Delivery diplomacy: practices in pizza


by Harrison Smith

Every job gives you a unique perspective on humanity and the days that we all share. Bakers wake up early and see tired, hungry people come into their shop for coffee and donuts. Gas station cashiers see people only fleetingly as they fuel up on the way to nowhere in particular. Plumbers only come by when your day’s been fucked up by a broken pipe. Pizza drivers spend our time driving in circles and communing diplomatically with the eating public.

It’s nice to drive around, though. Nice to have your own little sepulcher of music and heated air in which to take refuge from the constant buzz and motion of the shop.

Driving around Arcata like I do makes me feel like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transparent eyeball; I see a lot and am mostly ignored by the other cars on the road. We all try to ignore one another just enough to avoid crashing into each other. 

 This is my fourth delivery of the night and I’m ready to take my break. The pizza in the passenger seat is literally steaming out of the bag. It smells so good that it’s unfair. I’m so fucking hungry dude. After this delivery, I’m pulling over for a second to hit my vape and check my phone. 

And that’s when I hear the freight train coming up, back and to my left. Car parked, I turn in my seat to see the single headlight of the most fucked up Chevy Tahoe you’ve ever seen- and that’s saying a lot, judging from every other Chevy Tahoe. The front passenger side of the car was bent inwards as if by a blow from a giant’s mace. It limps along, half-blinded, screeching as the frame scrapes the mangled wheel. 

I stared in awe. This car was undrivably fucked, and I wondered if I was witnessing someone fleeing from a hit-and-run. I could not then, and still cannot think of another scenario of how this car was on the road. I didn’t know whether to feel blessed or cursed. As the Tahoe slumped away down the street, screeching its metallic screech, I felt like I had just turned over some obscure automotive tarot, an omen of the road. The Fucked Tahoe

Driving on the highway so often also gives me a unique window into the nascent drag racing culture of Arcata. People love to race down 101. Usually it’s trucks or dragsters. It’s pretty fucking funny to watch an F150 racing a Miata. Two men competing to see whose dick is smaller. 

Usually it’s an honor to be a guest, even briefly, at someone’s house. The minute or so I spend waiting for the customer to come to the door is a chance for me to envy their patio setup or their garden boxes. A mound of cigarette butts heaped in a crusty ashtray, a yard scattered with children’s toys. It’s an interesting peek into the lives of our customers. I try not to be a voyeur. 

As pizza drivers, we are diplomats. Our job is to negotiate with the hungry masses, whose reactions to us range from uncomfortably sweet to frothing at the mouth. It always seems to be older customers who find me a good target for their frustrations, which I honestly find entertaining. Last week, I was a few minutes late to a delivery because my maps app directed me to a house down the street from the customer’s house. I was treated to a three minute rant when I arrived about how every delivery driver goes to her neighbor’s house instead, how she’d called before about this, and how I needed to listen to her instead of some little app on my phone. 

Sometimes the job is pretty sweet, though. I’ve been tipped in weed more than once; twice, actually, but still pretty cool. My favorite thing about delivery driving is the small, unexpected moment of peace that I find as I walk back to my car after dropping off a pizza. The chorus of frogs grows louder on nights with light rain, and everytime I deliver to the labyrinth of apartments at Hilfiker and Alliance, I get a nice long chance to listen to their song.

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