Posted in Life, Los Angeles

Delivering Christmas: what I learned as a driver helper

To protect the innocent, this post is written without mentioning which company or any names or specific locations. I hope you understand.

I want to tell you about the time I really learned something. Who here has ever thought twice about the guy (or girl) who drives their delivery truck? No? Me either. However, after two weeks working as a seasonal driver helper, let me show you how it looked from the inside.

My day usually starts at 2pm, half way through his day. “How was your morning?” I ask, as he picks me up from the shopping center. The reply varies, and is always dependent on how the truck has been loaded. Some days it’s loaded well, all the business deliveries have been done, and he can already see we’ll be finished early (7pm in the weeks leading up to Christmas). Other days the truck is a mess and he hasn’t been able to find packages – which means we have to retrace some of the morning’s steps. These days are the most frustrating for him, and with every stop, with every unfound package, the frustration grows.

We set off loudly from the shopping center, gears grinding. We hit the road to one of his last business stops for the day. “These two are for office 207, you remember where it is?” I do, having delivered there almost every day the past week. “Get a signature”.

As I’m heading up the stairs at a brisk pace, I see one of the packages is actually for a different office in the same building. Since I don’t know how to work The Board (an electronic device which tells the driver what goes where, and is also what you sign on delivery), I deliver just one to 207. Soon enough, I hear him hurrying up the stairs behind me – he’s delivering to another office – I explain the problem and get a “good catch” from him. Much bleeping from The Board later, packages have been delivered and signatures obtained.

Next stop is a bank, and this is a pick up. “Wait here”. I wait, some customers see me hanging about, one comments that it’s nice to see a female in my role (she mistakes me for the driver). The driver comes back with a couple of chocolates – a perk of the job.

Schools are next. They always seem to have heavy packages so it’s time to get out the hand truck (a trolley). I failed miserably the first time I used this tool: there’s nothing quite like dropping 20 packages in the middle of a shopping center parking lot on your first day. Anyway, I’m getting the hang of it now, and the driver is infinitely patient. After loading it, I struggle up to the school, back in through the door and carefully deposit the boxes (a technique I also had to learn the hard way).

The next stop is at a ridiculously complicated apartment building. The instructions I get are detailed but I still have to do several laps before I find the right apartments. ‘Wasting’ time by being inefficient is an anathema to this company and the driver. I try not to take too long, but I’m assured it’s better to deliver the package to the right place, than to take it back to the truck, or worse, deliver it to the wrong place.

With businesses and apartments done, we’re off to residential and we’re soon in a rhythm. I deliver, he finds the next package. He always parks right in front of the most direct route to the front door. During daylight it’s easier – you can see steps, sprinkler holes, and Christmas lights wires. The routine is simple: drop, knock and run.

By the end of the day my legs ache and I’m filthy and sweaty, but I’ve had a really good workout.

The driver knows the neighborhood exceptionally well, and many of the people in it. He knows at which doors not to ring the bell (baby sleeping), which dogs are friendly (thanks to a doggie treat), where clients prefer their packages to be left. He cares about his customers, and they appreciate it. Many people wave, and some even stop him in the street.

He also has an amazing array of stories. One time when it was raining he recognized a wet and miserable dog several miles from home. The dog also recognized the truck and was very happy to be taken back to its owner. Another time he came across a couple of kids preparing to skateboard down a hill in front of him. One of the kids braved it, fell off his skateboard and broke his arm, badly. As the kid tried to get up and realized his arm was broken, the driver called 911 and stayed until the ambulance arrived. And once, he tells me, a lady in hysterics asked (nay, demanded) him to get rid of a snake in her yard. Seeing it was a harmless variety he pulled his best Steve Irwin impression and duly released it away from the house.

My last day, Christmas Eve, was spectacular. I came in early, and all day we got gifts from customers, people let us out in traffic, and thanked us. In addition, the postie (mail carrier) bought us lunch, I only dropped one box, there were no misloaded packages, my feet didn’t hurt too much, we saw a fabulous sunset, and, best of all, the truck was empty and we had our earliest ever finish at 6pm. And, the driver did all of this after twisting his ankle first thing in the morning.

And so, what I learned from this experience is this: your delivery driver is (a) a person and (b) very important. If you are lucky enough to have such an excellent neighborhood ambassador as my driver, I ask you to say thank you to him or her when you see them, because you never know when you might need a Steve Irwin stand-in to lend you a hand.

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Question: What’s the name of your delivery driver?

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