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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Confessions of a Pizza Delivery Man

It's a tough economy. My profession was, for many years, a magazine editor. That business has all but dried up and blown away, especially for those of us over fifty who have no experience in the digital world. HTML? What's that? Kids out of college know what it is, and work cheap, so if there is a magazine that's still in print they'll hire some snot-nose punk rather than an aging wordsmith like me.

So what to do? Well, for now, I've still got some unemployment left and I've taken a part-time job as a pizza "delivery expert" for a national chain that shares its name with a game. I targeted that kind of job, because I thought it would be a relatively peaceful part-time job. I was part right.

Working at a pizza restaurant as a driver isn't quite as simple as I thought. At the place I work at, drivers are also expected to help out with everything else--working the oven, answering the phones, mopping up at night--but of course the core of the job is driving, and that's what I like. When I'm on the road, that means I'm not in the store, not in the middle of the insanity at busy times, answering the phones, shoving pizzas into box (and remembering to slice them).

When I'm on the road, I can listen to the radio (I've managed to keep up with the baseball playoffs that way) and am free to think. I can also make a game of it--I'm a secret agent, entrusted with a top secret package that must be delivered. I don't speed, but I can pretend like I'm zooming down some country road, trying to beat the time on the delivery slip. The company I work for gave up the "thirty minutes or less" business because of liability issues, but I still try to make that work, if possible.

Here are some things I've learned: if free pizza is offered, I take it, despite any desire to lose weight. This happens almost every night, as a person may not pick up their order or a mistake is made or the pizza makers may just be in a generous mood. Also, Indians don't tip. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a generality. I live in an area that has a high population of Indians, and they love pizza (they like it with jalapenos, especially). But word is around the store that they don't tip, and I've learned it's true. Some say it's a cultural thing, and I can believe that, but do they skimp at restaurants, too? I delivered a hundred dollars worth of pizza to a family having a party and the guy gave me a five-dollar bill as if he were giving me a bar of gold. That's a five-percent tip, which would be outrageous for a waiter. Perhaps they think the delivery charge is a tip--well, it is not. I don't get any of that.

Another thing--we get gypped on gas. Drivers get $1.15 for every delivery, whether it's around the block or ten miles away. I usually have to fill up my tank every second or third day, which means most of my tips go right back into the gas tank. The starting salary for a driver is $5.15 an hour, which means I basically live on tips. So, if you order a pizza to be delivered, and it arrives on time and is hot, tip your fucking driver at least ten percent, if not more.

My most interesting delivery was to a community college. I had to try to find this girl, and ended up wandering into a classroom. It was like something right out of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which I mentioned to the teacher, who laughed. Why would someone call for a pizza to be delivered at a college, but not specify the building or classroom, or even that it was a college? And why do people call for pizza delivery but then not turn their porch lights on? I only have so many hands--maybe I should get one of those miner's helmets so I can see..

No, I have not been invited into the house by some lonely woman for sex, as has happened in countless porno videos. Sometimes a cute girl will answer the door and I am momentarily stunned, driving away with a fantasy where the girl asks me to come back when my shift is over, but sadly this has not happened. Maybe when I try my hand at cleaning pools I'll get more action.

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