Monday, March 31, 2014

Fun With Pizza (Pt. 2)

San Diego...

My first pizza job was at an indie place on El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego.  It was "centrally located," in a manner of speaking.  The delivery area was monstrous: all the way up to Tierrasanta, down to Logan Heights, plus North Park, Mission Hills, Downtown, South Park, out to La Mesa, southeast to Encanto, and all points in between.  I'd never had anything to do with the business, and still recognized the madness in this giant delivery area.

I also recognized the possible dangers in delivering to some of the areas we covered.  East San Diego, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, Encanto.... These were not fun places to be, especially for a twenty year old white boy.  My main defense was probably the punk rock look I had: "It's onna them crazy white boys.  Who know what he could do?"

Well....  Remain calm in tense situations, for one.  The very first week I was working there, I delivered to a house in East San Diego.  Knocked on the door, heard someone yell, "Who is it?"  I yelled back, "Pizza man!"  The door opened just far enough for an arm, attached to a hand, holding a gun, to emerge.  The barrel of the gun pushed rather firmly into the space just above my adam's apple.

I could see an eye and part of a nose inside the door.  A voice from below the nose asked, "The fuck do you want?"
"Um, someone ordered a pizza for this address.  Honest."
The voice yelled behind him, "Hey Ray!  You order a pizza?"
A fainter voice replied, "Yeah!  It here?"
The gun was removed from my neck and the door opened another six inches.  "C'mon in."
I stepped inside --- about three inches --- and the smell hit me.  A chemical smell, like toasting glue.  Oh, fucking peachy: these guys have been smoking PCP, and have now decided they're hungry.  And the goddamn Mexican place two blocks away wasn't good enough, they had to have pizza delivery.

The one who answered the door just stood in the middle of the room with the gun still in his hand, but at least it was now pointed at the floor.  He never stopped staring at me, but it was a stare with nothing behind it, like he was calmly trying to decide what species I was.  "Ray" emerged from the back of the house, smiling, calmly asking, "So how much was it again?"
"It came out to, um, twelve forty."
"Ray" handed me a ten and a five and said, "Keep it.  Thanks for coming out."
"Hey, no problem, you gentlemen have a good night," I said, and got through the door as quickly as I could without looking like I was bolting.  I forced myself to walk --- calm, relaxed --- back to the car.  Nothing interesting here, just a gun shoved into my neck by a guy who's probably still watching me through a window....  Got in and drove off.  Still expecting my rear glass to explode until I turned onto El Cajon Blvd, making a right, away from where I needed to go, just to keep the car moving.  Wishing I hadn't promised myself I wouldn't smoke weed at work.

That was the only time I had a gun pointed at me.... That I could see.  I delivered to enough crack houses that I have no doubt I was being covered by someone at most of them, but either through paranoia or good manners they didn't show themselves.  Too many times I'd be on the porch of a rock house and could sense someone else was in the room, staying out of sight behind the door and away from the window.  These were always quick transactions, and they'd always tip: not out of generosity, but because counting out change was that much more time their door was open.  "Keep it, just keep it."
"Thank you, sir."
"Yeah, yeah, just get goin', get goin.'"

I got goin'.

The other interactions that stick out in my mind were more....  Friendly, I guess.  Quite a few of my customers seemed to have watched a few too many cheesy porn films, and were eager to confuse video with reality.

The first little incident wasn't exactly porn movie territory.  I knocked on a door in North Park, and heard "Be right there!"  A few seconds later the door opened, and I was greeted by a man wearing nothing but a hard-on.

I looked at him, I looked at it, I looked at him again, and said, "Sir, whatever you were planning on giving me as a tip, I don't think I want it."

Shrieks of feminine laughter erupted from inside the house; I looked past him to see an equally naked woman lying on a sofa, her head propped up on her hand and smiling at me.  I looked back at the man and said, "Lemme guess: a dare?"
He smiled sheepishly and said, "Yeah."
"Only semi-successful.  I own one of those myself.  Well, it's not in that position at the moment, but nonetheless, nothing I haven't seen before.  That'll be $24.20."
"Hang on, I need to get my wallet."
"I'm very happy you don't have the money on you."
"Where would I---- oh. Heh, I see your point."

The man disappeared into the house.  The woman on the sofa smiled and asked, "So, what's your name, honey?"
"Me?  I'm Travis."  (I used 'Travis' as a fake name, after DeNiro's character from Taxi Driver.)
"Are you used to seeing naked people when you work?"
"At this job?  No.  At my previous job, I saw hundreds."
She looked surprised.  "What the hell was your last job?"
"I used to work at Smut 'N' Stuff, the store on Balboa.  You get kind of inured to nudity working there, even if it's only on video tape."
She brightened up.  "Oh, I've shopped there!  I bought----  I, uh, got some things to have fun with."  For a woman who wasn't hung up about being naked in front of the pizza guy, the mere insinuation of sex toys sure made her blush.
"That's what the store is all about.  It does get tedious after a while, though."
"Yeah.  It really is just a retail gig.  And watching porn gets boring; you're seeing the same things, just with different people.  Like watching Hamlet over and over, but with different actors."
"You're not nervous talking to a naked woman right now?"
"Should I be?  You're over there, I'm over here, and while you're nice to look at, this is real life and not a porno movie.  I'm just some guy bringing you and your boyfriend some food."
"Huh."  She seemed slightly irritated and disappointed.  I believe her boyfriend and her were hoping for some shock value, for me to flip my wig and start stuttering and drooling....  Not the vague eye-rolling bemusement I had, and was making no attempt to conceal.

The boyfriend finally returned with his wallet.... And I had to hand it to him, he was still hard enough to cut diamonds.  (Keep in mind this was years before Viagra existed.)  I couldn't help but wonder if it would stay like that while they ate their lasagna and garlic bread.  He paid me off with a four dollar tip; as I was turning to leave, he grabbed my arm and said, "Um, don't tell anyone about this, okay?"
"Mum's the word, sir.  You enjoy your evening."
And until now, I haven't told anyone.  It's not like I knew who they were, anyway.

I actually did get hit on while working that job, but almost entirely by gay men.  Again, too much cheesy porn, confusing video tape with real life.  (Or, they were just desperately horny and didn't feel like going to a bar.)   I won't recount every interaction, but it would usually go like this:
"That'll be $12.70, sir."
"No problem," he'd say, reaching into the pocket of his robe.  (They always seemed to be wearing robes, at least the ones who'd make a pass at me.)
He'd hand over the money, pause for a second, and ask, "Would you like to come in for a drink?"
"Well, I am driving, so...."
"How about a toke?  I've got some really good bud from up north."
"Tempting, but I am at work.  I've still got two deliveries in the car."
"Aw, that's a shame.  I'm here all by myself, feeling lonely....  What time do you get off work?" .... With a smile that was, shall we say, inviting.
It was time to burst his bubble.  "I'm flattered and all, honey, but I'm straight."

At this point it would go any of several ways.  Quite often, the subject would be pushed, but gently.  "Ohh.... Really?  Have you ever tried it?"
And I would answer honestly, Yes, I have, and it's just not me.  It was sort of fun, but I really didn't dig it.  Sorry.
"Aww.  Okay.  I think you're cute, can't blame me for trying."
"Thanks.  I'm flattered, but like I said, it's just not me.  Good luck, though, and have a good night."

The more, ah, direct ones would forgo the offers of drinks and bong hits, and kind of cut to the chase:
"You're cute.  What's your name?"
"Um, my name's Travis---- "
"Travis.  That's a good strong name.  Do you have any plans after work?  I'll bet you and I could have some fun together."
"Actually, I'm meeting my girlfriend when my shift's over."
"Oh.  Your girlfriend, huh?"
"Yep.  Afraid so."
"Oh.... Well, you have a good night."
"You too, sir."

And then there were the ones who made their interests crystal clear:
"That'll be $14.10, sir."
"Here you go..... Tell me, has anyone ever told you you're hot?"
"The subject's never come up, no."
"Well, you are.  Can you come inside for a little bit?"
"I, uh, still have a couple deliveries in the car...."
"Don't you think they can wait?  I'd really love to suck your cock."
"Ahh.... I'm not---- "
"Stud, I'll make you come like a fucking fire hose."
"Look, I'm not into guys, I know this from experience.... And can't you think of a better way of asking someone?"
"Why beat around the bush?  You're hot, and I feel like sucking cock.  A mouth is a mouth; you wouldn't be the first straight guy I've sucked off.  I suck dick better than any woman ever will."
"(*sigh*)  How's this: I know where you live, and if I change my mind I'll stop by.  But I'm making no promises."
"I'll be up late, stud.  Come by after work, I promise you you'll love it.  I'll make you come harder than any woman ever has.  I've even got porn to help you get primed."
"I'll keep it in mind.  Good night, sir."

In a way, it was kind of a drag I'm not into guys: I was actually having good-looking men hitting on me.  Oh well, maybe next lifetime.

Lest you think it was only men making passes....  Well, at least the men weren't scary and dangerous.

Two women who decided the pizza guy had it goin' on were vaguely attractive, in their mid-forties, and staggering drunk.
The first one got the door open and promptly fell down the side of it, sliding down the door frame to the floor.  I set the pizza bag down and helped her back to her feet, leaving her in a position where all she had to do was lean against the frame.  She'd muttered, "Sssshhit" as she went down; once I had her upright she looked at me with unfocused eyes, as if I'd always been there.
"You ordered a pizza, ma'am?"
She considered the question a moment, then her face brightened.  "Oh yeeahh!  My peessa!"
"That'll be $12.40, ma'am."
"Okay, lemme juss.... I gotta get m' purse."
Uh boy.  Three tags still on board, and I could see the time slipping away with this one.
She twirled and staggered her way back to the door, holding the purse out straight in front of her.  "Here, juss... You fin' the money, take wha' you need."
Anything to speed this up.  "No problem, ma'am."  I quickly dug through until I found a wad of cash, and pulled out thirteen dollars.
She had her hand on my chest.  "Coool.  Now I gotta pizza, and they sent a man! I need a man!"
"Do you?"
She started laughing.  "Ackshully, my pussy needs a man."
Oh christ.  "Um, sorry, I can only help you with the pizza."
She squinted at me.  "Yer notta man?"
"I am, but I'm also a busy man.  I have more pizza to deliver and can't help you with your pussy right now."
She squinted.  "Don' you like pussy?"
"Oh, I love it, but I prefer when it's attached to something sober.  And like I said, I still have pizzas to deliver."
She sneered and said, "You fu.... Fuu...."
Then she lurched forward, bent over the railing next to the steps, and began vomiting.
I jumped backwards against the opposite rail, to avoid backsplash.  The reek of stomach acid and vodka began to waft up.  She seemed to be finished, at least.  She coughed twice, forcefully spit, and then went limp.  She began sliding down the rail, draped over on her stomach.
I caught her before she hit the pavement, holding her up on the rail and thinking about what to do.  It was a bit of a job holding her like that; only the dead outweigh drunks.
I made my decision.  I got her into a fireman's carry and hoisted her through the door, across the room, and onto a sofa.  Rolled her so she was face-down, with her head halfway hanging off the sofa.  I moved enough bottles and random detritus around on the coffee table to set down her pizza and purse.  Then I took off, bound for my next address, wondering if she'd even remember where the pizza had come from.

Our next contestant in the Lustful Drunk competition appeared to be an aging biker babe.  She wasn't nearly as drunk, but initially twice as obnoxious.  The un-subtle innuendo started when the door opened.
"Hey, just what I needed!  Pizza and a man!  I need food, and I need cock, and they both show up at the same time!"
"Yeah, well, I can only help you with the pizza."
I swear, her face roiled with anger.  "'S'matter, you some kinda faggot?"
"No.  However, I am at work.  That takes precedent."
"Yeah?  Don't you like these?" she said, lifting her shirt to expose a pair of breasts that had probably been spectacular twenty years earlier, and were admittedly still pretty impressive.
.... And I thought up a lie that would come in handy later on while delivering in Berkeley, even when I was still single.
I looked at them, then her, and said, "Well, they're almost as nice as my wife's."
And her whole demeanor changed; it was like someone hitting a switch.  She pulled her shirt down and quietly said, "You're married?"
"Yes ma'am, I am."
"Oh."  Her face was suddenly both sad and horrified.
She stared into the distance for a couple seconds, then asked, "So what do I owe you for the pizza?"
"It'll be $14.40, ma'am."
She handed me some bills and told me to keep the extra.  Then she stood there holding the box and said, "Look, I'm really sorry....  I didn't mean.... I'm sorry, I was outta line."  Her face and body english all yelled, "Please don't hate me."
"Quite alright ma'am.  I don't wear my wedding band at work."
"Heh.  Yeah.  Look, you have a good day, okay?"
"And you too, ma'am."  She gave me a shy smile and disappeared back inside the house.
My only guess is she had been hurt, badly, by a philandering husband, and had promised herself that she would never be the source of that pain; she would never be The Other Woman.  I felt kind of bad that my lie had put her in such a sad mood; I had an urge to knock on her door again, hug her, and tell her she wasn't a bad person.  At the same time I was proud of her: she had the moral fortitude to never do to anyone's wife what had probably been done to her.  She'd been drinking, and had probably been in the same frame of mind guys get into when they've got a buzz: "God, but I need to fuck something right now."  Lo and behold, here comes a young pizza guy, that'll do....

The third woman hadn't been drinking.  She tried to get my head caved in instead.

Encanto, as I remember it (keep in mind this was 1988) was kind of a strange neighborhood.  It was a middle-class suburban neighborhood, with an almost exclusively black population.  Nice big suburban ranch-style houses, wide streets, well-maintained lawns....  And no services for miles.  No shopping centers, gas stations, not even a Seven-Eleven.  Just miles of winding streets full of houses.
SDPD, being the racist swine they are, loved Encanto.  One of the most grimly funny things you can read on a police report is "Suspects were initially pulled over for bald tires...."  Translated, this means, "We saw four niggers in an Impala so we decided to shake 'em upside down to see what would fall out."  One guy has a joint in his pocket: zap, all four are off to jail for the night, if not longer.  Thanks to the San Diego cops, you can imagine what sort of warm feelings most Encanto residents had towards white people in general.
Deliveries to Encanto didn't bug me much.  I had the Crazy White Person Syndrome in my favor, and it really was a mostly middle-class place.  These were homeowners.... Mostly.  Some houses were rentals; you could spot them from the end of the block.  Ratty looking lawn, junker cars in the driveway and at the curb, and flaking paint.

It was to one of these I was delivering.  Strange difference, though, no cars at all in the driveway.  You can't live in Encanto without a car.
I knock on the door, and a white girl answers.  She's wearing a skin-tight t-shirt with no bra, and was.... Decent looking.  She looked a little tore up; in another neighborhood I'd have assumed she was a serious tweaker.  In Encanto, though, it was probably crack that had her spun.
"Hi.  Be $16.20."
"$16.20, huh?  Okay.  Say----" and now she's smiling and rubbing her tits against me " ----you wanna come inside?  I bet we could have some fun."
One of the main reasons their plan failed was she was too short.  I could see straight over the top of her head.... And caught a glimpse of movement.  I forced my eyes to focus on the movement in the dark.  The silhouette of a man.  He was holding something long and bat-like in one hand.
Defense time, think fast.  "Fun, huh?  What kind of fun did YOU AND YOUR FRIEND BACK THERE have in mind?"
The silhouette was moving closer, from what was probably the kitchen into the living room.  Fake it, no other choice.
In one continual movement, I dropped the pizza bag to the ground, unzipped my jacket, and stuck my hand in, like I was reaching for a gun.  The girl said, "Shit," and started backing up. I yelled at the silhouette, "I bet you hit the ground first, asshole!"  The silhouette stopped moving.
"I take it you didn't really want a pizza," I said to the girl.  She didn't answer.  "What you're gonna do, little sister, is close that door, and you're gonna throw the deadbolt after you do.  I'm getting in my car.  If I hear footsteps behind me, everybody's night is going to hell.  Do you understand me!?"
"Yes!" she spat at me.  She slammed the door and I heard the deadbolt click.
I grabbed the pizza bag and moved quick towards my car, listening for the door to open.  What I heard was the girl's voice wailing, "It didn't work!  What do we do now!?  You asshole, you said..."  And then I was in my car.

By some miracle there were no cops around.  Just as well, because I was juicing it all the way through Encanto and up on to 47th St., pulling about 65 mph in stretches.  There was nothing chasing me, nothing to run from, just so bloated with adrenaline that it was the only way to drive that felt natural.  Fifty-five degrees out, and I could feel the sweat pouring down my face and the back of my neck.  It took me six tries to light a cigarette because I couldn't hold the lighter still in front of my face.

And the next day I was back in Encanto, delivering three pies to a very nice family whose son was on his high school's football team.  They'd won that evening and they were celebrating.

Just a nice suburban family scene.

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