A good friend is one who will help you hide a body.
A better friend asks no questions about said body.
The best friend forgets that you haven’t posted in a while and picks up just as if no time had passed between you.
Did you think I was going somewhere else with that? Anyway, where was I? Yes…
Having quit my job as a school administrator I needed something else to do. Truth be told, I hadn’t thought that part through too well. On the other hand, it’s an indication of how strongly I felt about my decision to quit. Not long after I announced that I was leaving that job a friend called me and told me that he had all but arranged for me to go to work for his next door neighbor. I wondered almost aloud if she was running a meth lab from her home. Turns out she owns a medical courier service.
Two thoughts went through my mind the next day as I called the woman for our initial chat. 1) Is this all he thinks I can do? Does he think that driving a car is my most marketable skill? I mean, if I knew someone was going to be potentially out of work and the person was, say, a mortgage litigator; I don’t think my first thought would be to hook him up with my friend who manages the produce section of the local Kroger. But, a job’s a job and I’m not proud. 2) Did I give off a vibe that I was desperate?
No worries, though. He was on to something. Money is money. I didn’t want to have to go searching for work and I didn’t. This fell into my lap. I also didn’t want there to be a gap in my employment history and there hasn’t been. I do enjoy driving, the medical profession, airports, and mining for comic gold. And on that last front I struck paydirt. First though, I have to say that when I spoke with his neighbor my fears were allayed. She is the absolute kindest woman and she was eager to have “someone like me” work for her. It seems having a modicum of a work ethic counts for a whole lot these days. Also, being able to string together a cogent sentence helps.
So what does a medical courier do?
Well, I work an afternoon/evening shift. It just keeps getting better, I know. Those who really know me know that I am a night person. During my working hours I take calls from my boss who directs me to head to certain locations around town, pick up packages (typically containing blood samples), and deliver them to the airport where I “tender” the package for shipping (usually to LAX, ORD, or EWR). It’s time sensitive as many of these samples need to be seen quickly by the consignee (that’s the person receiving the package). For my trouble I received a TSA number and learned how to do all kinds of fun paperwork. But that’s not nearly all. Sometimes I will be asked to drive hundreds of miles to pick up a small box. Yesterday, for example, I went to Tulsa and recovered a parcel weighing 6 lbs. That was a fun 9 hours in the car.
But by far the most absurd and interesting pickups I make involve rodents. Yes, my friends, a few times a week I am tasked with driving out to the airport and picking up a shipment or two of… lab mice.
The first time I did it the kind lady at the cargo terminal handed me a box that was rather opaque. I thanked her. She said “Aren’t you going to check to see if they’re alive?” As a courier I am not typically allowed to open a package. In this case I didn’t want to. I thought about it. Then I shook the box. I heard a few scratchy noises. “Lady, they’re mice. That’s going to have to be good enough for me,” I said before driving off.
There are all kinds of rules governing the mice. The interior of the vehicle must be kept between 68 and 75 degrees, for example. That’s cool. I like that. Also, the radio cannot be on. Apparently a driver once tuned in NPR and the mice got violently ill.
I’m not sure what the big deal is. They’re destined to be killed anyway. But they tell me the mice are expensive and the client, a large teaching hospital in town, likes them to be alive when they come in.
The other night I went out to get some mice. How I came to this point in my life is still a mystery. I’m 40 years-old and a has-been school administrator driving mice around Texas. Think positive. Dream big. I looked at my manifest. “Ah!” I thought. “These mice are coming from Newark, my hometown.” Then I realized that these would be some real hood rats coming my way. In fact the manifest said under the “description” label: “30 LIVE MICE!!!!” Thirty? Wow. I knew by the presence of four exclamation points that this would be exciting.
And still, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see.
As for the job, I enjoy doing this though it’s certainly not my calling. I hope to find something I’m good at in the next few months. But as long as I can continue to sleep in AND I get to see mices every day… What’s the rush?