Cindy Cosby, who has driven a big brown UPS truck around west Redding, northern California, since 1990, delivered her last package last Friday afternoon. She retired after 32 eventful years with the company, all in Redding.
The lanky 5-foot-11-inch Cosby, a graduate of Oroville High School, came to Redding to attend Shasta College, where she was recruited to play basketball and be on the track team. She had originally wanted to be a teacher but was lured into to a full-career with UPS, in part because of the company’s rising pay scales and retirement benefits.
On Thursday morning she “almost started to cry driving down West Street. I’ve waited so long it’s finally hit me. It’s bittersweet,” said Cosby, 52, of her retirement.
She’s seen lots of changes during her career with UPS.
When she started driving the average package weighed 15 pounds. Today it’s 40 pounds.
On an average day she made 160 stops, drove 55-60 miles and, according to her Fitbit, walked 20,000 steps, or roughly 10 miles.
“We’re furniture movers now,” she joked, ticking off some of the heavy and bulky items she delivers — trampolines, barbecues, mattresses, futons. She also delivers staples like food, toilet paper and diapers.
“No one goes to the store anymore,” she joked.
Her biggest customers for deliveries were medical and dental offices. Vibra, the rehab hospital on Eureka Way, was probably her No. 1 customer, she said.
When she started driving for UPS she was one of five women out of 45 drivers in the Redding area, she said. Today there are about 10 female drivers out of a total of 50. “Some turn it down,” she said.
Despite all the miles driven she’s had no serious accidents, only one fender bender. But she admits to have run over a few sprinklers and broken a tree limb or two.
And, surprisingly, she’s never injured herself, had surgery or filed a workers comp claim. Her tips to avoid injury: test the weight of the package and the potential of the contents to shift before lifting, use your legs, keep your back straight, take it slow and pivot don’t twist.
When she started driving for UPS delivery information and shipping manifests were all on paper — three carbon copies on a clipboard. Now it’s all electronic on a handheld device known as a DIAD.
The trucks today have power steering, are lower to the ground, the seats have lumbar support and you push a button to start the truck and open the delivery door, no more keys. “With electronics it’s a lot faster.” Back in the day, before power steering “a three-point turn was a workout in itself,” she remembered.
“The kids are the best part of the job,” she said, referring to her residential deliveries. “They were excited to see me, wanted to help deliver the packages and see inside the truck.”
She felt like “Santa all year ‘round.” (To spread Christmas cheer during the holidays she actually wore bells.”
A particularly memorable moment on the job: About ten years ago “I had a kid about four run up to me and leap into my arms. He was just such a cool kid,” she said getting a bit emotional.
She did see things on the road that made her mad, however. One summer she saw a woman in a wheelchair who had tipped over and was lying on the hot payment. “No one stopped— that infuriated me.” So she pulled over and helped.
“I love to tell stories, to share jokes, make people laugh. I try to be positive. Negativity spreads like mold,” she said.
What’s she going to do with all her free time? For starters she plans to buy a kayak to use on Whiskeytown Lake. And she’ll have more time to bike, hike, camp and fish and do things with her husband, Dave, a heavy equipment operator. “I love being outside,” Cosby said.
Will she miss wearing her brown uniform? “Brown is not my favorite color,” she said with a smile.
“I’m going to miss the people, the camaraderie, but not the work.”
In a letter to some of her favorite customers she wrote: “I would like to thank all of you for the memories, the laughs, the fun, the free advice, the shoulder to cry on and (for) listening to me when I needed to vent. Some of you have pretty big shoulders and you know who you are. Thank you all for being such a huge part of my life.”
(This blog originally appeared on Redding.com)