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Deliveryman for a Day

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No money changes hands; this is a prepaid order. Advance tipping is efficient, but removes the roulettelike thrill I used to get delivering pizzas as a student. Sometimes you’d score a fiver, sometimes nothing. I still remember the face of the man who mockingly tipped me a penny.

For the rest of my shift, I swing by places that range from the penthouse of a tony building on Fourth Avenue to a dank tenement walk-up on Avenue A. I’m aware I might feel different if I did this every day, or if it were mid-February, but I find the work oddly pleasurable. Since Iggy’s, like most Manhattan pizza joints, delivers to a radius of just ten or twelve blocks, the destination is never too far. Each trip is a burst of quick physical activity followed by a cooldown and capped by a reward. It’s Pavlovian, in the best sense: Spin the pedals, earn a few bucks.

In no more than a few hours, I notice, I have begun to assume a deliveryman’s point of view. The customers begin to blend into a demographic I never realized existed. They look sleepy and alarmed at the same time. Their apartments, seen in vertical snatches through the door, are messier than the ones we see when we visit each other. I try not to spy, and the customers try not to stare me down. While the pizza changes hands, both parties stare at the floor. There’s a dance of sorts, a few seconds of awkward pas de deux. Then it’s over.

Delivery orders begin to peter out by 9 p.m. Iggy’s closes at ten. On balance, it hasn’t been a bad day. I made some money, didn’t screw up any orders, and only once came close to slamming my head into a truck’s rearview mirror. That said, I am happy to rejoin the other side—the customers’ side—with a renewed commitment to overtipping.


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