Quick, hide this from the children if they’re under the age of 7.
It is Cyber Friday and — ho-ho-ho — Santa is making his rounds.
You may know all about Cyber Monday, which comes right after Thanksgiving weekend, when online hawkers try to sell a lot of stuff by offering free shipping. Cyber Friday comes four days later. That’s when a billion and one packages begin getting delivered.
And, so, Santa set out to make his rounds through a chunk of Northern Virginia.
Only he wasn’t dressed all in fur, there were no reindeer and the sleigh had wheels.
Santa was head to toe in brown, and so was his ride. He was, however, lively and quick, but, it turns out, he wasn’t Saint Nick.
You’ve got to be moving at double time or better if you’re driving Cyber Friday for Big Brown, a.k.a. UPS. They’re moving 125,000 packages this day from the UPS depot just under the wheels-down flight path into Dulles International Airport.
“Cyber Monday really has changed the game a bit,” says Chris Myers as he rolls his UPS delivery van out of the center.
The game, he knows, after 291 / 2 years behind the wheel. The packages in the back are all lined up by the order in which they’re going to get delivered. But before he can get to all those Cyber Monday deals, he’s got to get the overnights delivered before 10:30 a.m. Most of them are going to offices where everybody in shipping knows him by name.
“There’s going to be some conversation, but I have to keep it limited,” he says as he wheels into an office complex off Jermantown Road and grabs three overnights from the back. Elevator to the third floor — bing-bing-bing — and he’s trotting down the stairs.
“I don’t wait on elevators, so I do a lot of stairs,” he says, swinging wide a door. “And we’re off.”
He’s tall, lean and wiry. The eyeglasses are wire rim, and a regulation brown wool hat wards off the morning cold.
Winter and summer, he rides with the passenger side door open for a quicker off and on. He skips through it with three more overnights for the offices at 10600 Arrowhead Dr.
Now it’s 10:08 a.m. — 22 minutes until the overnight promise expires — and he double-times through the back door of a dental office off Rosehaven Street.
“A lot of those are the teeth that they implant,” he says after he gets a friendly greeting and signature for the package. “He’s a pretty noted surgeon.”
You get to know people in this job. Myers was a furniture showroom salesman 30 years ago when he got to know the UPS man who came in every day.
“When you’re young and you hear X number of dollars an hour,” he says, you go apply to be a Big Brown driver.
The overnights are done with almost 20 minutes to spare, so now it’s time for a second go-around at the office complexes for the packages that there were no time to deliver in the overnight rush.
The hand truck is out now at 3050 Chain Bridge Rd. because these aren’t lightweight. Packages can weigh up to 150 pounds, but even for a half-dozen light ones the hand truck makes sense. Somebody is getting a box of Snickers mini bars and another of M&Ms, although there’s no way to tell for sure what’s inside.
“Usually those heavier ones are where I go first. But sometimes I work from the top of the building down.”
It’s three floors before he hits the sweet-tooth office in Suite 300. “Thank you, Chris,” a woman calls out.
Offices done, it’s time to roll on to the legions of squat garden apartments along Jermantown Road. Some packages need signatures, some don’t.
Rolling through each complex becomes a series of quick stops and near-sprints in and up some stairs to knock on a door.
“UPS!” he says, cheerful and hopeful as he listens for footsteps.
“Wow, so quick. We just ordered it, I think, yesterday,” says a woman who cracks open her door to receive a new computer keyboard.”
A couple of doors down, Susan Doty takes a minute to study the package.
“It’s from my husband for Christmas,” she says, finally. “It’s a power compressor. I have all the power tools in this family.”
This time of year, Myers keeps going until the truck is empty. Things used to slow down after Christmas, but not so much anymore.
“But now with all the Internet sales our volume stays up,” he says. “Probably the summer would be slowest now.”
Come summer, he doesn’t plan to be wearing his black leather Nikes — they have to be leather and take a polished shine.
When his 55th birthday and his 30th year with Big Brown roll around in May, he plans to retire so that he can dress in any color he feels like and go fishing a lot.
“I’m just going to relax and enjoy the ride,” he says.