Special Report

Thirty Minutes or Stress

The science of pizza delivery.

By 2.15.12

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My family had never been known for its punctuality. The brothers Lott have a rule for our old man: take whatever time he gives you, add an hour, and set your clocks. He's not the only tardy one. Waiting for family members to show up at big group events is just part of how we roll. So when I landed a pizza delivery job almost two years ago, it was a challenge.

In pizza delivery there are two kinds of drivers: those who manage their time well and those who don't. Every driver starts out with terrible time management. The good ones figure out their cities and adapt. I started out with terribly timed deliveries and pissed off customers. The tips were discouraging, but I learned a few life lessons along the way, such as: read those "beware of dog" signs carefully. At one point, I just managed outrun and out jump a Rottweiler. But even when off the clock, you could see the difference. I started showing up on time for things. Countless hours of dodging cops, stop signs, and traffic lights had changed my sluggard state of mind.

Delivery driving has taught me other useful skills. Navigating house numbers in the dark is a good one. Some people seem to believe we drivers have nocturnal vision. The truth is, we learn to guess really well. Speed-reading is another skill that every successful delivery driver will acquire, but it's not the kind of speed-reading advertised on television. It's more like fast pattern recognition, followed by crazy, hairpin turns. Those courses won't help you when you're looking for a house going 50 mph down a crowded four-lane highway in the dark.

Another pizza delivery myth debunked: We are also not mind readers. One lady called the store and ordered a “Carry-Out Special” which is our most popular special but is only available to people who come and pick the pizza up, hence the name: Carry-Out Special. We cooked the pizza and placed it on the top of the oven. Fifty minutes later, she called back and asked why no driver had yet delivered her Carry-Out Special. I guess she thought the name meant we would carry it out to her.

The demands of the job at times are severe. You either learn to love the stress or it breaks you. I love it. The other Sunday, we were insanely busy when I got a distress call from another driver whose car had gone down for the count. I rushed out of the shop with a double delivery in my bag and rescued him. I made my deliveries and his -- on time, thank you -- and returned to base for more dough- and marinara-fueled automotive abuse.

No doubt one day I'll look on my pizza delivery years as the most awesomely frustrating time of my life. The customers have been pretty great, considering, but I do have one small request on behalf of pizza peddlers everywhere. Next time you order a pie, flip on the porch light. It will make your delivery driver's night.

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About the Author

Christopher Lott is a writer and pizza delivery driver in Bellingham, Washington.