ADVENTURES OF A PIZZA MAN
In 2002, I lived in Milledgeville, GA, which wasn't exactly a boom town - few places were hiring, and almost nobody paid a nickel over minimum wage. Let me tell you, to be halfway through college with eight years of work experience and unable to get a job at Big Lots - which would have only paid 30 cents more per hour than I made bagging groceries in eighth grade - was pretty depressing.
The downtown area, near the college, is gorgeous, but a great deal of the town was pretty sketchy - it had a mental hospital which, back in the 19th century, was the largest such institution in the world, along with seven or eight prisons. The neighborhoods around these could only be so good. I've yet to find a neighborhood in Chicago as bad as many of those in Milledgeville - they can't build them that badly here. They'd never make it through the winter.
I finally found work as a pizza driver, but it was rough going. Some people find that town to be a nice place to live, but I'm pretty sure that nobody finds it a nice place to deliver pizza. Many of the streets had no street signs. It seemed as though most of the houses were unnumbered. Sometimes the house would turn out to be in a small trailer park hidden in someone's back yard. There was a list on the wall of about 40 streets where we wouldn't deliver after dark (normally because of poor lighting and signage, but some were just plain scary).
Tips were abyssmal, but the work was exciting. Finding the houses involved a lot of keen detection skills, and, in some neighborhoods, you had to be ready to face danger. Eventually I started commuting to the suburbs of Atlanta, where the houses were all numbered and the streets were all well-lit. The work was easier, and the tips were far better, but I didn't get nearly as many stories out of it. Kept that job until 2004, when I finally moved to Chicago and got rid of my car altogether. I still sometimes toy with the idea of doing it again, though. Just not in a small town.
My First (and only) Day at Domino's
I showed up on time. The manager did not. He, a fellow not unlike Jabba the Hutt, came in late, spent ten minutes talking about how hungover he was, then noticed I was there. "#$%#," he said, by way of greeting, "I didn't wanna have to #$%!@ with none of this $#%^." Sadly, this was the most intelligent (and intelligible) thing he said all evening. I was, at length, set up with a cd-rom training thing which took a couple of hours. The manager would occasionally poke his head in to say "that ain't how ya answer the phone. I'd be like 'bitch! i ain't goin' deliver nothin, come out here so I can #$%^ ya!" Fortunately enough, his drawl was so thick and his mumbling so intense that I couldn't understand much of what he said other than the curse words, which made up roughly half of what he said. Perhaps the most intelligent thing he said was "ain't that the mouse over yonder?" which demonstrates that he at least had very basic computer skills.
The rest of the staff wasn't a whole lot better. A bit friendlier, but not much better. They way they talk to the one girl who works there would be considered sexual harrassment by any court, though she doesn't seem to mind (though I certainly plan to explain sexual harrassment laws to her at the first opportunity).
I'll be going in tomorrow morning to fill out paperwork (I was supposed to do that tonight, but the manager said, about six times, that he didn't feel like finding it.) I'll be dealing with the much-nicer owner then, and am internally debating how much to tell him about the other guy. But I can't imagine a worse first impression.
I went to see the owner down at Domino's, just to make sure he knew what Larry, the manager, was like (see last post). He shrugged it off. He also shrugged it off when I said that the one female employee could sue for sexual harrassment, and that I'd do anything I could to help her.
Well, that was that. "Hell," I said, as I got back into my car, "I'd surely be better off working for Pizza Hut than Jabba the Hutt."
So, well, I drove to Pizza Hut.
After getting hired there, I drove back to Domino's to give them my hideously ugly uniform back. They understood.
On the whole, my first day at Pizza Hut was far, far more agreeable than the one day I spent at Domino's. Drove around town, got to go inside of several prisons (an awful lot of our deliveries go to either the mental hospital or one of the many local prisons. None of them tip well).
I only got to do one delivery on my own, and my car had a snafu midway through. Heard a loud, frightening noise, and every light on the dashboard came on. Luckily, the car was still running, and I managed to get it back, where I determined that some sort of belt had snapped. Some force exists in the universe that does not wish for me to own a car.
Borrowing one now in order to keep working.
Adventures in Pizza Delivery
I was assigned to make the delivery to Orchard Hill Road. It was an order some said we shouldn't have taken; the sun was going down, and Orchard Hill Road is one of the 30+ streets to which we won't deliver after dark. You wouldn't think there'd be so many bad neighborhoods in a town this size, but there are. Some streets are on the list not because the neighborhood is bad, exactly, it's just that there are no street lights and the houses are unnumbered. These places are hard to find by day, and impossible to find by night.
It was hard to find Orchard Hill Road; many of the streets down which I had to turn had no signs to identify them. I was lost. It was getting to be a race against the sun...could I make find the right place in time?
Well, long story short, I found it, and the fellow who had ordered the pizza seemed perfectly friendly. It wasn't what I'd call a nice neighborhood, but the guy gave me one of the best tips of the night. Not that that's saying much; half of the people in this town don't tip at all.
Weirdest sign of the evening: "No radio noise beyond this point" at the entrance to a trailer park.
First, the interesting sign of the day was at Georgia Military College, which is housed in what was, before the Civil War, the state capitol building. A plaque in the front announced that Alexis de Toqueville stayed there for awhile during the 1820's.
This new job as a pizza delivery man is likely to be very educational.
I think I'm going to like this job (except for the part where I make deliveries to neighborhoods where I ought not tread, which happens a lot). I get to see the inside of places I normally wouldn't see, like military schools, prisons, and Baptist youth centers, and explore the dark recesses of this weird old town. This was a very classy town before and just after the Civil War, so it's not unusual to see a Victorian mansion sticking out of the ghetto like a sore thumb. Today I found myself on the corner of Wolverine Street and Panic Avenue. I need a photo of that. (edited later to add - never got one. street sign was missing.)
Starbucks Pizza Delivery
I must admit that I enjoy delivering pizza for the most part. It's an easy job (mostly), and a relaxed work environment. Of course, "relaxed work environment" is another way of saying that they don't exactly run a tight ship. After a week, I still don't have a uniform. I've been making my deliveries in a plain black shirt and pants that I just happen to own (I know, I know...a real stretch from my normal wardrobe!)
I was starting to feel like a bum, so today I took matters into my own hands. I didn't have a Pizza Hut uniform, but I DID still have my old Starbucks apron. I'd been keeping it in the back of my car.
I'd joked about using it for deliveries. I'd told people I was considering it. Last night, I told Carol that I was planning on doing it. There was no going back.
So, right before going off on my first delivery of the evening, I slipped it on. Now I looked like a sport! Wearing some kind of uniform looks better than not at all.
So I made all of my deliveries tonight wearing a Starbucks uniform. And here's the really weird part....NO ONE NOTICED. Not one person even gave me a funny look. Perhaps they'd never seen a Starbucks apron before; there's no Starbucks within about 80 miles of here (yes! such a place does exist!) But Milledgevillians, with all of the observational skills that allow them to find their way around a town where only about half of the streets have street signs, didn't notice that I was wearing entirely the wrong sort of uniform.
Here's the other interesting thing: my tips soared. I went from averaging 70cents per delivery (including the 50 cents I get per run automatically) to averaging about nearly a buck. It can't be because of the apron - people decide what to tip well before you get there, and, as mentioned, they didn't notice the apron anyway - but, well, it's interesting, isn't it?
Today's Interesting Sign of the Day was one in a very rich gated community near the lake: "Please drive gently." I don't see how it is possible to drive gently. You can drive slowly or carefully, but being gentle in a machine the size of a car just isn't going to happen.
Today's Best Quote From a Redneck: (on why there were no numbers identifying his house): "We used to have a mail box, but we took it down. We weren't getting no mail, anyway."
There's a remote street in town called Cambridge street, and, from the looks of it, it might just as well be Cambridge, Massachucetes. All of the houses look very New Englandish, and, (this is the really cool part) you have to drive through a covered bridge to get there. I kept expecting the headless horseman to show up! If one of the mail boxes in the neighborhood had said "Crane" or "Van Tassell" I would have died of pure glee.
I have to work tonight. While I admit that I generally enjoy my job by day, I really, really hate it after dark. Finding the houses is a challenge by day, but scary by night.
Got lost in a very dark trailer park ghetto trying to deliver a pizza. No lights in the neighborhood, no numbers on the trailers, no tip. Of course, I was more upset that the rich guy in the house on the lake who had about a mile long driveway only gave me 28cents. I wanted to knock on his door and ask if it bothered him that an octogenarian woman living in a tiny place on Wolverine Street had just given me four times what he gave me, but thought better of it. I guess you don't get rich by handing out a lot of tips.
Tried an experiment while working last night regarding the wearing of my Starbucks apron on deliveries. Once again, no one appeared to notice, but the results speak for themselves:
Deliveries made, total: 10
Deliveries made, with apron: 5
Deliveries made, without apron: 5
Average tip, with apron: $3
Average tip, without apron: $0
That's right. Not one person tipped me when I wasn't in the apron, but the tips when I wore the apron were awfully high, regardless of the neighborhood. Normally, you can look at where you're going on the map and predict pretty reasonably what the tip will be.
Perhaps the variables weren't all controlled, and I'm no scientist, but you can't argue with results, my friends.
In Milledgeville, there is a place I call the cop farm. It's a little complex of nice-but-tiny duplexes, and just about every car in every driveway is a police car. For obvious reasons, I drive exactly the speed limit in that neighborhood.
Today I made a delivery to there to a guy whose name, I swear to God, was Magnum.
He tipped me two bucks, but didn't notice the starbucks apron. Some detective!
Yep. It's the Apron.
Yesterday (friday), they gave me a uniform at Pizza Hut. So I wore that, without the Starbucks apron I've been wearing. I made less than five bucks in tips the whole night.
Tonight I made my first two deliveries without the apron and didn't get a dime. Naturally, I decided that I'd better put the apron back on.
My first delivery of the evening WITH the apron was to 201 Jefferson Street - The Walker House!
The Walker House is a 19th Century light-green gothic revival mansion. Mr. Walker, so the story goes, was the meanest man in the entire state. He made his sick son work in the fields, then wouldn't call a doctor when he collapsed. The kid wound up wandering out of bed, getting dizzy, and falling down the stairs to a grizzly death. The house is now haunted by either Mr. Walker or his son, depending on who's telling the story. Some also say that it's haunted by Mr. Walker's first wife, whom he also killed.
So I went up to the house in my apron...inside the door, I could see the infamous staircase...I knocked and waited...and waited...
Finally, the door was answered by a guy in a Braves t-shirt. He tipped me five bucks - not only the largest tip I've ever been given, but more than I'd made the entire previous night.
Clearly, the apron is staying on.
In all, in my first night back in the apron brought in a record $26 in tips. That shatters the old record of $20, and is a 500% increase over what I made without the apron.
So I may have a uniform now...but the apron isn't going anywhere.
The Continuing Storrrrry Of a Man in an Apron
I had to make a delivery to the front desk at the Hampton Inn. The place was empty but for an excitable fellow who immediately referred to me as "his main man."
He then proceeded to ask me various questions about the girl on the phone who had taken his order. It seems he was trying to entice her to "hook up" with him that night, and that she had expressed tentative interest. "And when I say ' get a room,' I MEAN 'get a room!" He said. "We run the hotel!"
He gave me detailed instructions on what I should tell the girl about him. How he looked, etc. Mostly, he was concerned that I let her know that he ran the hotel.
All the while, naturally, I was waiting for him to shake my hand and slip me some "hello money." Naturally, if you're going to ask a stranger to help you in your sexual conquests, a bribe is appropriate. But no such thing was forthcoming. In fact, the guy didn't even tip me - not a dime! And I was wearing the apron and everything!
So I took his name and number back to the girl who worked the phone.
"What did the guy look like?" she asked me.
"Like he had some sort of disease," I replied.
Here's what's nice: slumber parties full of scantily clad girls always tip extremely well. And they often offer me a beer.
Of course, I'm not about to take a beer while I'm out driving, and I doubt that any of the girls at these things are my type, but, still it's nice.
Today, I delivered to a group of girls who were painting a t-shirt that read "suck for a buck." I kept waiting for them to ask if I had a dollar (I had about twenty), but no such luck.
Does Killings Avenue SOUND like a good place to go after dark?
It's a street that is just like it sounds - bad neighborhood, no street lights, no numbers and on the houses and trailers, has a train track running practially in the people's front yards. The dogs aren't tied up and they all like to chase cars. Keeping from hitting them with no lights is tough work, since they aren't bright enough to get out of the way on their own.
I had to go there after dark last night. Even with the customer on the phone, it took me forever to find the place. She thought that standing on her porch would make it easier for me to find her place, but you couldn't see the porch from the road. When I got back, I promptly added Killings Avenue to the list of streets where we can't deliver after dark. There were no objections.
The problem with delivering to certain places (the veterans' home, the hospitals, etc) is that you rarely have enough information to find the place. For example, you might get an address reading "Veterans Home, room 302," but that won't tell you which of the four buildings in the veterans' home it's in in the first place. And they all have a room 302.
Such was the case last night. I was sent to the hospital (the regular one, for the first time, not the mental one), and spent a good fifteen minutes trying to find the nurse in the ICU who had ordered the pizza (she tipped me two bucks).
When I finally got back, the boss asked me where I'd been all that time.
"Show some sympathy!" I cried. "I just got out of the intensive care unit!"
Nothing happening much lately, Nothing terribly exciting happening at work - except for that delivery yesterday where a guy was running around the yard shouting "do you wanna die?" but I'm not sure he was even talking to me. Didn't stick around to find out.
Also of note: there is a street here called Swint. Does that sound like a word for a private part to anyone else?
After over a month of not one customer noticing the Starbucks apron, last night it was noticed by TWO different customers!
The first was a guy in an apartment. I suppose it's worth mentioning that he was an Asian guy, because I've delivered to about two Asian people in the entire time I've been making deliveries in this town. This town is almost exclusively black and white.
The other guy was an officer at one of the prisons.
Both reacted to seeing the apron by asking excitedly whether there was now a Starbucks in town. "They have the best coffee in the world," said the guy in the prison. That was interesting to hear, because in the time I spent working at Starbucks, I heard a lot more people telling me they thought the coffee there was remarkably overrated.
Whilst delivering pizza tonight...
I was bitten by a dog on two different deliveries. Neither time was bad enough to break through my shoe, but, still, the dogs bit me and I'm pissed off. The owners saw the whole thing, and proceeded to say things like "oh, that dog's just a big lover" and tip me exactly a dollar, like it was some priveledge for me to be bitten by their obnoxious mutt. They're quite lucky that, while the dog was attatched to my shoe, I didn't just start shaking my leg violently around. No jury would've convicted me (I hope). Normally I make it a rule that, if the dog is not tied up (and few of them are in this town), I call the person and make them come outside. No matter how politely I ask, people seem to get awfully offended that I think their gigantic dog isn't just barking and growling at me because he likes me.
Having a dog outside but untied and then calling the pizza man ought to be an arrestable offense. Especially if you only tip the guy a lousy buck.
Get Your Hands Off Me, It Makes Me Feel So Cheap!
Made a delivery tonight to a bunch of rowdy rednecks who were staying in a trailer out in the middle of nowhere. While one tried to figure out the difference between a 10 and a 20, another asked if I had any joints on me that I could sell them.
"Nope," I said."
"We'll see 'bout that!" he said. He then began to pat me down to make sure I didn't have any, while his buddy gave me exact change - no tip - for the pizza. Boy, did I feel cheap!
Just before I left, the joint-searcher asked if I knew of any local whorehouses.
Now, I'm the pizza man. Of COURSE I know where the whorehouses are. But I'm not about to be helpful to drunken jerks who feel me up for drugs and then decline to tip me. However, I was not above lying to them.
"Sure," I said. "Go down this road about 2 miles, then you'll see a road called Laboratory Road. Take a left down that, and you'll see a white house with a sign that says 'Miranda's'. You can't miss it."
There is no such house as the one described. In reality, those directions will them to a place in between the mental hospital and two of the prisons.
Likely as not, they belong in one of those places, anyway.
I drove around in the rain and in the dark (very low visibilty) through dirty streets all night, dealing with people who were really rather mean to me, all for a total of $6 in tips for the whole night. I may not have this job much longer. In the summer, I had daylight to keep the job, well, reasonable. The loss of daylight hours make this job WAY harder.
I still haven't told you the story about the eggs.
Or the one about the ketchup.
Or how I've come to know that stolen flowers DO smell better.
I have not listed the racial comments I've overheard (about me) coming from inside the houses or from my manager, who only seems to know three words (starting with F, S and N) (though she's still nowhere near as offensive as Larry).
I have not told about the "nursing home for elderly patients" at the mental hospital.
Or about the one time I delivered to a patient who insisted he was supposed to have Sprite as a topping.
Or the time the cops searched the pizza box for drugs before I could go to the door.
And I have not listed the huge amount of car trouble I've had because of this job - the roads and driveways tend to be in horrendous shape, and my car takes a beating nightly. I have a warranty with Goodyear, but the only Goodyear place in town is called (and I'm not making this up) Bubba's Tire Center. The quality of the work I had done there was so terrible (the repairs would last a week, tops) that it's worth the money to pay to have a better place to the repairs properly.
It's time to go, I think.
But I certainly hope I can go out with a bang. I still regret not going out of Po'Folks with a bang. I tried and tried, but just couldn't get myself fired at that job.
This Pizza Hut Life For Me is Through...You Oughta Quit This Scene, Too
In the past two nights, three people have accused me of being racist (twice for not being able to break a hundred dollar bill, once for parking in the street rather than the driveway). Apparently some people think that, if you call the pizza man a racist, he'll give you your pizza for free to show that he isn't. Didn't work.
Tonight, a busy Friday night, I made $2.31 in tips. And they've decided that it's my responsibility to do a good deal of the prep work in the kitchen now.
So I told them to find themselves another patsy. Thursday will be my last night at Pizza Hut.
And I still have the addresses of assholes and repeat-offender non-tippers.
Coming up next - Revenge in Milledgeville!
Back in Business
I just returned from my first night delivering for Papa Johns in Gwinnett County (suburban Atlanta). Here's a list of ways that delivering here is different from Milledgeville:
-Tips. The most I ever made in a single run in M'ville was $9. Tonight, I made 12 on my first run. Made a good deal more in the course of the first night than I made on my best night ever before.
-Friendly people. The customers and co-workers all seemed friendly and respectable. Not one person seemed particularly trashy, and no customer was openly mean to me. No shouting.
-Nice neighborhoods. No run-down houses with bullet holes in the doors. I never felt nervous about leaving my car running. Sure, some of the guys might've been corporate crooks, but you can pretty generally walk among them without too much trouble, as long as you don't bump into anything or sign anything.
-Signs! All of the streets have legible signs, and the houses are numbered. Most streets even have street lights!
-Quality product. While the "Chicago Dish" is okay at Pizza Hut, most of their pizza tastes as though it's been deep fried. At Domino's, at least in Milledgeville, it tastes like it's been deep fried, then stepped on. Papa John's is pretty good stuff.
-Roads. I already mentioned that they all had signs, but forgot to add that they were all paved. Even the driveways!
-Busy workload. There was always a pizza or two to be delivered. I never had to wash any dishes or oil any pans. In fact, they don't oil pans here.