Wednesday, September 18, 2013
· The bike ride to work is much less taxing in the afternoon. The traffic has thinned out a little and there are hardly any pedestrians until I get downtown. When I come out of the Stockton tunnel, into Chinatown, I see a kid crossing in the crosswalk nearly get hit by a car turning left. When the kid sticks his middle finger right up in the window and bangs the car with his open palm I smile to myself. I drive a car for work, but I still dislike cars in the city. There are too many of them and they take too many liberties trying to nose into crosswalks between pedestrians and gunning their engines to pass bicyclists. Even drivers would agree with me. They’d be much happier if everyone else had to stop driving and they could have the streets to themselves. It’s only all the other drivers that make driving so difficult. In my case, I hardly ever notice what other drivers are doing. All of my stress comes from the shifting of precarious and delicate deli trays stacked in the back of my truck and the catering companies and my two bosses all trying to call me at the same time to ask why the order to BlogDottle or Gumfinkle is five minutes late. It is unnerving to realize that while all this is happening, I am seldom paying much attention to what the drivers around me are doing.*** It’s odd to show up for work in the middle of the day. I was going to have the day off, but my boss called around noon and asked if I’d mind coming in and doing a few deliveries. By that point, I’d already had a pretty relaxing morning off. I’d gotten my sewing done and listened to some music. Sure. What the hell? I’ll come in for a couple of deliveries.*** When I get to work, all the cooks are getting out for the day, so there’s a convivial atmosphere that’s much different than the typical morning when everyone is rushing around in circles to get all the platters made, packed and loaded into the trucks. I’ve gotten used to starting off my day like that, so the easy-going afternoon is slightly uncomfortable. I feel like I’ve just shown up to my job on my day off just to hang out. I keep listening to the conversation, but I go over to where my orders are hanging and start making mental notes of all the platters I need to get out of the refrigerator and all the hot trays in the oven. The conversations taper off and I get down to packing everything up.*** It’s a grey, humid and boring afternoon and loading the truck, I feel like I’m standing in a high school parking lot after all my friends have gone home. I’ve got four orders, but none of them are very big. The truck is loaded and just as I’m about to pull out, my boss comes out and tells me I’m going to need ice for the drinks I’ve packed. She walks back inside and I sigh. 28 cans of soda are awkward and heavy enough to carry without the added chunky weight of three pounds of melting ice. The bags are not waterproof. As I load the ice, I know it’s going to be sloshing around in my shoes before the afternoon is over.*** The first two deliveries are between 5 and 5:30. Normally, this sort of thing isn’t a problem. You do the first at 5 there’s usually enough time to do the second one just before 5:30. Of course, the receptionist for the first company is going to say “Wow. You’re really early,” and the second company will be calling your boss by 5:20 wondering where the food is. These particular two deliveries were spaced a little further apart than I would’ve liked. One was in a neighborhood where I could easily double park for a minute, but the second was downtown and between 4and 6 in the afternoon there is nowhere to park down there. All the street parking breaks down into extra lanes. Trying to park down there in the late afternoon is like trying to park in the middle of the damn highway.*** I do my first delivery to a little art gallery with no problem. The woman hovers a bit when I’m trying to unpack everything, but it’s only because she’s excited about the food. It so much nicer to have someone hovering because they’re excited about what you’re bringing them than to have someone hovering and trying to take things out of your hands because they don’t think you’re moving fast enough.*** I make it downtown with almost ten minutes to spare. No problem. This should give me enough time to park a few blocks away and hoof it over there. I weave around looking for a spot for a while. Everything in the area is no parking. The few places the do permit parking are completely taken up in this area between Chinatown and Union Sq. I get a block over from the place on a narrow street in Chinatown and decide I’m just going to have to risk it, knowing that I’m almost certain to get a ticket if I leave the car here, but there’s no time. It’s a minute to 5:30. I park the car, jump out and run around to the open the trunk.*** I’m getting everything out, the bag with the platters and the hotbag, when I notice there’s water all over the place. All 28 cans of soda are sitting in a soaking wet bag in a pool of water. I ponder the heavy bag for a minute and think ‘no, this is stupid. I’m not going to park here, get a ticket and schlep this stuff down two crowded city blocks. I’ll find a parking spot. I’m sure whoever ordered the food will understand if it’s a minute late.’*** I put everything back into the trunk and call the number on the order just to cover my bases. There’s no answer. I leave a message explaining the situation and relax a little. If this person was desperate for this food they would’ve answered the phone right away. The meeting’s probably not for another hour anyway. I jump back in the car and nose back into the crowded streets. Things should be OK, but I’ve begun to sweat more and I can’t tell if it’s from the humidity or if I’m getting nervous.*** Eight minutes later and there’s still no place to park. No one from the office that ordered the food has called. This has happened before, so many times in fact that I’m suspicious. Far too often, I’ve called whoever ordered the food and left a message only to have one of my bosses call me a few minutes later telling me that these people are calling the restaurant wondering what the hell happened to the food. Invariably, when I show up with the food (usually only a minute or two later), these people tell me, with a shrug, that they never got my message. It’s always hard for me not to say, “Huh, that’s interesting, because the voice mail message was in your voice and it said your name. I also used the number that you gave us to get a hold of you.” I usually just shrug back at them when they tell me this and set the food up without a word.*** While still circling the block, I call the office again. A girl answers this time. She tells me that she never got the message. I tell her that their building has no loading dock and there’s almost no street parking right now, making it extremely difficult to find a spot nearby. I can hear the anxiety rising in her voice, asking me how much longer it’s going to be. I’m driving through heavy traffic while having this conversation, looking for a parking spot and I’ve also got to pee. “Is your meeting starting right now?” I suddenly ask, knowing why this girl can’t appreciate my situation. She’s an event coordinator or something like that. Her job is to make sure the food’s set up and ready to go by the time the meeting has started. Of course, you’d think if it was such a big concern she would’ve answered her phone or at least checked her voice mail.*** “Alight,” I say, not seeing any alternative. “I’m just going to have to double park outside.” “Ok,” she says, mollified. “I’m already waiting in the lobby.”*** I pull in front of the building. It’s a big skyscraper downtown. The traffic seethes around me. I put my hazards on, put the truck in park and jump out into the humid evening. Horns blare, taxis shoot around me, but I ignore it all; I’m much too worried about getting a ticket to care about hemorrhoidal taxi drivers. After I shoulder the dripping bag with the 28 sodas, I glance down the street making sure there aren’t any traffic cops nearby and run up the stairs and into the building.*** The event coordinator is helpful. She seems to understand that I’m doing her a favor and although she doesn’t rush, she moves somewhat quickly and she helps me unpack everything once we get up to the 28th floor. I try to be as courteous as possible, but I know I’m going to get a ticket. Damn 28th floor, damn 5 o’clock delivery on the other side of town, damn people and their damn cars. It’s all I can do not to swear under my breath. She signs my papers, I ask if there were any questions in a way I hope subtly expresses that I hope there aren’t and I dash back out to the elevators.*** There was a very brief interlude here, in an otherwise hectic night. When I got back onto the elevator, there was a girl, about my age, wearing casual clothes standing in front and facing the doors. I felt a need to explain to her why I was repeatedly jabbing the door close button after lunging into the elevator like a madman. ”Sorry, I’m double parked outside.” I said to her back. Somehow the stress has made me feel more garrulous. The girl turned and told me that she hoped I hadn’t gotten a ticket and asked me how long I’d been up there. I told her it’d only been a few minutes. “You’re probably fine,” she said. For a moment, standing there and not moving, I was inclined to believe her. What good would it do to think about the situation any other way? As long as I was in the elevator, I might as well let things be fine. But just as soon as I really began to believe this the elevator reached the ground and my panic flared up again.*** I push myself through the widening gap and yell out “have a nice night,” while bolting for the door. The marble stairs are wet but I jump down them anyway, hoping I won’t slip. The truck is still in the street but there’s a tow truck backing up to it. “Oh, God!” I nearly yell and bound over the last set of stairs, almost colliding with some businessman.*** There’s a ticket on the windshield but luckily the tow truck hasn’t actually hooked the chains up yet. Like I’m making a getaway from the cops, I open the door, grab the ticket off the windshield and throw myself into the car all in own movement and then turn the key and blast the accelerator. “I knew I was going to get a fucking ticket!” I repeat as I shoot up the hill, oblivious to where I’m going or even what I’m doing. I try to feel grateful for not getting towed. If I had decided to pee, which I still desperately have to do, while I was in the building, I would’ve come out to find the truck gone and my next two orders, each worth a couple hundred dollars, hopelessly impounded.*** My next order isn’t for half an hour, just a little after six. ‘An optimal delivery time,’ I think to myself, when there’s actually some place to park downtown. I stop the car on the way into North Beach by the Powell street cable car tracks, get out, light a cigarette and get out my phone to call my boss. I want him to hear the story right after things had happened. I need to explain everything to him while it’s still fresh in my mind. If I wait for tomorrow before explaining, it would look like I wasn’t really even concerned. I want him to understand that I care about his business and that I’m not out to break them with tickets, just parking where ever the hell I felt like it. I open the phone, bring up his number, but instead of calling him I stand there smoking a few more minutes. When I feel less angry, I hit the talk button.*** I feel better when I hang up the phone. It was a lose/lose situation. The food was either going to be late or I was going to get a ticket. I made a decision. There wasn’t much else I could do. The boss seemed to understand this and knowing that he understood it, I felt better. Still, I call Gina, just to make sure of my relief.*** After I tell the story again to Gina, replete with agonizing, swearing and gnashing of teeth, I feel even better. I still have to pee, but I don’t feel so strung out. I have two more deliveries, street parking is open. I’ll be finished in an hour.*** There’s a parking spot open right in front of my next delivery address. I pull in and, since I’ve still got twenty minutes, take out my book. Sometimes, it’s hard to read sitting in a car in a crowded place. People keep walking by, coming right up alongside your window and catching your eye. There’s too much movement around you to not be distracting. But, right now, it’s not bothering me at all. I put my head down and read. The only distraction results from the need to pee, which makes me sorta’ shift my weight from leg to leg, uncomfortably in my seat. When I go in to do the order, I’ll see if they have a bathroom I can use. *** The cut-off time for the last order is 6:45 and I can’t bring this one in until 6:20. The last delivery isn’t so far away so I don’t think I’ll be too rushed. Still, I decide it would be best to go in a couple of minutes early. It’s about 6:14.*** I put my book down and jump out to start getting everything together. I’ve got my invoice in my hand. “OK, there’s two platters and then I need a…Oh, God! Oh, God you’ve got to be kidding me! SHIT! SHIIIIIIIT!” In my truck where there should be a hot bag with two pans there’s a lacuna coil, a black hole, nothing, only my own blatant stupidity staring me right in the face.*** I call the company that I’m supposed to be delivering food to right now. “Uh, hello, I’m the delivery driver. I’ve, uh, I’ve got to go pick something up. I’ll just be a minute or two late. Ok, yup. See you then.” I jump in the car and fly back to the last delivery. Repeating “please don’t let them have eaten the food. Please!”*** It happens to everyone, when you’re stressed and trying to rush through something, you make idiotic mistakes. If I had been parked legally on that last delivery, I would’ve had plenty of time to just double check that everything was delivered and that nothing was there that shouldn’t be. I would’ve noticed that they didn’t even have any hot pans on their order and I could’ve apologized for bringing them up there and then cracked some joke about how the smell was free or some crap like that. As it was, I had delivered the wrong thing to the wrong building. The catering kitchen was closed for the night and the order was set to be delivered now. I had no recourse. If they accidentally delivered food had been eaten, I wouldn’t be able to recover for hours. I’d have to go in and tell them that I didn’t have their food, which seems like a really inept thing to do.*** On the way back to the last delivery, I’m calling the girl who ordered the food, the event coordinator, over and over. No answer. Is she in the meeting? Is she off work for the night? Did she turn off her phone? I keep calling and I keep getting that sunny voice mail recording. I keep thinking how the last message I left on it was never received. What’s the point of leaving a new one?*** There’s a parking spot about two blocks away. I take it and bolt from the truck. I’m not going to try to find one right in front of the place now. There’s no time. As I approach the building, I realize that I gave the invoice, with all the order information on it, to the event coordinator as a receipt. I don’t even know which floor I’m trying to get to. The security in these buildings is usually strict. I don’t think the security guard is going to believe my story. Even if he does, will he just let me into some corporate office?*** The front door is locked. The door next to it suddenly opens as a woman comes out, as soon as she’s cleared the doorframe I grab the door and run inside. Naturally, the security guard is standing right there at his granite and impersonal-looking desk. Granite is impersonal-looking as hell. Why anyone would ever want to have that stuff anywhere besides a prison cell is beyond me. “Uh, hi, I was just in here with a delivery. Well, it was about 45 minutes ago. There was a blond girl named, uh, Lisa, I think, that brought me upstairs. I have to go back there and get something. Which floor? Um, it was twenty-something. Twenty-two?” The guard tells me that there’s nothing on the twenty second floor. “I don’t remember exactly which floor.” I try to explain. “I was in a hurry and she escorted me up there. Is there a directory I can see? I’d remember the name of the place if I saw it.” The guard looks like a tough bastard but he’s nice and obliging. He must be able to see the desperation on my face. There’s no directory, but he takes me over to the mailbox and shows me the names of all the businesses above the nineteenth floor. Every name sounds like a spoof of the one that preceded it. I do so many deliveries to so many -techs and -groups and LLCs and LTDs; I have no idea which one I was just at. But then, he mentions a name, slightly different than the others. “Yeah, that’s it!” He pauses a moment; I worry he’s not going to let me in. After all, I’ve got no credentials and my story really doesn’t sound very important. I don’t even work for the company.*** I’m lucky I’m not in another building. Anywhere else and they probably would’ve told me to get someone to escort me, or at least give them the name of someone who works there, something more than ‘blond girl.’ But this guy is nice. He lets me go up.*** The entire elevator ride, I’m mumbling to myself. “They’ve eaten all the food. God, I hope they haven’t opened it. If they did open it, what the hell am I gonna’ do?” I sound like a lunatic. When the elevator beeps at the 28th floor, I get off and walk quickly into the office. There’s no one there, no one at the front desk, no one in the halls. The place is empty. It’s dark. I walk down the corridor I rushed down about half an hour ago to set up the food. There’s a light on at the end, it shines from the other side of a closed oak door with smoky glass panels. From the other side, there issues a constant stream of talk. Talk that one person is doing, a banal and instructive sort of talk that hums on from the other side of the door without pause. It must be the meeting.*** I hover at the edge of the door for a while, but there’s nothing for me to do other than barge into the place. I didn’t come all the way up here to turn around without even checking to see what happened to the food. The talking seems to have dropped a few octaves as I ease open the door. The speaker, sensing he is going to be interrupted, waits for the interruption. I try to see if I can tell if the food has been disturbed from where I am standing in the open door, but it is impossible to tell, besides, I look ridiculous. I’m all sweaty and wearing very average clothes just standing in the doorway. These people were not here when I delivered the food. I don’t think any of them have any idea who this strange man is who is suddenly hovering at the edge of their meeting. Glances of various kinds are thrown my way, some of them curious, some of them angry or even fearful. I assume a harmless stature and quickly skulk to the counter where I left the food. To do so, I have to brush past the speaker because the food is right behind him. It would be too merciful for the food to be at the back of the room. It must be right behind the speaker, so when the absent-minded delivery boy comes back in he must make an obvious spectacle of himself. Most of the people at the meeting, however, don’t even know that I’m the delivery boy, but years of training have taught them to wait until absolutely certain before raising a complaint. I edge the rest of my way around the suited speaker. He loses track of what he’s talking about—confused by this guy kinda’ sneaking behind him, but he doesn’t say anything either, probably been practicing his speech for a while and I’ve gotten him distracted.*** When I get over to the counter and can actually see down into the pans I realize, to my absolute horror that everything has been opened and sampled. I look at the two platters that should be being delivered to another place right now. They’re partly open with spoons sticking out of them. I consider taking them anyway, but there’s rice grains all over and everything. I’d feel like I was stealing someone’s meal from their greasy kitchen table if I took this.*** I get out by the elevators and all I can think is ‘what the hell am I going to do?’ I decide I’m just going to have to admit to my stupidity and call the company and tell them I delivered half of their order to the wrong place and that someone else ate it. Either that or I’m going to have to call my boss again and tell him what’s gone wrong now. Not only did I get a ticket, now I’ve ruined an order. I’m standing by the elevators thinking these things and wringing my hands in abject grief when I start to consider maybe just taking the damn food. It really didn’t look that bad after all. It could probably still be salvaged if I smoothed things out a little. It’s not like anyone was eating out of these platters with their hands or anything. No one touched the food and really there wasn’t that much missing. Before I could change my mind again, I run back into the meeting, this time quickly and purposely brushing past the speaker. I don’t even look around. Upon this second interruption everyone in the meeting is becoming more agitated, like they’re beginning to get worried this strange and manic guy is going to be sweatily barging in here and checking the food on the counter every few minutes until the meeting is over.*** After I grabbed the trays and walked out the door, a woman got up from her seat, to follow me into the hallway and ask if everything was OK. God, I must look like a maniac. They probably think I’m just some guy trying to steal their food. I hold up the trays I’m carrying (as if they weren’t obvious enough) and roundly declare ‘these got delivered to the wrong place.’ Before she has any time to respond, I whirl around and bolt back to the elevators. *** I pick up my ID at the desk and profusely thank the security guard. He’s so relaxed. I wonder for a moment how a guy like him would handle a problem like this, as I sprint back to the car with a tray in each hand and people staring at me like they think the food I’ve got might be for them.*** Back at the car, I pull the tailgate down and quickly shift the contents of the platters around. They look fine, hardly anything was taken out. The food was just a part of the meeting. No one was expected to really eat much of it. They probably only had a few minutes before the meeting started to grab anything. The only problem was that the stuff is obviously cold. It’s been out and open for almost an hour with the lids open. Other than that, it looks fine, better than some other platters I’ve delivered after the contents have shifted a little. I slam the tailgate, jump into the truck and I’m just about to drive away when I remember that the fourth order is almost late now. I grab the order sheet and call the guy.*** “Hello, sir? I just wanted to let you know I may be about five minutes late with your delivery.” It’s seldom that anyone balks at this line. People almost always tell you it’s not a big deal, but the guy I’ve got on the phone isn’t like everyone else. “Five minutes, huh? OK. You know how to get here so you can just come right on up on your own?” I glance at my order sheet and read the directions printed there to reassure him in my ability to deliver his food directly to his mouth if necessary. “OK,” he says. “I’ll see you soon.” I hang up the phone and drive like a maniac back across downtown. I’ve still got to pee like crazy. It’s so bad my legs won’t stop bouncing around all over the place. I feel like a little kid on a roadtrip, all anxious from sweaty with the need to pee.*** I find a spot about two blocks away, grab the food and race to the building. The bags are swinging in my hands and everyone I pass must think I’m either a really careless or a really late delivery boy. I manage the heavy door with the tight pneumatic hinge that tries to close on me. The elevator just about kills me. It’s one of those really old ones that takes about five minutes for each floor. I impatiently tap my foot, as if it would make any difference to the elevator while it gradually ascends the building.*** I jump out at my floor and try to look composed going into the office. Luckily, it’s one of those very laissez faire places. Some of the places I deliver to (like the last one) have always got a nervous event coordinator standing in the doorway, blocking your arrival and trying to take the bags of food from your hands, while in some others, it seems like no one is even planning on eating what you’ve delivered. I’ve done lots of deliveries without ever talking to any of the people perched in front of their computers all around me. This was just such a place.*** While I’m setting up, it almost feels as if nothing went wrong, I lost some food, but I was able to recover it. I’d gotten a ticket, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. Things don’t work out all the time, but I was glad I’d been able to salvage the food. After I set everything down and label it, I start pulling off the lids, as I do so, I hear a slight scuffling sound behind me. I turn around and there’s a few tech guys standing there with their plates in their hands already. “Sorry guys, give me one second here. It’s been kind of a long night.” I tell them. When I pull the last lid off I call out bon appetit from the door way, already on my way down the stairs.I wish the food wasn’t kind of cold. I feel slightly bad for those guys and there paper plates held at chest level.*** On the second floor, I see an open men’s room. I’m already late, but I’ve had to pee all night. At least I’ve got all the food for this order. I go into the bathroom and while I’m going my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number. I’m pretty sure it’s the guy who’s waiting for his order. With one hand, I open my phone.*** “Hello? Yes, sir, I’m actually right outside the building. Be up in one second.” I hang up the phone with one hand, flush the toilet with the other and rush back out into the night.