Twenty-two Bucks, Two Large Pizzas, And My Innocence.April 29, 2006 at 11:41 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 5 Comments
I started at Domino’s about 1986. Through luck or misfortune, in 1987 I was "promoted" from driver to second assistant. Second assistant was a bone they would toss you in the old days when employees could still be duped into believing that management was a desirable place to be. "We don’t think you’re ready to be a first assistant (read: "real assistant manager") because we would like to maintain the illusion that we have very high standards and all of these things that you witness operationally are actually aberations and not the status quo, but if we can squeeze more work out of you, we will, and here’s how."
So this rank of second assistant was established as a baby-step to real management. It did come with a substantial raise, though. From 3.60 per hour to 3.85. I was more likely (but not guaranteed) to get the hours I wanted, subject, of course, to the preferences of everyone who had been there longer than me. Thank God for turnover: I was moving up the seniority list.
So, in keeping with my usual writing style, I will preface my story with another story. I had been making 3.45 per hour, and doing a good job. The manager called me into the office about 7:30 on a Saturday night for a quick meeting. He thought I was doing a good job, too, and told me I was getting a raise. Fifteen cents–
In 1987, at Domino’s, in a driving position where you got tips, fifteen cents was pretty good. At least, they made it sound good, and I bought.
Later in the evening, around 9 pm, he called me in the office again. This time he closed the door. He said, "I need to ask you to not get high while you’re delivering anymore, okay? We can smell it on you, and we got a call from a customer."
You know pot makes you paranoid, right? Imagine how busted I felt at that moment, and yet–I was being let off with a warning and a mild scolding. I answered, "I understand. No more. Sorry."
And I did understand, too. I was going to have to be much, much more careful from now on.. ..
A few months later, I was a second assistant. None of the prestige of being an actual manager, I was instead a special grunt, a go-to. Need something done that no one else wants to do? Here I am. Deliver a free pizza for no reimbursement? Here. Clean the bathroom? Oh, oh, pick me, pick me. Busy, and need help? Pull me off the road (where I was making money) and let me help inside, because you didn’t schedule or plan correctly, so I can watch all the money go out the door without me. Then piss on my face, apparently I asked for it.
This was all part of "paying my dues." When I think about how incredibly stupid and naive I was. . . .
Another thing I got to do was be obligated to come in if they called and needed help. Domino’s Pizza had the 30 minute guarantee at that time, and in fact, instead of 30 or 3 bucks off, we were 30 or free. Time, in a very literal and stress-inducing sense, was money. It was also your lifeblood, your career, and your eventual downfall. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that in 20 years I have seen several *hundred* managers and assistant managers come and go.
Try this. Start at your house. This works best in a subdivision or suburban area. Drive randomly to four different houses, the last being 2.5 miles from where you started. Doesn’t seem like far, does it? Pull into the driveway, or just stop, at each one, for 30 seconds. (And that, by the way, is giving you the benefit of the doubt, saying you can do what I do. Despite the ridiculous length of some of my essays, I really do know how to be brief. I can get off the phone with the customer in less than a minute without making them feel rushed. When I show up at your door, 30 seconds is enough time to make the transaction and make a little bit of small talk, cut it off, and head back to the car. The idea is to be in control of the transaction and the conversation. I have been doing the shit for 20 years, I better be good at it.)
How long did it take you, from start to finish? How about, instead of random houses, houses that you had a address to, and had to find? Do that in 12 minutes. The speed limits, by the way, vary from 25 to 35 miles per hour. Now do it in a neighborhood you’ve never been to.
I did, on a regular basis. This is how you get to know an area really well. I swear, on more occassions than I can recall, I would pull up to the door of the store. The manager would be waiting outside for me with a stack of hotbags, 3 or 4 of them (In theory, under the rules, two at a time was the max). He would open my door, throw them in, and tell me what the first one was (just the street name) so I would know which direction to turn out of the parking lot, and that was all. I did not have a street map in my car. I just knew. And he would tell me how old they were, too. "First one is 25. 22 and 17." I would make them all before their 30 minutes was up. This is my skill.
Domino’s had this thing called "HTA": heightened time awareness. They used it in the store, to get the pies made and in the oven as soon as possible. But we had it on the street, too. I knew how long it took to get anywhere, depending on the time of day. Right now I know that it takes a minute forty to get from my house to the end of the subdivision (which seems like forever; we live in the back of the subdivision, secluded.) I know the difference between the two routes to Walmart is .7 of a mile and four minutes. I know it is 8 minutes from when I leave in the morning and drop the kids off at their two different stops to when I get to the highway.
My whole point in laying this out is to explain how the 30 minute guarantee and the culture around it related to my robbery.
Monday, December 18th, 1987. Exactly one week before Christmas. It snowed about 2 inches, the first snow of the season. I got a call, can I come in tonight. Crap. Well, okay. I have a personal policy of not turning down any work. Extra hours, extra cash, hopefully tips would be good in the snow, and it should only be through dinner rush, about three hours.
This is December, so it’s almost dark by the time I get in at 4:30. I’m taking runs, making decent money, making drops like I should. (For the lay people: Drivers (typically) carry less than 20 bucks. After each delivery, drivers drop their excess cash in a lockbox. It’s a habit. Every time.)
I remember the deliveries. Our supervisor, Scott Wilson, all gung ho and trying to help, was taking a few runs for us also. He was actually "up," in a sense, but he saw the direction they were going and casually sauntered over to the makeline to "help" inside for a few rounds, until a good run came up. 10427 Hallwood, and 2223 Knoll. Knoll would be first, on the way up to Hallwood. I made a drop, grabbed my slips (this was before computers), checked for sodas, and hit the road.
This particular Domino’s delivery area is shaped like a triangle, point at the bottom, straight line of the interstate across the top. The north-south bisector, hwy 367, also delineated the good area from the bad, dark from light, tips from stiffs. We were the first towns north of the St Louis metropolitan area, which is the rougher part of the area, and the poison seeped north with a generational capillary action that slowly, albeit *not* imperceptibly, affected property values and crime statistics inversely. I passed under the hwy and into the abyss.
Go ahead and judge me, I know the truth of what I am. I make no apology. I pull up to the first house, and it is dark. No lights on, no porch light, no car in the driveway. My training taught me that, in theory, you don’t go up to a door like this, you go to a payphone and call. But time and experience had worn me down. In just a year, I had dealt with so much of this, that I called it for exactly what I thought it to be, what I had seen so much of before. My exact thought was, "Another dumb fuckin nigger who won’t turn his porch light on."
I pull the car in the driveway at an angle and turn the high beams on the door. I get out, look around, and I’m up at the door. Knock, wait, knock, wait some more. Knock again, each with increasing volume. Check the address to make sure I’m at the right place. Knock one more time, then turn to leave, shaking my head. They are wasting my time and cutting into my money. I was engaged, and we were doing our own wedding. Every dollar was precious.
Just as I cross the driveway, a young black man came out from around the side of the house. I was initially startled, but he had is hands in his pocket like he was reaching for cash. He had his head down. He mumbled, "How much is it?"
Oh, good. I raised the bag to get a look at the price, and as I did, I heard a slight rustle behind me. Before I could turn, I was tackled, low and illegal, into the garage door. Pizza bag went flying, glasses came off my face. I tried to sit up, and got pummelled by several black fists on the top of my head and face. All I could do was cover.
Voice above me said, "Give me your money!"
In one quick movement, I had it out of my pocket and over my head. It was grabbed, and I was hit some more, and kicked in the stomach.
"That ain’t all of it!"
From under my arms, I said, "Yeah it is!"
They hit and kicked me again quickly, then took off. I looked up, could hardly see. I heard a voice say, "Not the car! Grab the pizza, grab the pizza!"
I think I pissed myself.
I sat there, but not for long. I looked around, found my glasses in the snow. I got up, got in the car. What to do now? I knew a drug dealer around the corner, Rodney lived in this neighborhood. I drove to his house, he let me use the phone, but then asked me to go outside before the cops came. I was so indoctrinated by Domino’s Pizza about what was important, that I called Domino’s first. The manager, Tom, answered the phone.
I remember the words I spoke exactly: "Tom! This is Bubba. You need to remake Hallwood, I just got robbed on Knoll." Am I a company man, or what? After the initial questioning, I asked about what to do next and what would happen. I called the police, and they came out. I rode in their car to the scene, where tracks in the snow indicated that there had been three of them.
I then followed them in my car to the police station, made a report, was asked to describe them. I just looked at them. "I didn’t even know how many there were." After that fruitless endeavor, I drove to the nearest hospital to get checked out, on the cop’s recommendation. I had to call Tom again from there so they could talk to him and verify Worker’s compensation information. .. . I waited and waited, and then finally they "saw" me, in the loosest possible sense of the word. They took some X-rays, and then the doctor says, "No concussion. No damage. You’re fine." I was dismissed.
But I got a look at myself in the mirror. Bloody cut from eyebrow to forehead, black eye, bruised and bloody lip, bruised forehead, bloody nose. Bruised cheek.
. . . .Bruised soul. . . . . .
Did they give me a band aid, or a towel to wipe off with? Not so much as a "kiss my ass," and they turned their back on me. I guess I was free to go.
I go back to the store, where I report to Tom what happened and clean up in the bathroom. I check out my cash. I had 22 bucks on me, plus the two large pizzas, plus the hot bag. I was reimbursed 20 of the 22, and as an added bonus, not charged for the pizzas or the hotbag. I clock out, also. I got to stay on the clock for the duration of the ordeal, but Tom got to fill out an exemption form so that the the three and half hours I was on the clock at 3.85 an hour, but not actually delivering, didn’t count against his labor goal for the month. In the meantime, he had also called my fiance, against my wishes, but probably a good idea.
A few weeks later, I got a call from Rodney’s brother, Jerome. Remember Rodney, he let me use the phone? Jerome called me while I was at work. He said he knew who did it, he knew who robbed me. And he would tell me. But first, he wanted to be properly *compensated.* After all, he was putting himself out there, putting himself in danger by narcking. He wanted 20 bucks.
I threw the phone against the wall.