War and Pizza, Pt I
By Tom Waters
I move at the speed of light. I have the ability to infiltrate the most heavily guarded compounds in Buffalo and I leave without a trace. And I see everyday citizens when their guard is down the most. That's right, I'm a pizza delivery guy. Two months ago I was going out of my mind with free time from my day job. Two days off in a row was too much unscheduled time in one block. And then I thought about how both of my brothers (at one time in their lives) worked at Mazia's Pizza in the hollow. So I went to Mazia's and asked Rob (one of the owners) if they were looking for any help. While filling out the application, I thought about how unqualified I was for the driver position. I've got a D.U.I., I've never had a job as a driver, I've got a terrible sense of direction, I didn't know their delivery area that well and I haven't worked in a restaurant since the age of fourteen. After nagging him for a week, he told me he might have something. I started the following day.
Like a super hero, every Friday I change discreetly at my office job and bolt out at five o'clock with my alternate identity. I have to wear this really embarrassing white t-shirt that says 'got pizza?' on the front that makes my gut look even bigger than it is. I would feel about the same wearing a shirt that says 'got dignity?' on it with a huge uncircumcised penis on the back, but rules are rules. When I get to the place I have to slap a mobile sign on my car and spit on the suction cups to keep the sign from detaching and flapping back and forth for the duration of my shift (which it does anyway). Rob told me about some seven dollar cigarette adaptor (that we rent at the beginning of the shift) that the driver's use to light the sign at night but, since I'm cheap, I've never brought it up and haven't used it yet. And then it's go speed racer, go.
My job there reminds me of a game, Crazy Taxi. You tear ass over to one section of town to drop someone off breaking any traffic laws that get in the way, pick someone else up and tear ass to the other section of town. That's what we do for six straight hours. Run and gun. My first day I went bounding out of the car with each order, sprinting up the steps to make sure that the person I was delivering to got their food as quickly and efficiently as possible. Now I could care less, because you never know how well or how poorly someone is going to tip. There are a few indicators, but you can never be too sure. Plus I'm not wet behind the ears anymore, and it no longer takes me forty five minutes to find the tough locales. Like any job you get better with practice, and it's a tough old learning curve.
Nobody tells you that the Town Of Clarence (as well as the surrounding delivery area of Newstead, Akron, and Lancaster) has duplicate streets. And through trial and error you get to know your area. Roads that change names halfway through. Roads that seem to run from one end of New York State to the other. And neighborhoods that are so new that they aren't on any existing map. I've been to places in my town that I never knew existed and I've lived here all my life. Akron's fun too. No, actually, it's a goddamned nightmare. It's the local Indian reservation, and a lot of their streets have no signs, the houses have no numbers, and the majority of the roads are the width of a construction plank and haven't been repaired since Custer's Last Stand. Try maneuvering that catastrophe.
The deck is stacked against us to begin with, as a lot of orders aren't ready on the busy days until twenty minutes to the hour mark. Some days I try to crank and make some money, which means you have to stomp on the gas and cut through the streets like butter, navigating the back roads and knowing where the traffic is going to be at one time of the day and most of all, not forgetting anything. There's nothing worse than having to take a bottle of pop back to some bearded sasquatch who lives on the edge of civilization. And other days I tool along at my own pace, enjoy the view, and end up making some pretty good money anyway.
The view is gorgeous some times. I've seen women in bikinis soaping up their monster trucks on hot Saturday afternoons. I've seen car wrecks so preposterous that they look like a Dali painting. Once I saw a truck/horse trailer combo that ran straight into the side of a church. I've seen a lot of beautiful sunsets, sprawling countryside, and the vital signs of my community. Soccer games. Couples going for walks. Friends out on their porches sharing a cocktail. And the cursed, buggering bicyclists. Just once I'd like to watch one of those spandex shorted, penis helmet wearing fruits do a somersault off the grill of my Buick. The cyclists are a real nuisance on the back roads. They ride around on streets where they really shouldn't be on their seven hundred dollar Italian twenty speeds and take up the entire street. That's always something to look for ward to when I'm taking some bumpkin corner out in the middle of Timbuktu at seventy five miles an hour on two wheels.
In addition to this, the delivery driver has to deal with other people's abhorrent driving habits. Either I smoke too many cigarettes and it's affected my night vision so much that it appears as if everyone has their high beams on after dark, or the whole world has their high beams on after dark. About a year ago, car manufacturers changed the headlight glare to a blistering white arc. Add to this the fact that a third of the people on the roads drive sports utility vehicles and you get an oncoming rush of light that would shame the heads up display on the craft from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. After nine o'clock, I put the high beams on and keep them on. At least they slow down and curse at me while I'm driving by, too.
There's a rainbow of road kill that you could never imagine unless you drive for a living. I feel bad for truck drivers because they must see a veritable abbattoir during their travels. Squished possum, ground up squirrel, pureed woodchuck, abstract cat, and half a deer. There's too many deer in this town, and they keep trying to do something about it, but they won't go away. Fortunately, I have a semi automatic rifle to rectify the problem. Any creature that stands or stumbles into the middle of the road and stares at an object ten times heavier than them traveling at an alarming rate of speed directly at them is too stupid to live anyway. Problem is, I'm like my mom. I'll instinctually stomp on the breaks or swerve if I see some innocent woodland creature because I can't have it on my conscious. It's not something that can be deprogrammed because it's intuitive. Which is fantastic because after dark in some areas of Clarence the roads turn into a dress rehearsal for Dr. frigging Doolittle. Getting to know the roads takes perseverance and finesse. It's very frustrating to jump through all these hoops to get a rotten tip.
The people in Akron are cheaper than my big brother. Actually, my big brother lives in Akron. I used to tip poorly when the pizza guy came to my door. I would round up and tip a buck. If I had to deliver to myself on a Friday, I'd kick my ass now. Like my co-worker Matt (Mazia's resident veteran employee) says, "We don't get anything near fifteen percent." Some of the guys I've known employ some passive aggressive tactics, backing out in people's lawns, running over water sprinklers that are built into the ground, and flat out telling people to their face what cheap pricks they are.
Thankfully, Mazias builds a trip charge into every order, so at the very least, you make half of that. I don't really take it out on the customer, but I remember the names and I don't go out of my way to get their order to them first thing either. One fellow told me that, upon receiving a gratuity of about eighty cents, he counted out the change from his pocket, gave it back, and said, "You need it more than I do, buddy." That's gotta hurt. Stingy McScrooge knows when he's screwing you out of a tip, too. These people send their eight year old kids to the door. Then you know you're getting nothing. The next time someone sends their child to meet me on the steps, I'm taking the kid with me and we'll negotiate an appropriate tip later. When people pay by check, I know I'm shit out of luck. And when you walk up the steps of some dilapidated shack that looks like Navin Johnson's homestead, don't expect much.
It all evens out, though. Some people take care of you, and those are the people we'll blow through traffic signs for and mow down a school of ducks crossing the street to get to. Plus the hot chicks. There are a few places in Spaulding Lake (one of the well to do sections of town) that the guys jump on to take. And generally, the more drunk or stoned the customer is, the better the tip.
>>>Part II: THE FEARFUL CO-WORKERS!
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