Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fun With Pizza (Pt.1)

I've spent quite a bit of time in my life delivering pizza.  When you have absolutely no financial aspirations, it's a wonderful gig.  Relatively easy work, decent money, and you're out and about for most of your day, which had the most appeal to me.  The money is enough to keep the landlord off your neck, keep the lights and phone on, buy music, and provide a savings cushion.... Which you'll need, because running a car for six to twelve hours a day means having to maintain it at a near-constant rate.  Plus, things still break, no matter what you drive.

Pizza delivery is sometimes aggravating, sometimes frustrating, sometimes hilarious, but it's never dull.  You meet people at their best and worst; I'll be talking about them later on.  Right now though, it's time for some advice.

"Gosh, this sounds like an incredible experience, one which I'd love to take part in!  Where do I start?"

My first bit of advice? Fuck the chains.  They're set up for the lowest common denominator, and you're not that stupid, right?  The pay is generally crap --- if they tell you you'll be on an hourly wage, turn around and leave.  You want to be paid by the "tag," a set amount you receive for every delivery completed.  Some chains will be so nosy as to inquire about your tips: they want the tips pooled, which is bullshit.  You could move like lightning and be super-courteous with the customers; you're picking up $3-5 tips on every tag.  Meanwhile, some dumb putz who can't find his way back to the store without a map and a flashing beacon is going to run slow all night, and has to unzip his fly to count to eleven when making change.  Why the hell should that doofus get the tip money you earned?  So to hell with Domino's, Pizza Hut, Round Table, and all the others.  You want an independent store.

Another huge problem with the chains: uniforms and signs.  Those dopey uniforms are bad enough, but it's the signs you want to avoid like the clap: all they do is function as beacons for every half-ass knucklehead and rock-smoker, saying, "Mug me!  I have food and money!  And company policy says I'm not allowed to protect myself, so I'm a complete pushover!"  It doesn't matter if the local store has red-lined areas --- marked off neighborhoods they simply won't deliver to, due to risk of robbery --- who says those lines don't change?  And who says the thieves won't just call in from a "safe" neighborhood?  Who says a thief won't be walking through a "safe" neighborhood and seize and opportunity?   Shit, all those damn lit-up signs on the roof of your car do is get drivers robbed, beat up, stabbed, and occasionally killed.

(The uniforms aren't quite as bad as the roof signs, but they still put you at risk, especially in apartment buildings.  You stick out like a cockroach on a wedding cake.  Thugs in an apartment building don't need to see your car, just you.  And they've got their friends and their arsenal right at hand, too.  Avoid uniforms more complex than a t-shirt; those damn Domino's uniforms are just trouble for the drivers wearing them.)

"So, um, what should I drive?  I've got my '66 Skylark, my '82 Colt, and my '71 Ford f-150 that is gonna be done any day now."

I have an incredible bias.  See, there's two kinds of passenger vehicles in the world: there are Hondas, and there's shit that's gonna break down on you.  I've driven Hondas since I was seventeen, starting with a 1978 CVCC, and have never --- not once --- been stranded by one.  Yes,  I've had things break, but never to the point of the car being disabled.  I have never had a Honda I've owned on the back of a tow truck.

Okay, I don't expect anyone to go out and buy a new Civic....  But whatever vehicle you have, keep in mind that while it may not need to go fast or far, you'll be hitting that starter anywhere from twenty to ninety(!) times a night.  Reliability is your big concern, especially given the abuse your starter motor will take, along with your clutch, brakes, suspension, throttle, tires.... You get the idea.  Maintenance is key, too.  When I was in East Bay, I was working two jobs, both using the same vehicle: I was a document courier during the day, and delivered pizza at night.  Even without the pizza delivery, that Civic was seeing 1300 mile weeks.  I ran Mobil One synthetic oil which was changed every six weeks, the filters were changed every three months, I got fresh brake pads up front every nine months (along with having my clutch inspected and the cable adjusted), every twelve months saw a tune-up, and I rotated the tires every six months.  (I knew a used tire place down by the Oakland Coliseum which always had matching high-quality rubber, and the way I could go through tires, there was no point in buying new.)  If it sounds like I poured money into my car.... You're damn right I did.  That little Honda Civic DX was my life's blood, my source of income, my ability to live comfortably.  If it dropped dead, I was screwed on so many levels it's not even funny.  I'd be unemployed, and unemployable.  Go ahead, tell a prospective employer you're relying on AC Transit to get to work.  May as well tell 'em you use a pogo stick.

So now you know where to look for a job, and what to drive, and how to take care of it.  Guess what?  You're on your own now, sucker!  Well, to a point.  Off and on, I'm going to write about some of the more, um, unusual things that happened to me slinging pizza.  Keep watching for them.

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