This was going to be perfect. I’d make money doing what I love – driving – and I could set my own hours, ideal for nights and weekends. This delivery driving gig was going to change my life. And it did. The money situation has improved, and now I have these sweet talons and antlers. Also, I can see in the dark, and I spend more on gas.
It’s called Postmates, and while this may sound like a hip new spin on mail order brides, it’s a delivery service available in a growing list of US cities. It’s basically Uber for food, without the joy of anyone puking in your car. In fact, Postmates has several advantages over Uber. You don’t have to keep a clean car. You don’t have to interact with people for more than four seconds at a time. They have zero restrictions on what you drive. You could run your deliveries in a sandrail (something I’ve often dreamed about) for all they care. And best of all, you don’t have to drive like a nearsighted ghost in order to rack up a higher tip.
But this is also the problem. The quicker you can get a burrito to a potentially hangry millennial, and the warmer that burrito is when it arrives, the bigger your tip could be. And even if your tip is basically the client’s mix tape and a straw wrapper, you can offset this loss by running your next delivery even quicker. Three in an hour instead of two. It’s a fast-paced game. Like racing, except that you make money. Racing is a funny analogy, because my mind immediately darts to Senna’s famous attempted defense of his F1 championship clinching crashout of Alain Prost in 1990:
“And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, we are competing to win.”
I’ll say right now that I try to be careful not to speed or drive recklessly when I’m out running deliveries. That would be dangerous and could jeopardize my position with Postmates, which has been quite profitable. But when speed equals money, it’s hard not to go for the gap Senna mentions. I scrabble around too-slow texters like some kind of famished mongoose tearing through the underbrush, smelling a pole position at the red light on the horizon. Pole at a red light means a better launch.
Time is my prey
These commuters are not my prey. Time is my prey. But commuters hunt time in packs, using their numbers against me, leaving me nothing but the offal of time’s sun-baked carcass, like I’m some filthy scavenger. Commuters mean two deliveries an hour instead of three. They know it, too, because by week’s end, I project that I’ll have yelled at about 73% of the Kansas City metro’s driving populace. They have all been very kindly screamed at to get out of the way, stop cruising in the passing lane, avoid slowing down for green lights, use their signals, and just…please…go. So in one sense, I’m providing a valuable public service. Free driver education. Perhaps they can’t hear me, because their windows are up and so are mine. I’ll have to double my volume.
As in nature, it isn’t running the savanna that puts me in the most danger, but coming to a stop. Parking can be tricky. Postmates allows me to accept or decline any delivery job without penalty, and there are restaurants from which I won’t deliver simply because I know that the nearest parking spot is in Wyoming. Time spent running pathetically in my flip flops from my car to the pickup and back is time wasted. And should I park in prohibited territory, sleeplessly guarded by flocks of blue-shirted Valets just hatched from college, the Kansas City Fundraising Department, officially called “Parking Enforcement” will bear down upon me like so many uniformed lions.
So I roar out my dominance in any parking garages I can find, slowly stalking the aisles until I find that one tiny spot branded “compact” in faded white letters. These spots are always at the end of the row, and usually inhabited by cars that could only be considered compact in the loosest, most modern, and most American definitions of the term. I force my way in, like a dog on the pile.
Don’t get me wrong. Delivery driving has been fun and rewarding. Fun because I have a fair excuse for a spirited drive. Rewarding because I get paid. I just hope that by the time I’ve saved up enough to move on and get my evenings back, I won’t want to spend them in the woods, hunting squirrels with my teeth and claws.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.