully edit and agonizingly design. There, in those boxes, are the books that we cherish. We wait with glee for that package, opening those books to random pages to take a peek at what awaits us once we start to read. Words, paper, ideas, all boxed up and tossed over her shoulder in a rhythm instantly recognizable--I-hate-my-fucking-job. It's the kind of place you walk through and suspect that everyone there wishes his or her life had gone differently.


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