The daily job wasn't bringing enough money in so I decided to work as a driver. I never wanted to be one, but I needed money badly. My girl practically hung her head in shame at the news. But she did something worse. She left me.
I was left with an apartment I couldn't afford and bills I couldn’t pay. And she was gone. In spite of the bad news, being a driver wasn’t such a bad job. You didn’t have to listen to a bunch of bullshit from office people. You drove around in your own plastic bubble.
My car was a 2007 Toyota Prius with a hatchback trunk and enough cargo space to carry virtually anything a sedan could handle. The car was so well manufactured I never had any major problems with it.
I had three garment bags from Prada in my trunk. I was assigned to take them to a home in Bel-Air. My mp3 player was pumping out some killer dubstep and the air conditioning was flowing pretty easily. The GPS advised me what turns to take to get to the home. My car was going to take good care of me.
With the proper temperature, ambient sound and flawless female voice giving direction it was the closest thing to traveling around in a mobile womb.
I drove up to the gates and showed my badge to the security guard.
“I’m from Style Runners”, I handed him the ID card.
The guard leaned out of his kiosk window to take it. He scanned my name on the card.
“Tracy Milton”, he read slowly as he typed out my delivery pass.
“Melton”, I corrected.
“Oh! Sorry!” he retyped.
“So how far is Mrs. Killebrew’s home from here?” I asked as he handed my ID card back with my temporary pass.
“Three streets down and then you make a right”.
The gates slowly opened up as in an old storybook film and I drove through. It seemed easy at first until I saw that the street signs were printed on boulders set on the corner. The printed names of the streets were largely obscured by overgrown plants hiding the names.
“Paseo de la Rosa is on the right”, the GPS pleasantly advised, her robotic voice sounding more sure of herself than I was. “And then left turn”.
This gated community wasn’t as pretty as the other ones I’ve driven through. This one looked like an overly protected suburbia. The homes all shared the same color scheme: beige, light gray and cream colors. Many earth tones and not a pastel color in sight. I was in Vanilla City.
I turned down Paseo de la Rosa, made my left at Paseo de la Teresa and the GPS announced, “You have arrived at your destination. The route guidance is now finished”.
I pulled up to the driveway and killed the engine. I took out the garment bags, and each bag was ridiculously long. There were ball gowns inside them, meaning they were at least seven feet long in that they all had trains. It was impossible to hold them up since they were higher than me, so I folded them over my arm and carried them with an almost butler-like reverence.
It’s pretty tough carrying three garment bags and a clipboard at the same time. The clipboard had my trip sheet on it. The trip sheet is where you write down your delivery information – name and address of pick up and then the name and address of the delivery. On the far right is an area where the delivery prints and signs their name.
When you’re in a gated community half the time you’ll deliver straight to the resident. The other half of the time it’ll be to the domestic care working the home. I pressed the door bell and heard the faint thumping of footsteps accompanied by the barking of a dog.
“Style Runners”, I said through the door. “Your Prada is here”.
An elderly woman with silver hair wearing a house dress opened the door with a German Shepherd by her side barking his head off at me. We had to speak over the loud barking.
“Please print your name and sign over the line in the pink”, I instructed her.
“Grrrr”…The dog tried leaping over the woman’s legs to get to me. It no longer barked but settled into a moan, giving way to growling.
“Oh, don’t mind him, he’s just a big old softy”, she smiled as she signed the sheet.
“A softy with wolves’ teeth”, I said, keeping my eyes on the angry, impatient beast.
The dog was pushing harder against her legs, growling even more now.
A German dog with a French name. This woman was crazy. The dog had large fangs.
The beast continued growling and budging against her.
“Oh, he’s usually not like this! He’s having a bad day!”
“I’d like to catch him on a good day”, I said, handing her the Prada bags.
“I said, Have yourself a great day”, I smiled.
The dog pushed so hard he almost broke through but the woman held him back.
“Oh wait, I forgot to give you a tip. Let me get you some money”.
She tried stepping backwards over the dog with the heavy garment bags in her hands.
Once she walked away there was no telling what the big dog would do.
“No thank you, ma’am. I got to run. I still have a lot of deliveries to make”, I backpedaled towards my car and shot out of there as fast as I could.
I drove down the hill towards the exit gates, which magically opened up like out of some fairy tale and let me out. I drove down streams of private roads until I reached Sunset Boulevard.
I hung a left on Sunset and then pulled over for a moment. I picked up my cell phone and texted the dispatcher “DELIVERY MADE”.
I texted another message, this time to someone else: “It’s me, Tracy. Are you coming back? I miss you”. DONE. SENT. I sat there for a minute or two, waiting for a response. She’s been gone for awhile. A message would be nice, but there was no reply,
I took a deep breath and looked out the windshield at the tree lined street. It was so wide it put a highway to shame. It was a Saturday afternoon and I kind of drifted off a little bit.
GLEEPGLEEP! The radio shook me with its abrupt signal.
“Driver 757, go to the Hermes Store at the Westfield Mall in Sherman Oaks. I’ll send you the stats in a minute”, the dispatcher said.
“10-4, copy that”.
I snapped out of my cloud and started the car, pulling out into the street. A tiny Fiat trailed behind a large soda truck, trying to jump into the next lane so it could pass it. I was in that lane so it nervously waited for me to speed up so it could get behind me and cut in front of the truck.
I finally sped up and the Fiat got behind me and then cut right in front of the soda truck by less than ten feet, instantly pissing off the truck driver. He blasted his large Godzilla horn angrily at the tiny Fiat. He might have even sped up to scare off the Fiat, but I turned down to Santa Monica Boulevard.
I jammed it up the freeway to Sherman Oaks and hit the Hermes Store in the Westfield Mall. I picked up a tiny wallet in a tiny shopping bag> It was so tiny it almost looked dainty.
The delivery was in Sylmar, a very intense working class neighborhood. It’s only claim to fame was that it had one of the worst faults in Southern California, the one which caused the legendary 1971 earthquake.
Going from Sherman Oaks to Sylmar required getting back on the freeways and watching a lot of motorists pull a bunch of daredevil tricks on the freeway. I kept my pace nice and slow to avoid any involvement with these Steve McQueeners.
The GPS directed me to my off ramp. I drove up to the main drag in Sylmar and thought I’d made a wrong turn somewhere. Pavement on the streets were cracked up with hundreds of potholes. Stores all around were either boarded up or closed down.
Tall weeds were more prominent than lawns and if there were any lawns they were long dead and left as dirt mounds. Not much grew around here. I pulled over and double checked the trip sheet. Yes, this was the right street.
I drove down the road, trying unsuccessfully to avoid hitting a pothoie. POW! The car made a large boom driving over a pothole.
“OHHHHHH!” I groaned, feeling like I just got hit.
“You have arrived at your destination”, the GPS cheerfully announced.
I cussed quietly under my breath over the shitty road my poor suffering car just took a beating on. Plus there was the even shittier street I had to deliver on.
I got out of my car and pulled out the dainty Hermes bag, shaking my head. Some karmic clown was laughing his ass off somewhere. Every house had rusty wrought iron gates in front of their driveways. The houses all had iron doors as well as iron bars over the windows.
Something tells me I’m not going to get a tip this time. Just a funny feeling.
Some of the houses had address markings, while others clearly did not. Guess which ones belonged to law-abiding citizens?
“23529 Fairfield, 23529 Fairfield….here’s 23533, it’s marked”, I said to myself. I walked over to the next house, which wasn’t marked. It could be 23531 or it could be the 23529 Fairfield I’m looking for.
There were two unmarked homes next to each other. One home had a surly pit bull behind the gate eyeing me menacingly. The house looked pretty ramshackle and the car parked in the lot looked primered to hell.
The next home was better kept and had a fancy Camaro parked in front with no guard dog in sight. The only way I was going to contact my delivery was if I phoned him and made him come outside.
I dialed the number on my cell phone, and a man quickly answered.
“Hello?” he had a guttural voice.
“This is Style Runners. Your Hermes wallet is here. I’m right in front of your house for you to pick up”. I felt like a drug dealer just talking like that.
“I’ll be right out”.
I assumed correctly. My delivery lived in the house with the vintage Camaro in the driveway. The delivery came out in a wife beater and baggy pants. He had tattoos all over his arms and on his neck. He probably had ink on his ass, too. Not only did he look mean as hell but he had his trusty pit bull come with him. The pit bull almost looked as mean as he did.
“Hey”, I said. “Here’s your wallet, but please sign first”.
The dog eyed me suspiciously. As the delivery signed I felt someone behind me. I turned around and saw a very old woman dressed completely in black. She smiled at me and I smiled back.
“Buenos dias”, I said. She just smiled.
“She can speak English”, the man grunted.
“Oh! Hi, good morning, ma’am”.
“Que?” she asked.
“I lied”, he smirked. Nice little joke.
“Okay, take it easy!”
I walked back to my car, hopped in, picked up my cell phone and texted the dispatcher “DELIVERY MADE”. I drove off, twisting and turning to avoid the potholes, but some were unavoidable. KAPOW! POW!
I drove a few blocks down to the main drag, I heard a beeping sound from my cell phone notifying me I had a new text. I pulled over to the curb to read it.
“I’m not coming back any time soon. I don’t think I want to be with you any more”.
I closed my eyes. Everything just stopped. I opened my eyes after awhile, looked at my side view mirror, and pulled out into traffic.