Driven mad

holding a fried riceFrustrated delivery driver pleads for just four dollars

By Blake Rayment, Contributor


As a white person that delivers Chinese food, I can assure you that every time the door is answered and the person on the other side of it says, “you’re not Chinese!” the joke lands perfectly every time, and is just as funny, every time. “Ah ha!” I respond, “you got me!” And got me they did, for I was absolutely trying to fool them with my near-translucent skin and Hyundai Accent. You got me, sir, and I know when I’ve been bested.

On the surface it may not seem as though delivering food to people’s houses is that tough of a gig, and you can trust me when I say that a large number of people tip with that belief in mind. One night’s work, though, and you’ll learn that we drivers see things, feel things, hear things, and smell things that leave life-altering scars upon our psyches. Factor in the years lost due to road rage and you can already see the tank nearing half-empty. In return for our service, and in recognition of what we go through on a nightly basis, all we ask for is a minimum donation of four dollars. Whether your bill totals $15 or $200, I’ve seen things, and I demand compensation. You get your food, I get four dollars, and we both walk away (relatively) happy.

Firstly, let’s get something straight: No, we do not get paid an hourly wage. No, we do not get gas money. No, the tip is not factored into the bill, and yes, we use our own cars. We are given a couple bucks per delivery and get to keep our tips. That’s right: Our entire wage is primarily tips.

Second: Are the egg rolls in there? Ma’am, the bag is taped shut. I’m pretty sure neither one of us wants me digging around in your food. As much as you may like to think so, I was not the chef who prepared your Shanghai noodle—I went to school for creative writing, not MSG dispersal. I am, however, the driver who has sole possession of your food, alone, in my car, for an extended period of time. For those 15 minutes I have more power over your food than gravity itself—remember that.

It’s late, dark, and pouring d0wn rain. The delivery is going to Crest Avenue, a street that is quite literally on the other side of the county with a street sign that disappeared sometime last August. After driving for close to 20 minutes, I round the last corner before Crest and am forced to slam on my brakes as a deer decides it’s her turn to cross the road. It’s fine, I needed to slow down anyway to begin the always-enjoyable process of hunting down house numbers with my small and ineffective flashlight. After spotting a perfectly-camouflaged mailbox with nearly all the numbers that I’m searching for on it, I pull onto a gravel driveway and spot a house in my headlights. I shut off my engine, open my door, and immediately notice a loud, bass growl. What’s the source, you ask? Four sets of eyes five feet to my left, each belonging to a larger-than-average Rottweiler whose teeth are producing more moisture than the sky itself. They are not friendly, nor is their owner. Two dollars.

It’s bright out, the roads are clear. The delivery is going just six blocks up town to a motel. The bill says to call on arrival and so I do. The woman on the phone asks me to go inside and find room 18. I leave my car double-parked, find the room, and knock three times. The woman who opens the door has no shirt on, is wearing a pair of extra large boxer-briefs, white and stained, and her knees are covered in scabs—which are, in turn, covered in their own, smaller scabs. I think of the copious amounts of hand sanitizer I keep in my car and wonder if it’ll be enough. “Come in,” she says. Wait, that didn’t sound like “visa.” I step inside, careful not to brush up against any surfaces, and am greeted by a pants-less seventy-something man on the bed, buttoning up a dress shirt. Oh, it’s this motel. I’ve been tricked and am now party to whatever admittedly-original fantasy this must be. Enjoy your extra sweet and sour sauce. There isn’t enough sanitizer, and never will be. One dollar.

I’ve had my car boxed in by large trucks in trailer parks while men in plaid yelled at me that the food took too long. I’ve had to hold people’s screaming children while their dog humps my leg. I’ve been told by a sweet little granny that I’m lucky my car has AC otherwise I’d “probably commit suicide.” I’ve been invited inside by more men and women than I can count. I’ve delivered to bus stops, prisons, other Chinese restaurants, ex’s houses, hospitals, psych wards (almost stayed), and any other place you can think of. I’ve been spat at, screamed at, ignored, crashed into, peed on, stuck in snow, stranded, chased by pit bulls, lost, and stiffed more times than I can count. I am on the front lines of society, and I’ve seen its deep-fried underbelly.

You’re not paying any extra for the food, and it’s being delivered to your front door. All we ask for in return for this service is four dollars—change is fine. Anything less and the night terrors just don’t feel worth it. Why do I keep at it? Free Chinese food is an addiction just like anything else, and I haven’t found any help centres yet. Some food for thought the next time you don’t feel like leaving the house.