Training Day

January 17, 2011 at 11:00 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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October 1986

The Great Experiment at Domino’s Pizza was in full swing.  I was to learn that it shaped everything, from how we did business to how we arranged our priorities, to how we handled problems–
To how we judged a person’s worthiness.
The infamous 30-minute guarantee.
When others practice warfare with paint guns and rubber bullets, we used live ammo.  Joel trained me my first night.  He made a time card for me and I clocked in.  I gave it a passing glance and didn’t understand it–and that was going to set the stage for my evening.
“Okay, Guy, let’s get you set up with a cartop and a hotbox.”  I followed him and he showed me the drill.  In the backroom stacked randomly were both pieces of equipment.  The cartop was a big heavy plastic box with the logo on the outside and a couple of lightbulbs on the inside.  Suction cups on the bottom so it would stick to the roof of your car, and a cord to plug into your cigarette lighter.  I was informed that whoever wore the cartops got an extra 15 cents per delivery for advertising for the company.  Woo-hoo!  This is in addition to the 48 cents we got for “mileage” or “reimbursement,” or whatever they called it.  The terms seemed interchangeable.
Plus we got minimum wage–3.35 per hour–and we got tips.  I was told that most drivers make up to seven or eight dollars per hour.
Then Joel got me the hotbox.  This is a crucial piece of equipment, as I understand it.  A big aluminum box, big enough to hold six pizzas, probably, with a perfectly safe asbestos blanket connected to it with a stiff wire.  We needed the blanket because first I had to light a small can of Sterno and put it in the box.  This all gets strapped into my front seat.  I’m ready to go.
But first, I’m going to shadow Joel for most of the night.  He drove a little Volkswagen Golf, and his hotbox was in the backseat so I could ride shotgun.  “Ready, Guy?”  I learned that was his thing–calling everyone “Guy.”  Good thing–I thought it was going to be my nickname.  I really didn’t want a nickname.
While we were setting up, business started picking up.  Phones were ringing, people were coming in at the start of their shift, and Tom was right on it, directing people and events to make things go smoothly.  “Here, Guy, here’s your bank.  This is fifteen bucks, you use it to make change with.” It was a five, 8 ones, and two bucks in coins.  It was always that much.  Small plastic containers with the banks made up were tossed to drivers as the clocked in and got set up.
“Joel, you’re up!”  Tom yelled out.
Joel went, and I followed.  We went over to the heatrack, and Joel was moving fast and explaining as he went; I tried to keep up and pay attention.  I caught bits and pieces of the information.
“Okay, we’re going here…and here.  We take the yellow off the box–follow me–and we come around back here.  I’m number seven, so I clip them here.  You need to pick a number that isn’t taken–”
“Twelve?”
“Taken.  Here, take twenty-three.”
“Uh–”
“Okay, the streets are Green Acres and Saint Cyr.  So we go to the map, here.  Here’s the guide, and the grid matches up with the map coordinates.  See?  But I know where these are.  Here.  And down here.  Got it?  Okay.”
We went to the rack, and he put the pizzas–sorry, “pies”–let’s get into the lingo.  He put the pies in a hotbag.  “Make sure you check for all the items.  Right here, in this corner, is going to be a number if there’s more than one.  Right here–see this–always check for sodas.  This one has two Cokes.  Grab them.  There.  Okay, Guy, we’re set.  Time is important here.  The big clock up there is the official time.  Always call out the times when you leave, and when you come back.  Always.”
He looked at the clock, then at the labels on the boxes, and did some quick math.  As he heads out the door he says, “Let’s roll.  Twelve and fourteen, two Cokes!” He yelled the last part to the store as I followed him at a trot out the door.
As I get in the passenger side, he opens his back door, pulls the pies out of the bag and puts them in the hotbox, throws the hotbag on top of it, and hops in the front.  Not wasting any time, he started the car, shifted and gunned it out the parking lot and up the street.  He never stopped talking the whole time.
I learned a lot that first night.  I was shown a lot that night.  Christ, I hope I remember it.
Everything was a blur.  When we came back from the first run, Joel yelled, “Seventeen, twenty!” as soon as he opened the door.  One of the things that I did catch was that I was supposed to pay attention to how old the pie was when I delivered it and repeat that time when I came back.
But the rest?  Something about checks–get some information on them.  Yeah.  Makes sense.  He would show me the address, but I would have only time to look at the coordinates and as I would turn toward the map, he would say, “Let’s go, Guy!”
I technically lived in Florissant, and this was Bellefontaine Neighbors.  My girlfriend lived here, and I stayed with her.  I had a rudimentary knowledge of the area at best:  main roads, the way to the highway, and the way to the store.  Everything else was a mystery…
But as we drove around, I could sense some of the mystery unlocking for me.  I was making connections, and the roads were beginning to make sense for me.  I could *get* this.  I could do this.
“Well?”
“Huh?  What?”
“I said, ‘I think you’re ready to go solo.’ Do you?”
“Yeah.  I’m ready.”
I took six deliveries that first night, and made about ten bucks in tips.  And that was just driving for a about an hour and a half.  Of course they were all singles; I was the newest of the new.  I was a real FNG.  But on my own I was able to figure things out on my own terms.  It was coming together for me.
And then it was time to go.  I brought my shit in and “checked out.”  Tom grabbed the keys and unlocked the drop box for me, and I got out my money.  After every delivery, I’m supposed to drop my cash.  It says right on my nametag “Driver does not leave store with more than $20.”  So it must be true.
I straightened out my money standing up while Tom sat in the one chair in the office and filled out the sheet, called the daily.  Tom wrote down my name, and added up my slips, then counted them.  Forty-eight cents times six in one column, and six times fifteen cents in another.  He wrote the totals down, and quickly his stubby fingers ran over the ten-key, then handed me my money.  Fourteen bucks.  Wow.  I can see this working out for quite a while.

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