September 22, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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I remember it like it was only 19 years ago…
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. There wasn’t much lightning, but it was raining pissbuckets in the early Fall. It got dark early, so by 8:30 pm, I was several hours into a wet, uncomfortable, and hard-to-see night delivering pizza.
I never thought of myself as a moody person. But sometimes, it just really gets me. I’m in the store, and I run out with a pizza bag. I get rained on. Again. I get the bag in the car and get in, and then I tried to read the smudged writing on the ticket by the fading interior car light.
It had started off warm enough, but the sun gave way to clouds in time to blur the line between light and sunset. But still, it was warm enough that running the defroster to keep the windows clear made me sweat a little. My uniform is clinging to me, and I don’t want to think about what is going on with my underwear, which are soaked and stuck to my body like a leech.
I have to run the defroster with the heat and also have the window cracked for the breeze, so I’m getting rained on while I’m in the car. It’s dark, and the all the car lights and streetlights have halos of glare around them, making it hard to see. It’s been like this all night.
As it was earlier in the evening, when it was raining *really* hard. I was standing at a customer’s door. Not under a porch. Not even under an eave. The eave stuck out about 18 inches, just enough for the water overflowing from the gutter to pour directly on me. Why even bother? I’ve been wet before. I’ll be wet again, even more. The night is young.
The customer opens the door, and seems to be surprised. “Wow, it’s really coming down!”
What’s beyond sarcasm? I answered in a deadpan, “I didn’t really notice.” As I opened the insulated pizza bag (designed to keep the pizza safe and hot and fresh!), water poured out of it. I gave them the pizza. They handed me a check, which I knew would be moist now and illegible later. I glanced at the amount. Whaddaya know! The exact amount. Luckily, they closed the door before I could grunt and walk away.
If I’m not doing this for my health, why am I doing it?
After several hours of getting rained on outside and water dripping on me inside and several little aggravations compounding on my soul, my temper started to wear thin and my normally cheery disposition gave way to a grim determination to make it through the night without strangling someone. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and watch TV alone, in the dark, with–for once–no one around. I’m not fun to be around when I’m like this. Hopefully–if I got home late enough–the wife and kids would be asleep, and I could have some alone time to contemplate my fate and really hone my brooding.
So here I am in front of this customer’s house, the customer in question. I paused before getting out, waiting for a brief respite from the heavy downpour. If I timed it right, it would lighten up from torrential to merely spiteful. As I did, I took in the view of the house from the streetlight and the occasional flicker of lightning. No porch light.
There was a beat up van on the cracked and uneven driveway. A broken window in the garage door. The foliage–or the remnants thereof–told a tale of lackluster yard care. At least there was a porch. Under it, in the high corners, cobwebs accented the peeling paint and dirty windows. The only thing missing was last year’s Christmas lights–that’s when you know you’ve got a winner. I made my way to the door.
Generally, I never used the doorbell. In this middle-class neighborhood (my neighborhood!) of 30-plus year old homes, I don’t expect doorbells to work. Instead, I knocked. I always knocked.
I stood and looked around, the pizza slowly weighing my arm down. I shifted it to the other hand, and knocked again, louder. Did I hear something inside? I waited for a ten-count (“One, large pepperoni, two, large pepperoni–”) and then knocked again. This time I was sure I heard something. A ruckus.
Could you describe the ruckus?
Well, no, not really. I don’t have a frame of reference for it. A rolling, maybe? Then a thud, and a dragging? What the hell is going on in there?
I was certain from my judgment of the condition of the house that I wasn’t going to get a tip. But here and now, at least I wasn’t getting wet, so we’re tied at one and one. Can I at least get out of here without wasting too much of my precious time? I waited less time–a five count–before knocking again. I punctuated it with a ringing of the doorbell. This time I heard some vague noise, and then a distant voice said, “Just a minute!”
Houston, we have contact. Terrific. Okay, I’ll wait. I shifted the pizza again back to the other arm. Resigned though I was, I grew impatient. I was about to knock again when I heard the voice say, “Be right there!”
What the hell is he doing in there, hiding hookers and drugs?
Geez. As the minutes have ticked past, I felt the weight of the evening on me. The rain. The crappy tips. The aggravation and discomfort. And now the time wasted here, keeping me from making money. How’s about a little sympathy here, huh?
Finally the door opens. I look straight ahead, and immediately I’m forced to look down at the floor. On the floor, looking up at me, is a man. A black man. With no legs. Behind him, a wheelchair. He’s smiling. He looks up with bright, cheery eyes and greets me. “Howya doin this evening, brother?”
Stunned, I force an answer, trying not to stare. “Uhm…just fine. How about yourself?”
“I’m great. Doing wonderful. Happy with what The Lord has blessed me with!”
“What do I owe ya?”
I told him the price, and he handed me some money. I watched with real intent all the detail that was involved in him handling a normal daily activity, and I studied the look on his face. For him, everything required effort. Everything was a battle of his wits and determination against the world, and he tackled it cheerfully, with no complaints. I gave him the pizza, and he grabbed it awkwardly while he held onto the door frame with his other hand. Then he set it down, and I saw him scoot it across the floor with his body while he walked with his hands. The question to this day still plagues me: why was he out of his chair?
He turned to me and said, “Bless you, brother! You have good evening. Take care.” He closed the door.
I looked at the money he had given me. A buck and the change is my tip. This was the early 90s, so it’s not that bad. But he had given me more than just a tip. As I walked back to my car, I felt a wry expression come over my face, matching my new mood and my personal revelation. I looked up at the sky, squinting as the light rain pelted my face and hit my eyes. I said to God, “You don’t do subtle, do you?” As if to answer me, the rain increased once more. I walked to my car and smiled, no longer worried about the rain or the discomfort I felt. I had just had things placed in proper perspective for me. I was still wet. I’ve been wet before. God willing, I’ll be wet again.

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  1. Stupid OGX made me cry.

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