Taken for a Ride: delivery driver ride along
spending the night with a Chippewa Valley delivery driver
Do you remember Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Of course you do. Of course you remember when Jeff Spicoli, iconic stoner goof, orders a pizza in Mr. Hand’s class. You will then, naturally, also remember Home Alone, where an adorably young Macaulay Culkin has a pizza delivered to his house and terrorizes/insults the poor deliveryman by blasting a scene from Angels With Filthy Souls. Pizza delivery folks have played an integral, underappreciated role in popular culture since people figured out how to use super-magnets to stick polyhedronal signs on top of sedans. From time to time, however, it’s important to remember that pizza delivery men/ladies are not only essential characters in some of our favorite movies, they are also our friends and neighbors, and they have great stories.
Now, in the same way that Jeremy Lin can’t make the Knicks win every game, and I can’t win my money back on every gas station crossword scratch-off, not every night of delivering can be filled with hilarious shenanigans and rollicking story material. And so it was when I met up with Dave, to ride along with him on a night of delivering pizzas for an Eau Claire pizzeria. It’s the 21st century, so Dave drives a Pontiac Aztek instead of an ’88 Sentra. It breaks the movie stereotypes, but the warmer-than-normal-but-still-freakin-cold February air makes me appreciate the fact he has a vehicle with working heat. The evening is slow, and instead of spending the night cruising the streets and blasting Zeppelin, we go over the highlights and stories of his career, along with a few select tidbits he’s picked up from other drivers, which I can only assume were shared at some sort of deliveryman VFW.
“It’s pretty hit or miss most nights. There are nights when you just sort of hang around and help out in the kitchen, and there are other nights when it’s crazy,” he explains. The kitchen smells like cheese, the cooks are bustling, and a delivery order that comes down the line like the dispatch for a taxi driver.
“So what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen on a delivery?” I inevitably ask, skipping the buildup and going right for what I’m sure must be a story involving drunken college kids, vicious dogs, or space aliens, in one form or another.
“I had a lady come to the door with no pants on, once.” He replies.
Now I know what you’re thinking. But keep that funky 70s music packed away, and take the earmuffs off your kids. This lady was memorable not for her suggestive euphemisms, but for her inherent old lady kookiness.
“I came to the door and didn’t realize it at first; it was scary. She wouldn’t open the door enough to get the pizza through, I wasn’t quite sure what to do.” He goes on to explain how she was your stereotypical cat lady, with an odor akin to baby powder and cat urine exploding out through the open door. My appetite, developed in the midst of delicious kitchen smells, was now completely destroyed. He pressed on.
“I told her the total and was getting ready to hand her the pizza. She waited until this point to tell me she had a coupon. She proceeded to close the door in my face, and I could hear newspapers shuffling. A few minutes later she came out with a freshly snipped coupon.” He’s got the thousand-yard stare now, “I was so confused.” We make the delivery and head back to the restaurant.
“Ha, there was this other guy,” Dave suddenly recalls, “It was a house a little farther out in the country, long driveway, no lights, the kind of place that naturally makes you a little nervous.” He laughs again, “This guy had a stuffed deer in his yard. A baby deer. I’ve never, ever seen that before. It was terrifying.” He goes on to explain the property; a bit of a rough looking shack, a barking dog chained up in the back, and a giant man of a customer, complete with a camouflage hat and robust facial hair.
“He was super nice.” Dave tells me. “It was so weird to be walking back to the car, past the stuffed deer, and have this guy wave and yell ‘I love your guys’ pizza!’ No joke.”
By this point my appetite has returned and I wonder how these guys can spend so much time cooped up in a car with hot, fresh food. We spend the rest of the night hanging out at the restaurant, Dave tells me stories about a lady who wanted delivery but refused to give her address, and a guy who insisted there were onions on his order which resulted in his daughter going to the hospital – when the restaurant offered to pay the bills if he could bring in the discharge papers, he declined, stating that he just wanted a free pizza.
What I realized from these stories, whether they be about drunken college kids, crazy old ladies, or guys calling an Eau Claire restaurant from River Falls, is that the delivery guy sees us in situations that few do. Whether you’re hungry at 1am, looking for comic relief in a classic film, or just a lunatic with no pants on, your friendly pizza delivery man/lady is there for you. So make sure to tip them well.