By M.J. Subiria Arauz
It was a chilly morning at the UPS Forest Park Hub Center, in Forest Park.
Packages were rolling down a conveyor belt, and UPS drivers were arriving on location.
Eventually about 100 drivers huddled around the managers to perform stretching exercises and review safety rules before hopping into their delivery trucks.
Paul Barnett was among the drivers in attendance.
Barnett, of Ellenwood, said he has been with the multi-billion-dollar corporation for 33 years and has been recognized by the company for his 32 years of safe driving.
"There's room for advancement," said Barnett about his job, while driving a UPS truck. "I love my job. I just chose to be a driver, though I've had opportunities for advancement."
Rodney Hill, business manager for Forest Park East, at the UPS Forest Park Hub Center, said Barnett is a good and responsible employee, who comes in and gets the job done.
The business manager said that one of Barnett's impressive attributes is his overall teamwork performance.
"He comes in and goes around to see if anyone needs help," said Hill. "He doesn't do a whole lot of complaining."
Hill said Barnett's 32 years of accident-free driving is remarkable. He said he pushes his drivers to achieve the 25-year mark, and three of his 65 drivers have achieved that.
"That's a great milestone," said Hill.
Out of the three drivers, Barnett is the one who has the most number of years for safe driving, added Hill. Drivers who reach their 25-year mark, are recognized annually if they continue this feat.
Barnett said he has been responsible for the UPS Stockbridge route since 1997. Before then, he drove the Jonesboro route for six years and previous to that, the Downtown Atlanta route.
"Out here it's great compared to driving in Downtown Atlanta," the driver said with a smile.
He said what made driving through Downtown Atlanta a challenge was the bustling pedestrians crossing the streets.
"People just [dashed] out around the [truck]," said Barnett.
Barnett explained that his work day begins at 5:45 a.m., Monday, through Friday, where he sorts and picks up packages at a UPS location at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, to deliver them to the hub.
Barnett said he leaves the Forest Park Hub Center, located at 255 Southfield Parkway, at 9 a.m., and takes exit 235 southbound on Interstate 75, to start the Stockbridge route.
He explained that he has 90, to 100 stops on his route.
"There are 11 routes in Stockbridge on a daily basis," said Barnett. "I am only one of the routes."
Barnett said that in 1979, UPS had only one route in Stockbridge, which also served Rex. The addition of the 10 routes signifies the tremendous growth the Southern Crescent area has experienced, he said.
"Henry County has grown in the last 10 years," said the driver. "In McDonough, we had three routes and now it has about 12 routes on an average day."
While searching for a package in the back of the truck, Barnett said he has met various people and seen interesting things, while delivering packages.
When asked what he has seen, he gushed and responded, "I don't want to elaborate. I've seen some stuff that you can't put in the paper."
He said that as a veteran employee at UPS, he has grown accustomed to the labor his job demands of him.
"People say, 'Do you work hard,' and I say, 'No, I work steady,'" he said with a smile.
"I don't think I could sit on a desk and look at a computer," he added with a smirk.
Barnett said the company's training, its rules of safety for drivers and on-the-job experience, create professional UPS drivers.
"You always must be ahead of the game of what's going on around you," said Barnett, while driving and looking both ways before crossing a road.
He said he is usually able to go home to his family at about 4 p.m.
The driver said he met his wife after graduating from Jonesboro High School, in 1972, and has been married for 38 years. He has two daughters, a son and five grandchildren.
Barnett said he is not sure whether he wants to retire just yet. "I guess it will be when I get tired one day and say, 'I've had enough,'" he said, while laughing.