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The Expedition

Click. I refresh the browser, the screen flashes white, and I stare blankly at the homepage of Amazon’s website. The familiar white and orange logo is emblazed in the top left hand corner of the screen, and the curved orange arrow forms a smiley face starting from the letter “a” and points to the letter “z”, implying the pleasure of shopping one may experience, and the wide selection of items one can buy. My hand grasps onto a black mouse, gliding it back and forth on a pale green tattered mousepad, the white arrow on the screen moving coordinates with my hand movement. So many items to choose from, so many things to order. But how does ordering a package from Amazon end up at one’s doorstep a few days later even though there are million of orders being placed everyday?

Hundreds of thousands of orders are being placed from this website each day. Amazon has a wide selection of merchandise from live ladybugs, to common household appliances, fitting the needs for anyone. These items once ordered are then packaged, shipped off, and somehow end up on your doorstep a couple days later.

After searching and scrolling through many different pages of electronic gadgets on Amazon, I place an item in my cart, a Nvidia Shield K1 tablet. A sleek black tablet that has the capacity of running movies and games in 4k resolution. Excited, I proceed to the digital check out. Clicking one page after another, then the tedious work of inputting my card number, and then the confirmation of my order. Seconds later, I receive an email notification saying my order has been confirmed and at the bottom of my email was enclosed the tracking number for my item. My mouse hovers over the number and clicks. A new web page pops up it reads, “Shipment information has been sent to UPS”.

UPS, one of the largest shipping companies in the world, delivers on an average day, 15.8 million packages. 15.8 million packages moving across the country through air and ground. The organization for transporting items must be crucial. Louisville, Kentucky, is the home of the UPS headquarters. There is an enormous landing bay for planes. Massive dark chocolate colored planes and trucks everywhere, and to this day, I am in awe of how packages travel around the world.

It is 7:31 AM. The Amazon Warehouse in Hebron, Kentucky, receives the order for a Nvidia Shield k1 Tablet. A worker in a bright orange vest grabs this item in a section in the warehouse labeled electronics and places this item in a small cardboard box and seals up the seams with tape. He then proceeds to place a label on the package, on this contains a barcode with all the shipping information for tracking the package. This barcode can track every bit of the way the package is traveling. This item is then ready and off, on its way to a local UPS center where a  mini-sorting of items takes place. If the item’s destination is a place less than 200 miles away, it is quickly put on a truck for overnight shipping. If any more, it is placed on a plane heading to Worldport, the UPS headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.

The tracking number reads, “Arrived at UPS’s headquarters in Kentucky”. I watch intently at the screen, thinking about how long the package will take to get all the way over to NY. 10 minutes go by and then 15 minutes then 20 minutes. Impatiently, I leave the computer and go for a walk with the mindset that when I get back, there will be a change in the tracking information.

A  newly painted Boeing 767 painted with the trademark logos and colors of UPS arrives at UPS’s worldport. The plane is glistening, and looming over the workers on the ground. Its massiveness can equate to that of a lion standing over a cliff looking down at the other animals of the forest.  The driver of the plane, dressed in all brown gets help from nearby men in brown and unloads 10 big plastic pods containing several packages, each of them weighing up to 2000 pounds. Each of these pods are put on a big ramp which lower them from the planes to the ground. Two men in brown come over and easily move the large heavy pods to the loading bay. This is thanks to the revolutionary custom caster flooring which lets you glide the packages on the ground as if they were on ice. These pods are then brought to the unloading bay where they are once again sorted.

I walk around my neighborhood block. The estimated delivery date is February 27, which two days from now. My mind starts racing and my walk slowly turns into a jog. Two days? I can’t wait that long! Will it come damaged, lost, stolen? How does the UPS have the ability to be able to deliver to all these houses? These are all questions that I ask myself. The organization of moving packages and genius engineering work must be the cause of this. Running now, droplets of sweat run down my face and body, optimistic that my package will arrive earlier.

Just inside where the shipping pods are being unloaded from the plane are several workers unpacking the packages from the large pods. Sweat is dripping down their faces. One could almost taste the salt. They are lifting and loading onto the conveyor belt hundreds of packages per hour. Lines and lines of packages are passing through a red light where the barcode on the package is scanned by the machine and weight is assessed. This is when a package’s tracking information is changed like, “arrived at UPS Louisville, Kentucky”. Based on shape and weight, each of the packages is placed in three different categories: parcels, smalls, or irregulars. These packages go on an adventure on many conveyor belts, 17000 to be exact, totaling over 120 miles, sorting and scanning them precisely by destination. Once, scanned again, the tracking information is then changed to “departed.” Most packages go in and out of this building in about 15 minutes, and shortly after they are on their way to the next stop.

I get back after running another lap around the neighborhood. My heartbeat starts beating faster than it already is after a quick jog. I am excited for my package. I immediately sit down and hop onto the UPS tracking site. I input in the tracking number given to me by Amazon and after a few keystrokes and the jamming of the ENTER key, I now see that my package has now departed from its location and it is on the go again. The status is “In Transit.” My eyes droop from fatigue and I make my way to bed.

Waves of trucks and planes migrate and move to their respective locations. Packages everywhere around the world are sent to their respective UPS centers for packages to be delivered. One may say that UPS workers are nocturnal because they work all night long to deliver the packages to the local UPS centers. A brown truck pulls up to 24 Avis Drive, Latham NY. It is midnight and the worker in brown pulls into the garage. The door is popped open and the UPS driver hops out of the truck. In his right hand, he holds a Dunkin Donuts cup and the other a clipboard. A worker from inside the facility greets the young lad and he fills out paperwork. Neither of them are over the age of 40 and are both clean from any facial hair. The UPS driver does not seem a bit fazed from his drive but ecstatic. He props open the back and the packages are brought inside. The driver hops back in the truck and goes about on his way, perhaps to another UPS center.

Light peers into my bedroom. I look over my bed and the time reads 10:34 am. I hurriedly rush to the computer to check the status of my package. “Arrived in Latham, NY” it reads. Shocked, I realized it only took a day to get from Kentucky to NY. The organization for an operation for delivering millions of packages must be take quite a bit of work and genius. Ding. And the bell finally rings, a friendly face is at the door with my package in his hands.
The last update for tracking information pops up on my screen as the UPS worker scans my item before handing it to me: Delivered.