Why I Make the Big Bucks

April 26, 2011 at 10:09 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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November 1986

Jonathan’s wife is hot.  Too hot for him.  He’s a short, chubby, slightly Mexican-looking dude.  She looks like a model.  I’m a tall, chubby, basically Caucasian-looking dude.  What gives?
Ah, well.  I already have a girlfriend.  She’s not young and hot, though.  She’s old but still pretty.  The lesson I’m sure that I need to learn in life is to not always let my dick do the driving.  But there’s still time—I’m young.
I’m finally able to put some names to the faces, and remember the faces.  I thought two of them were the same guy, but it turns out they are brothers, Ricky and…the other one.  Ironically, they have a Latina last name but don’t look it, while Jonathan doesn’t, but does look it.  There’s also Marty and his brother as well–didn’t catch his name.  There are others, like this cocky football player-looking dude, some tall guy I hear people calling “Mabes,” and a random assortment of others.
Oh, and Thomas just rolled onto the scene.  He’s new here but he’s done this before, he said.  After a fashion he kind of latched onto me, so I guess I have a friend.  Thomas is a good guy, a little insecure, and a loud talker.  Don’t tell him I said that.
During one conversation with him, he said that from some source (I wasn’t really paying attention) he learned that the secret to making more money—getting a raise or what-have-you—was to act like you were already earning that money, and worth it.  “If I want to make 3.60 an hour,” he said while we were both sweeping the floor, “I need to work like I’m already making 3.60 an hour.”
Minimum is 3.35 an hour.  I couldn’t see much difference in the effort for 3.35 and 3.60.
Besides, that was a quarter.  Nobody got a quarter raise.  He might get a dime or fifteen cents.  Not a quarter.  I kept quiet; my personal belief was that with delivery, you made your own raise by getting better and more efficient at it, taking more runs and kissing the customers’ ass more.
I had no idea how to do that.  Man, I wish I did.  That jackoff football player-looking dude—Jeff—always made out really good in tips, or at least he claimed to.  If so, he was much nicer to the customers than he was to anyone here in the store.  I had to make up for what I lacked in social skills by driving fast, and running hard.
We all run.  We run to the car.  We run to the door.  We run back to the car.  We run back into the store.  When the phone rings, we run to it.  Two rings, max.  Always.
So I run.  I’m not built for running, so much, but I do it.  Plus I like to get high while I deliver.  I didn’t do that so much at first because I wanted to get used to the job and learn the area.  But after a few months of driving up and down these streets all over the place, I rarely look at the map, except to figure out the right hundred-block.
Getting high kind of slows you down, but I have a solution.  I take some mini-thins.  For those of you not hip to the drug lingo, that’s speed.  Actually, they’re just caffeine pills.  But three minis will get me through a close, and I can still get high.
I was having a pretty good Saturday night—I was closing.  It was just after dinner rush and a few drivers were cut.  It would start to open up for me.  I came back from a run, and Tom grabbed me and said, “Hey, come in here a minute.”  The office.  He closed the door.  Hell, I didn’t even think this broom closet-sized office had a door.
We had a quick meeting.  “Bubba, I just wanted to tell you, that you’ve been doing a really good job, and I’m impressed.  I really didn’t think you were going to make it—“
Which is always nice to hear.  Did I suck that bad when I started?  I guess so.
“—but you’ve proven yourself, and you have integrity.”
“Aw, well, hey—thanks.  I appreciate that—“
“Starting Monday you get a raise.  Three-fifty.”  He raised his furry eyebrow, letting it sink in, because 15 cents is the highest increment raises came in.  I had only been there a few months.
“Awesome!  Thanks, Tom!”
“And Bubba—listen:  don’t tell anyone about it, okay?  Not everyone is getting a raise right now.  Just keep it to yourself.”
I nodded.  But I had a question.  “Why you calling me ‘Bubba’?”
He was taken aback.  “I thought—“  He grabbed a clipboard and flipped back a couple of pages.  “Every time you sign the daily—see there?  You’re signing ‘Bubba.’  I thought it was your nickname.”
“That’s just my initials.  BB.  I didn’t really want a nickname.”
Tom looked down sheepishly.  “Yeah…it might be too late for that.”
Fuck me.  But I got a raise, so what the hell.  We exited the office.  Joel caught my eye.  “Bubba, you’re up.”  That fast?  It happened that fast?  Christ in a—

So I continued to have a good night, and I was happy about my raise.  It wasn’t the money, really.  Fifteen cents over thirty hours, or sixty, on a biweekly paycheck—was going to be…a couple of bucks.  The difference between a couple of decent tips and a couple of good tips.  But it was a marker, like proof that I got a pat on the back.  Recognition for a job well done and all my hard work.
In the course of having a good night I may have celebrated a bit, like taking a few hits from my bat—my one-hitter.  The mistake, of course, was that this was some serious skunk weed, and had an odor to it.  An odor that lingered, and clung to me.  Imagine my surprise when later, about 930, Tom caught me and had me come into his office again.  He had a somber expression on his face.
“What’s up?”
“Bubba, I need to ask you to not get high anymore while you’re working.”
Fuu…
You know pot makes you paranoid, right?  Getting busted doesn’t make it better.  I was shaking on the inside, so I froze, held completely still.  I may have held my breath.  Tom continued.  “We can smell it on you, and a customer called—“
“Oh…”
“Yeah.  So don’t—don’t do that anymore on the clock.  When you’re off I don’t care what you do.  But I don’t want to catch you high on the clock anymore.”
I nodded.  “Okay.  No more.  I promise.”
And I meant it, too.  He would never catch me.

Things That Go Bump In the Night

April 26, 2011 at 9:10 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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The 80s…

Uhm…
Maybe if I wait long enough to tell this, the statute of limitations on any alleged crime might have expired.
I hope.
It was just another typical night in the spring, and I was working.  I may have gotten high, too.  But it was a nice night, I was having a good night, I was in the groove, and things were clicking for me.
Maybe I like to take a hit or two off the one-hitter during a long Saturday night close.  But I also took a couple of mini-thins—caffeine pills—to get me through the night as well.  A nice buzz and a loud stereo—now what could be better?
I don’t know.  Maybe a mirror.  I have a mirror.  Maybe I just need to use it once in a while.
I’m on this run…I’m not going to say where.  It’s pretty late.  It’s past 10 pm.  I park on the street.  My e-brake is a little weak and there isn’t much of a curb, so I shut the car off.  I had parked right in front of another car.  It looked like a classic, like an early 60s Rambler or something like that.  It wasn’t mint, but it looked pretty good.  Okay.
I get up to the door before I see that this is not the house.  Fives and sixes look similar in some typefaces.  This was actually an eight.  At least I didn’t bang on their door and wake someone up like I did last week.
Well I’m not going to get back in the car to go down three houses.  I walk.  I deliver the pies and walk back to my car.
When you do what I do—take a lot of deliveries in the course of a night—that’s a lot of times in and out of the car.  You get into a routine, and much of it is automatic.  Of course, sometimes you unknowingly take shortcuts in your routine.
I got in, toss the bag over, and write the tip down on my pad.  I had turned the key and stepped on the clutch first, however.
And I had ever so slowly rolled backward.
I heard as well as felt the dull thud.  I looked up, and behind my panicked face in the rear view mirror I saw the Rambler, right behind me.  Oh, fuck.
Oh, and panic I did.  I looked around quickly, I unplugged my cartop from my lighter, I started the car and took off.  And I did not turn on the lights until I was two blocks away.
I kept looking behind me.  Yeah, I chose that time to start using my mirrors.  In it, all I saw was me.  Man, did I look guilty.
I never heard anything about it; I never got in trouble for it.  I got away clean, except for my conscious.  Luckily I have a short attention span and a bad memory.
But it feels good to confess, as long as I don’t have to make up for it.

Scream

April 26, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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October, 1986

I’ve been here at Domino’s about a month now.  I really feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it all.  I must be doing a good enough job because I’m working more hours.  Not quite forty—maybe thirty—but the money is good.
I get cash every night, my tips and mileage.  I was so used to just that—
Imagine my surprise when I got a paycheck also.  Hell yeah.
And I was now getting to close two nights per week.  I come in sometimes at 430 and sometimes at five.  You never know when you are going to get off unless you are scheduled to close.  It could be two hours, it could be four hours.  Whenever we slowed down, people were off.
If I closed, I stayed until we were done.  We closed at 1am during the week, and 2 on Friday and Saturday.  We want to get out as soon as we can after close.  The manager deals with the money and paperwork, and the last two drivers do the cleaning.  Usually one does the dishes and one does the front, and they both sweep and mop.
This is my first experience with time management, I guess.  In between runs and when we are slow, we try to do what we can without interrupting the flow of business.  Maybe this is obvious to all of you, but I’m new to this.
The first couple of times, closing seemed…hard.  Now, after a couple of weeks, I’m a real pro.  Okay, not a real pro.  But I am getting the hang of it.  I’ve learned all kinds of important tricks, like what I learned the other night.  I learned that you can’t pull the mop bucket along by the mop, because the wheels don’t roll well and you’ll tip the mop bucket over.
And spend an extra fifteen minutes mopping up the water while the manager and the other driver bitch about it.
And after close, one driver follows the manager to the bank while me makes a deposit in the night drop.  The first time, Joel just said, “Follow me to the bank, okay, Guy?”
Sure, okay.  I follow him, pull up along side of him while he makes the drop, and I just sit there.  Now what?  I feel silly now, because he had to get out of the car and come over to me and explain that it was procedure, for security, and I’m supposed to hang back in the parking lot to keep an eye out, not stick to close to him, and now that he made the drop, he would just wave me off as he was done and we would go our separate ways.
Ya know, I’m from the country.  Security is as alien a concept to me as paved roads.  But he only had to tell me once, and I got it.
The same went for most things:  the first time, I am out of my element and struggling to understand it while I follow along blindly trying to grasp the situation.  After I go through it once and I get it and see the purpose, I have no problem.

For instance, what is the deal with this “borrowing drivers from another store” thing?  What gives?
Well, Snidely, I’ll tell you what gives.  We have the thirty-minute guarantee, right?
Right—30-or-free.
And we want to avoid giving away free shit, because we aren’t a charity.  We schedule to anticipate business, but sometimes shit happens, and who ya gonna call?
Not Ghostbusters.  But you can call another store in the franchise.  I was unclear on this at first, but the company I work for is Domino’s Pizza, yes—but it is not a corporate store.  There are no corporate stores in the whole metropolitan area.  They are all franchises, and the franchise I work for—A&M Pizza—owns about seven or eight stores, something like that.  Who owns the rest?  Other franchises.
A&M also owns the stores in the Springfield, Missouri region.  Art, the A in A&M, is here in St Louis over these stores, and Marty, the M, is in Springfield.  I have yet to meet Art.  I don’t understand the hierarchy…I guess there are managers, and then there is a supervisor, Scott Wilson, whom I have seen.  And then there is Art.  Okay, I guess I do get the hierarchy.
Anywho, what with this being an urban-suburban area, the stores are fairly close, and if one gets busy they can call another one for help that is usually only ten or fifteen minutes away.  If you look at the map here, you see our area outlined in marker.  To the north is written the phone number to the store that covers that area.  To the west and south, the same thing.  To the east is the Mississippi River, and generally we don’t deliver there.
So it’s not mandatory…but we are strongly encouraged.  I’m always up for some excitement, so I have gone to both Spanish Lake, to the north, and Ferguson, which has a monstrously large area to the west.  To the south is Baden (technically the City of St Louis) and that store is owned by another company, so we don’t have to go there.  Thank God; Baden is a shithole.  North St Louis?  You don’t want to be there, brother.  Not as a white boy after dark with a brightly lit sign on the roof of your car that says “I have money and food, come and get it.”
There are details and protocol to the whole idea of lending and borrowing drivers.  A store gets busy, they assess the situation and realize they need help, even for a brief period of time.  They make a call or two.  If a store has someone, they’ll send them.  Or they will ask:  “Want to go to Ferguson and take a few runs?”
Sure.  What the hell.  I wasn’t sophisticated enough to know there was much of a difference between these neighborhoods.  I would clock out here, at my home store, and drive to the other store.  I would take some runs, or sometimes one run, and then go back.  Then I would clock back in.  The stores would communicate—that’s what we have all these five-line phones for—and the borrowing store would pay my labor for the travel time as well.
And the time clock is weird, but it makes it easy to do the math.  If you leave your store at 606 and come back at 654, the time clock says 6.1 and 6.9.  You were gone for .8 of an hour, and the math is easy.  Is this metric time?
There isn’t someone available all the time to make the trek.  Sometimes everyone is busy—and sometimes no one wants to go, especially if it’s to a shithole like Normandy.  In that case, sometimes the drivers are coerced, bribed, blackmailed, or just forced to go, and take one for the team.
I think I just learned my first adult lesson about working in the corporate world:  Being a team player means taking turns getting fucked in the ass.  Coming up next—it’s mine turn to bend over.

Lookin Out My Backdoor

April 23, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I haven’t done that in a while–I haven’t looked “out my back door” lately.  But I have had my head up my ass, does that count?

The last time I looked out there, though, I noticed that where the grass is really green and getting higher, the dog has dug some impressive holes, the mother-fucker.  Meanwhile, the grass around the shed is still brown, because he killed it from pissing in it.  Can I just, maybe…spraypaint it?  I don’t know.

The ramblings, the musings, the incoherent babblings of a man with focus, a man on a mission.  You see, I know I haven’t written in a while, and it had been a while before that as well.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Well, dude, we just don’t know.

I do know this:  I did quit my job at Pizza Hut.  Now what?  Well, I need to find another part time job.  I thought about what it would be like to be reading this in the future.  Two scenarios:

1) I pop in the quaint, antiquated flash drive and read with amusement how I was concerned about this low period in my life.   Which, this, too, shall pass and things will get better.  As I view it from my utopian future one hundred and 30 years from now on my retirement farm on Mars, I ponder that all the adversity gave me strength and wisdom, and–

Blah-blah blah.

2) Uncovered from the rubble, this strange device magically plugs into the talking machine, and it tells a wonderous tale of the past, which the feral children of the village no longer believe.  Technology?  Civilization?  Cell phones?  (Not the same thing.)  As we skin and carve the deer that will make our meals for the next several days, the elders (like myself) quietly reflect that these days, these simpler, harder times–are actually better.  Better for all of us.  Except for the sickly, the old, and the infirm.  Soon, I will be left as an offering to the wolves.

But all of that is neither here nor there.  I have to deal with the here and now.  Right now.  Yesterday–Friday–I didn’t take my ADD medication.  I got through work just fine without it.  But also–

I’ve been worrying (some might say obsessing) over the money situation.  With my new ADD medication, I have focus.  So I was able to really focus on my worrying.  Christ.  I needed a break.  It was good to have a relatively worry-free day.  Of course, last night we got a helluva storm.  It didn’t damage us much, but just a few miles to the south, tornadoes did some serious damage.  As always, God is reminding me that things could be worse.

Have I Said This Before?

April 6, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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It never rains, but it pours.

I got a call from Detroit on my office phone.  “Did you get my text?”

Well, no, obviously I didn’t.  Because if I did, I would have called right away, or left, or something.  She’s in the hospital.  Stomach pains and eventually some vomiting.

My fear–aside from the most obvious of things–is that they’ll need to do surgery at some point.  My other fear is that she’ll just have to live with it, and be increasingly debilitated as time goes by.

But she said not to worry about leaving right away and coming to the hospital just yet.  She’s familiar with the routine.  I think she feels if she acts like it’s not a big deal, then it won’t be, and she’ll be okay.

Then I get a call from the ex-wife.  Did I get her message the other day about Mitchell?  He cut his hair really short, pierced his tongue, and wants to put gauges in his ears.  Christ in a side car.  Yes, I got that message.  Yes, I’m going to have a talk with him.

Well, never mind that.  My daughter Miranda fell at school.  She’s been having problems with her knee post-surgery.  It seems like she can feel a pin coming loose.  Her knees are giving out on occasion.

Linda can’t leave to pick her up, because she obviously wants to dump all this on me.  I barely have gas money to get home, much less–

“I’ll take care of it.”

I check my bank accounts.  One has 9 dollars, one has 8.  I’m driving the big truck, which gets phenomenally bad gas mileage.  I have a shitty check waiting for me at Pizza Hut, and a check for 9 dollars from ATT, God love em.  For what, I have no idea.

Between a dozen phone calls on my ride home–I left work early–I get someone to get her a ride home and leave a message for the doctor to call me back for an appointment.

Once I’m at home, I am informed that the gas is turned off.   Outside, the sky is blue and clear; it’s a gorgeous spring day.

The doctor’s office calls back finally, and I make an appointment for Saturday.  I did not know they Saturday appointments, but this is a good thing.  I can pick her up Friday night, have her spend the night, take her to the doctor in the morning, and then take her home.  And then go finish this project at Bunny’s house that she already paid me for.

A few minutes later, the big bad bill collector from the doctor’s office calls me.  I owe some money.  They had been billing the wrong insurance company–their fault, I’m sure–and I owe 330 dollars.  They want me to make a payment on it when I come in.  I’ll try.  I’ll really, really try.

It’s starting to hail.

Nice, Round Numbers

April 4, 2011 at 7:59 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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After last night, I needed to do the math to see if what I felt intuitively (meaning I didn’t pay attention) was real.  It feels like I’m not making any money at the Hut.  Worse than that, it seems like it is costing me money to go to work.  Unless I get a job at a strip club, I’m not really interested in paying for the privilege.
But how much is it costing, and how much am I making, really?  Get the calculator out, kids.

Let’s use nice round numbers to make this easy:
Let’s call it 20 miles to Pizza Hut, one way.  So that is a 40 mile round trip.
Let’s say the van gets 16 miles per gallon.
Let’s call gas 3.50 per gallon.  As I sit here, it’s about 3.549 per gallon.
I’ve gone back and forth on this other number, trying to determine how far I drive per delivery, on average.  Some are longer than others, and if you get a double you cut the distance in half.  But as an educated guess, I’m going to say the average round trip for a delivery is 6 miles.
Pizza Hut gives drivers 1.10 per run.  Yeah, they bumped it up when gas went up.  When gas was around 3.50, they gave us…a dollar.  There’s a 2.50 delivery charge, and the driver gets a dollar of it.  From my understanding of the corporate mentality, I’m surprised that they didn’t raise the delivery charge to 3 bucks.  And then give us 1.10.
Another “experiment” they tried is fucking with our hourly pay.  We should be getting tips, so logically, they shouldn’t have to pay us as much when we are driving.  So they cut our pay when we’re delivering from 7.25 to 5.25.  It’s a complicated scale, so when we come back from a run and cash in, we are at the higher 7.25 rate.  That’s minimum, by the way.  Let’s say, if we’re lucky, we spend our time 2/3 to 1/3 driving to in-store.
In that time, we’re going to take 8 deliveries.
Call the average tip 3 bucks.
SO:
Salary is going to be 7.25*1 for our time in the store, plus 5.25*2 for our time driving, for a three-hour shift.  That’s 17.75.
Then, with tips, we’re going to make 24 bucks.  Add our 1.10 per run.  Fifty dollars and 55 cents.  Rock on!
50.55.  That is 16.85 an hour.  That’s purty good.  Two shifts like that is the 100 bucks extra I need every week.  Sometimes I make more.  Sometimes I make WAY less.  Oh, and I forgot about taxes and so forth.
Lately they schedule more drivers than we need, so we end up tripping over ourselves and waiting for deliveries.  In a perfect world, in that same three hours I would take 12 to 16 deliveries and never be in the store for more than a minute at a time.  More runs equals more tips, but also more miles and more gas used.  Pizza Hut operates under the erroneous suggestion that customers want their pizza incredibly fast.  This is, of course, a completely inaccurate and miscalculated parameter, but they have to have something measurable for which they can dock managers’ bonuses.  The truth is that they don’t necessarily want it fast, they just want an accurate estimate of the time it will take.  This is not an imaginary numeric.  This is based on my 25+ years in food deliver, so I know what the hell I’m talking about.
But wait.  How much does it cost to go to work—and then drive once I get there?
Okay, first, the round trip is 40 miles.  Then for the deliveries, six times 8 runs is 48 miles.  Forty and forty-eight is eighty-eight miles.  Eighty-eight divided by sixteen per gallon is 5.5 gallons.  Five-fifty times three-fifty is 19.25 for gas.
That seems about right because I throw a twenty dollar bill in the tank every time I drive, just enough to keep it off empty.
Now that 50 bucks per shift doesn’t seem so impressive.  Minus gas, and that leaves me with a crumpled up 30 dollar bill.  Divided by 3, and that’s 10 bucks an hour.
More importantly, it’s 30 bucks for four hours out of my life, including travel time.  And after taxes, it’s going to be less.  They don’t take out much, but it isn’t much to begin with.  I can make more money by sitting still and not spending any money.  I can break even by taking a nap instead of going in to work.

This realization stings a bit, because it’s like I’m stupid all over again, and had to figure this out.  But—
I’m not going to work there anymore.  Not another shift.  I can’t.  I can’t afford to work there.

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