Thankfully, I was never required to dress like Ashton Kutcher.
This past Sunday marked the end of an era for me. I’ve been working at the same pizza restaurant in South Philly for 10 years and had to hang up my cleats officially. I spent five years working exclusively in the kitchen, and the last five as a driver. Driving is so much fun because you get paid to sit on your ass and listen to CDs while making straight cash and getting free lunch and dinner. It’s very stressful at times, especially during an Eagles game. But the money was, more times than not, bountiful and the customers were usually warm old ladies or tight-lipped Italian dads with a penchant for tossing me “a little something for the effort” to quote Caddyshack.
I started working as a weekend prep cook back in April 1998, when DMX ruled the world and Oxy pads took a residence in my medicine cabinet. From my first high school girlfriend, to my first car, to my first car accident, to graduating college, to being a worthless sloth after graduating college, the pizza shop was where I spent 40-60 hours a week while developing from teenage lump to young professional. A lot of workers, past and present, would stop by daily just to shoot the shit and get a slice and a fountain Pepsi. Local sports figures would come ever so often. Even the chick from Blair Witch Project came in one time.
That place has taught so much about work ethic, commitment, and loyalty. It forced me to think on my feet, to finish a job under duress, to show initiative and become a task master. Nothing can shake you after you’ve worked a restaurant during a Flyers playoff pre-game on a Friday night or an Eagles post-game on a Sunday afternoon. It’s like what Ed Norton said in Fight Club after getting his face plowed in from a showdown in a basement and coming into his day job the next day: “Everything else gets the volume turned down. You can handle anything.” It really is a family down there, and the relationships I’ve built will always remind me of how much I love where I come from, even when the rest of Philly pisses me off.
Working the kitchen was fun, but I really found my niche as a driver. It helped me observe people, write songs in my head while beats banged in my car, catch up with forgotten friends for five minutes on their doorstep, and memorize every nook and cranny of the concrete sandboxthat is South Philly. Here’s what I’ve learned from delivering pizza every week the past five years:
Things I’ve learned from delivering pizza
People who ask “Are you busy tonight?” when you get to their door will always give you exactly $1 as a tip.
If you deliver pizza to a grade school acquaintance, meaning they saw you every single day for eight years, they will act like you’re a complete stranger.
Always try to find a parking spot, even if it’s at the end of the block and you have to walk. No one likes sitting behind a double parked car anywhere, even if it’s for 15 seconds.
10th Street, 12th Street, and 15th Street always have traffic.
People operate on routines. Certain people will only order on Thursday nights, but they will always order on Thursday nights. And most of the time, it’s the same order.
$5 bills are a godsend. Giving back $9 in ones takes too long, you might miscount, etc. But hitting someone with a bean plus four $1 bills is gold—you’re guaranteed to at least get $2-$3 back.
I don’t understand people who want to keep that single $1 bill of change. The bill’s $16, you give me a $20, tell me to give you back $3. I’d rather give away all of my money then keep one stinkin’ buck.
Thirteen year old kids will keep your tip for themselves if their parents set aside money to pay you.
Ring the bell, knock on the door, then count to fifteen. If no one comes to the door in that time, ring the bell twice, knock on the door twice, then repeat.
No matter how old you are, what kind of car you drive, how good looking you are, or what kind of clothes you where, a guy with a pizza box in his hand is an open target for city dwellers. It’s like being a mascot.
I’m always kind of nervous when someone asks me to come inside their home.
All the times I’ve kept my car running, it’s amazing I never got robbed or carjacked.
Please don’t give me loose change. I don’t give it back to you. I round up or round down. So should you.
The only car accident I was in was when I was about to deliver my first pizza on a Friday night. It was my last full-time shift before I started my first corporate day job. I was crossing over Broad and Geary Sts when this Korean girl ran a red light and T-boned me in broad day. She hit me so hard on my passenger side that my driver’s door wouldn’t open. And the whole time it happened, one of my best friends was standing there across the street, walking his dog. Needless to say, he called the cops and got in that girl’s face. That’s what friends are for.
No matter how harmless they appear, always step down at least 2 steps if someone comes to the door in a heated battle with their dog. I’ve only been bitten once because I got lazy in that situation.
If you live in an apartment building, please let us know ahead of time which floor you’re on or which bell to hit. We don’t know you live in the third floor rear flat.
If you’re not at the door in the 30 seconds, I ring all of them.
I’d say about 25% of all door bells don’t work. And 14% of all men come to the door bare-chested.
Stoners will be stoners, no matter if they’re 18 or 49 years old. And they will always order pizza. And they will always give you a good tip.
I never asked a girl for her phone number while bringing pizza to her door. My rational mind is thinking, ‘You smell like crap, you’re dressed like a bum, and you’re a stranger who knows where she lives.’ Then when I drive off I think, ‘She at least knows you have a car, cash, and a steady job.”
Most pizza delivery guys are not people I’d leave my kids around…at any age.
The best way to eliminate the lingering odor of garlic, cheese, and pizza sauce from the interior of your car is to slightly lower all four windows just a pinch. Letting the car air out overnight works much better than air fresheners or Febreeze.
Always say “Thank you” even if the person doesn’t tip. Tips always even out—one guy will give you $3, an old lady will give you $1.25, then a single mom will slip you $7.
Some people are so obnoxious and annoying that I purposely would go to their house last on my stops. I would see their address and just shudder. But I never delivered a cold pizza.
Oddly enough, when I was slinging pies full-time (5 days a week, under the table), I was making the same money as a taxed entry-level young professional. Much less stress too. But no benefits. Then again, I never had to pay for lunch or dinner or go to the dry cleaners.
No matter how bad the economy gets, delivery guys will always be in business. You can’t outsource or download hot food to your doorstep in 45 minutes.
“The Delivery Man” by Cool Kids