The Rapidian

Enjoying the ride: My experiences as a delivery driver in Grand Rapids

We are the couriers of the night, the unsung heroes quelling the insatiable hunger that plagues us more than we would like to admit. I’m just kidding. I deliver food.
A delivery driver's view

A delivery driver's view /Kyle Gandy

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If we close our eyes and imagine the attributes of a delivery driver, a common image may occur: a young male stoner in their early twenties, eyes raised to half mast, a couple of pimples, a monotone voice with the posture of a limp pasta noodle adorned in a dorky uniform, with a slight fragrance of grease. Or some slight variation of this stereotype such as the hipster-biker- delivery-dude with black jorts and well-toned, hirsute calfs. I fall in the former category, although with less acne, but the dorky uniform I very much cannot escape. However, the connotations attached to this line of work do not bring justice to what I believe to be a truly underrated college job.

Unlike traditional delivery drivers, I work in a kitchen at a sit-down family restaurant in the heart of downtown called Big O’ Café. But I am no stranger to frustrating and disappointing encounters. I once catered an entire party: party platters, 2-liters, and pizza boxes stacked to the roof; condensation engulfing every square inch of visibility. A $950 order where my tip was a curt “thank you.” Although they followed procedural etiquette, words hold little monetary value. I also dealt with an old woman who rubbed my shoulders and kissed my hand as I attempted to leave.

Furthermore, I can’t apologize enough to my center console and the abuse it has endured from my elbow due to the ludicrous synchronicity of downtown traffic lights. Not to mention ghosts. No, not paranormal ghosts, but individuals who make it clear to contact their cell phone instead of ringing their doorbell but ignored my calls for ten minutes before realizing I am not in fact a fervent telemarketer, but someone they should have expected to be at their door within thirty to forty-five minutes.

However, these infrequent outliers should not discourage any one short on cheddar during school. Like most jobs, getting paid what you want requires tireless effort. After a year of being a delivery driver, I started making $11 an hour plus tips.  

Additionally, most of my deliveries involve happy-go-lucky individuals who can’t wait to end their night with fresh Italian cuisine to whisk them away to the land of slumber and wonder while watching a movie on their couch. Oh, did I forget to mention dogs love me? They do. Perhaps I’m the only genre of delivery driver who is fortunate enough to befriend our furry canine companions. It must be the infectious aroma I carry within a 12 to 16-inch box that deters them from believing I’m in cahoots with mailmen and UPS drivers – although a strong argument could be made for the lack of visible fleshy knees provoking them.

Besides well-solicited pet encounters, I get the opportunity to leave the confines of a muggy, compact kitchen to explore the beautiful city many of us are fortunate enough to call home. It’s a subtle perk to cruise west down Fulton as the sun sets, painting the town in a warm, tranquil hue with the windows down and that DeVos funded breeze cooling my perspiring brow. I get the opportunity to explore new parts of the city every week and continue to broaden my mental GPS. This not only saves me data in and outside of work but prevents me from staring at my phone while driving. Less distractions makes for an easier and less stressful ride.

From getting paid to explore the city, I also get to meet interesting people. I once met a couple who were in the preliminary stages of flipping a house off Wealthy Street. The front door was transparent, and when I knocked, a skinny tatted guy used a flat screen TV as a sled to ride down the stairs. A hell of an introduction if I do say so myself. He then placed a sledge hammer in my hand and allowed me the honor of the first swing to break down a wall to connect the living room and kitchen. I can’t say this kind of opportunity presents itself often, and I was enduring a stressful semester at the time, so it only felt right to blast a couple holes in the blank white wall before leaving. It was quite cathartic and rejuvenating. I would have never done that if I worked as a convenient store clerk, a waiter, or a traitor. Sorry, by traitor I meant to say a university parking enforcement officer.

I have also had two deliveries to the masonic temple. Intoxicated middle-aged people in fez hats already makes for a stimulating sight, but it only gets better, as I was welcomed by roaring applause to ride a twenty-five-cent horse usually found outside of supermarkets. They all laughed and then tipped me fat – two hours of worth of work in a five-minute exchange – all because I rode a dumb mechanical horse. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the ride.

There are other frequent moments that make the job worthwhile as well. Delivering to a group of young stoners or drunks (often the two coincide) late at night is an instant boost to the self-esteem. When they open the door, even during the night, a luminous glow shines behind me and I usually picture them picturing me with a cape blowing in the wind as I hand them what their heart desires most. Their blood shot eyes gleam with the hope of a hundred puppies at an adoption shelter. They’re surprisingly great tippers, and more often then not, they’ll offer me a nug or a beer for when I get home. It’s like taking a trip to Amsterdam in my own backyard, while getting paid. I also get the satisfaction of knowing I helped prevent individuals from driving under the influence. That may sound overly sentimental and self-righteous, but I’m more concerned about a drunk driver causing more traffic which effects my delivery time and thus my tips. So it’s more of a selfish selflessness.

Another perk of being a delivery driver is building a rapport with people working the front desks at hotels. After a certain amount of deliveries, it’s as if they’re my co-workers too. A cordial interaction where we collaborate as ambassadors of the city for starving travelers. The travelers get a small taste of what the city has to offer from their hotel room. And it begins with the front desks' suggestions, so there is a mutually beneficial partnership to be had. And although the customer doesn’t see all the work that goes into making their food, I get to be the face or poster child of their meal, unfortunately for them I wish I was better looking.

I’m not claiming this job is life changing or filled with rousing adventure. However, being a delivery driver has been a satisfying experience. We are the couriers of the night, the unsung heroes quelling the insatiable hunger that plagues us more than we would like to admit. I’m just kidding. I deliver food. It’s a job. But more often than not, I find myself enjoying it, which is all I can ask for while pulling my hair out for exams, papers and group projects. 

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