I didn't really think I'd find a calling as a professional mover, but many crews wanted me. You see, I wasn't always a glorious university professor and super duper popular PIC writer. I took a job moving people's stuff so I could save up money for school when I was just a lad of 20 years.

Leonard Nimoy's Hollywood star on the sidewalkBy then, I'd pumped iron, swam thousands of yards a day, and played football, so I could lift just about anything, and work all day long. Growing up in the Midwest helped me work hard and only complain a little. The lack of any drugs harder than cheap marijuana in my system meant I'd show up on time and wouldn't mindlessly steal things from customers. Years of Spanish class meant I could speak with the Mexicans and other migrant workers. Not being racist meant that the black dudes and I hung out. Finally, my charming whiteboy looks lowered the defenses of some of the chuckleheads who think the color of your skin means you can or can't move your mattress, couch, or TV.

As I said, the black dudes dug me so I hung out with them the most. The moving business hierarchy starts with a driver, then co-driver, and last of all, humps, or lowly people, who carry the most heavy crap, commonly called humping (only not as fun as the other kind of humping).

So usually an older black dude named Cleo and I worked together. He made us work, but also let us take naps; and he could roll joints one-handed while driving an 18-wheeler. Pretty damn impressive. As all great laborers, Cleo took a vacation so I needed to earn my keep with somebody else. Since Cleo wasn't around, I spent time with one white guy who didn't know where to find fake IDs (I really needed one), an all-Mexican crew and a few others. None of them had the class or character of Cleo.

"Don't worry about them Mexis, we'll shoot the shit up here. I like it when somebody who can speak fucking English sets up here."Then the day came I showed up to the job and they told me some awful news: "KC, today you're working with Burt. You guys will get along great." I knew this was kind of a joke, since nobody got along with Burt. He was a big white dude, about 6'4" and 275 pounds. I think he was maybe 24 (totally ancient to me at the time) and had about four kids. Everyone knew Burt stole tips. To make working for him even worse, he called the Mexicans who worked under him "wetbacks and vatos and putos"—none of these are kind names. In return, the Mexicans called him "Apestoso," which means "smelly," because, frankly, the dude reeked of BO constantly. I don't know if he bathed in ball sweat or what, but Burt stunk.

I stood around looking at the work order for the day. A half-day haul from Denver to one of Denver's many suburbs. I started pondering if I should just ditch work and smoke some of the brick weed Cleo sold me for working late. Then lightning struck me right on the spine. Or at least, it felt like it. I turned around to see Burt standing and smiling, rubbing his slaphappy hand on his gut.

"Shit, son. Looks like Mighty Whitey is working together today. We got some Spics with us today, but together, we can keep them Gooks and Spooks where they belong. It's good to see you, KC. That jig Cleo is pretty nice, for a jig, but we'll finish this job and show them how we brotherhood types can really work. KnowwhatI'msaying?"

I gazed at him, trying to process everything that just happened, then I glared at him, first, for calling a good friend a racial slur, second, for calling everybody else one, and third, for assuming I was just like him. Burt couldn't tell the difference.

We walked to his big rig and grabbed our Mexicans. They promptly ran to the back of the trailer and slept. Usually these Mexicans snoozed during drives because there wasn't anything else to do, and they also stocked shelves or something at night. Burt made some more comments about Mexicans being lazy and I just shrugged my shoulders.

Lifting a heavy rock on a moutain side
Looks like a classic one-man job. Tip your movers.

I don't remember the music he blared, but I remember hating it. Mostly though, I remember opening the door and having my stomach strangled. You know how the high school kid who never washed his gym clothes for an entire year stunk? This entire cab smelled that way. Now I knew why the Mexicans went to the back. I tried to make an excuse to run to the trailer to join my South-of-the-Border hombres, but Burt said, "Don't worry about them Mexis, we'll shoot the shit up here. I like it when somebody who can speak fucking English sets up here and talks with me."

As we drove on the Colorado highways Burt talked about growing up in Oklahoma, his wife who's still fat after the fourth baby, and then finally something that sounded like your least funny friend trying to impersonate Jeff Foxworthy jokes. Mostly I just grunted and "uh-huhed" while secretly wishing Cleo took me with him on vacation to his old neighborhood—even if that neighborhood was Compton (which it was).

During a mid-fantasy of a brain embolism to end my pain, Burt slammed his hand on the dashboard. I jumped in my seat so hard I shook the cab. "God damn it KC!" I bounced again, wondering if that giant bear claw hand was going to slap me for daydreaming about death instead of listening to his crap. "I feel like I ken tell you anythin'."

"Right on."

"For reals, man. You're a good friend. These goddamned Mexicans don't know shit from shit, but you man, you're a college boy and you're smart."


"For you, I'm getting off the dope."

I figured it was in everybody's best interest if I offered this guy the best advice I could. "Well dude, Cleo and I get high all the time, but he's black and has magic-weed-smoking-powers (maybe some of Burt's racism rubbed off on me, but it was true, Cleo gained powers while high), and I'm just doing this for the summer before I start NYU. However, you've got kids and a wife and shit. You make pretty good money. You don't want to lose this job and have all these mouths to feed. So don't do it for me, do it for your family."

"You see, you're so fucking smart. No wonder Cleo hogs you to himself. For you, for my wife, for my kids, I'm off the dope." Burt fished around in his front pocket and tossed a baggy onto the dashboard. "You can keep it, just for letting me see the light."

I thought, "Awesome. Free weed." Then I looked at the dash, "Wait a minute. I know I'm from North Dakota and everything, and there's all different types of pot, but I've never seen white weed. In powder form."

"That shit, that dope, it fucks up your life and it fucks up you. It's yours if you want it."

"Judas fucking Priest, BURT! That's fucking COCAINE!" It was a guess, because I didn't know what else was white and powdery; there weren't a lot of drugs in North Dakota. "You're going to get you and probably me arrested, and those two Mexicans deported."

"That won't happen."

We started driving and not talking. The only thing grinding more than the gears of the truck were Burt's yellow teeth. "I am NOT holding onto to that shit for you! I am NOT going to jail for you! We've got to go through a FUCKING WEIGH STATION! They're going to look at you for drugs."

"So you think they're going to look at my driver's license?"

"At a semi-truck weigh station? What the fuck do you think?"

"Well, I've been using my CDL (Commercial Driver's License) to cut up lines all month."

"There's cocaine…on your fucking CDL?!?! Holy shit, dude. You're the dumbest fucking person I've ever met. Judas Priest. Pull over at this truck stop and flush that shit. And drink a Sprite or something. You've got to calm down."

"Calm down? You're the one who's damn near having a heart attack, KC!"

"I don't know about you, but I hate being a trucker. I'm doing this to help pay for school, which is New York University, my dream school. A school maybe millions of people dream of attending. I'm on scholarship. If I get arrested, I'm double fucked. Get it?"

"Fine. Take my license and lick the coke off."

"What? I'm not ingesting that. Plus, you keep it next to your ass! You lick it off!"

"Okay. You're sure you don't want to keep it?"

"Yes. I'm sure I'm sure."

We stopped and Burt waddled to the bathroom. I opened the back of the truck to give the Mexicans some air, but I needed it more for obvious reasons. I told them, "Apestoso es muy tonto y no tiene pelotas." (Smelly is very stupid and has no balls.) The Mexicans graciously laughed and cracked some "chistes verdes" ("green" jokes or "dirty" jokes) about white women. After a few minutes, they hopped back in the truck and returned to napping. I jumped back in the cab and saw how many times I could bang my right temple on the passenger-side door jamb.

The cab shook and slammed. Burt's fatass was back with me. He wiped sweat off his head and brow with his stained baseball cap, nothing unusual.

"You took care of everything and chilled out?"


"Okay, let's fucking roll and get this over with."

"You sure you don't want to drive?"

"Dude, Burt, if I could drive an 18-wheeler, I wouldn't be your fucking bitch. Let's get a move on it."

"Are you sure? I'm not feeling hot."

"Don't tell me you did all that."

"KC, man. Eight balls of dope are expensive. I couldn't just let it go to waste. So I did it all."

"Motherfucker. Well, how long does that stuff take to kick in?"

"Nevermind. Don't worry about it."

We started driving and not talking. The only thing grinding more than the gears of the truck were Burt's yellow teeth. He nearly skipped the weigh station, and only realized it when I yelled at him.

"I know! I know! I was going to pull off. I was just thinking…"

"No! No you weren't thinking! Remember, you have kids! You're a grown up! You're not supposed to fucking act like this!"

With Cleo, most of the times I waited in weigh stations, he blazed the hell out of my mind and left his radio on, so I never noticed how long these things took. But this time, every second that clicked on my ten dollar Walmart digital watch seemed like an entire episode of COPS.

Again, the door slammed.


"Just fucking drive the speed limit and shut up."

Finally, after all the drama, we arrived. The customers who hired movers are usually not used to dealing with people barely smart enough to carry boxes, so they're usually a little peeved. I calmed them down and helped them with our paperwork.

"Shouldn't the driver be doing this?" the man-of-the-house asked.

"He's trying to let me do this on my own. We'll have your stuff in your new home as fast and as safe as possible."

"Wow. Thank you." Sometimes, a few extra manners and courtesy takes the eyes off of everybody else and puts every optic nerve on you. Good thing, because now Burt sat in his saddle pulling invisible spiders off himself and asking the radio DJ to put on Foreigner.

Moving an entire four-man job with just two Mexicans and me sucked major balls, but trying to hide Burt's psychosis and laziness proved even suckier. When we finished, with no help from Burt, he strolled to the customers to try and weasel the tip out of them. I swooped in with the papers and told him to get the truck started, doing my best to pretend to be like Cleo. "You wanted me to learn how to do this, didn't you?"

The customer gave us $30, nothing special, but better than nothing. I split things evenly with the Mexicans and hopped in the cab. Burt shook his head back and forth so fast I thought he was pretending to be a shaggy dog trying to dry himself.

"KC, you sure you don't want to drive?"

"Motherfucker, I'd have an easier time driving a fucking space shuttle. I don't know how to drive a semi."

"Fine. I think I'm going to let you keep my cut of the tips."

"You didn't do a fucking thing back there for five hours. You don't get shit."

"I never thought I'd see the day when a whiteboy who works with blacks sasses me."

"I've got $20 in my pocket. If you think I won't pay that Mexican with the cross tattooed on his hand to stab you with a screwdriver, you're fucking dumber than I thought." I glared at Burt with my best Samuel L. Jackson look, but the fat baby wouldn't even look my way. "Now get us the fuck home."

"You know what, I'm going to drive home."

"Great. Then you'll be doing some part of your fucking job."

And that's the story on how I last worked with Burt, and first saw cocaine.