Tourists, tourists, tourists. I'm making a drop-off up in the Hollywood Hills and I'm really flustered getting the gown out of my car and all, my ass is hanging out of my pants and my clipboard is falling down, and I turn around and there's this TMZ tour bus with these apple knockers with their fucking cameras and mobile phones taking pics of me pulling out a gown with my dick falling out my pants and I got THIS close to screaming, "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?"
But I didn’t.
I threw my back out towards the rubberneckers and kept it there until the tour bus finally trotted off, disappointed that I wasn’t about to march over to some celebrity’s doorstep with their clothes.
Truth be told, the delivery wasn’t even famous. Just a barely known film producer’s wife getting her gown for the night’s festivities. People make a big fuss about nothing, even my pants sliding down my hips. Tourists are funny; so many of them behave like boobs who paid their money see a freak show at the carnival.
Sometimes I feel bad about my job and how it looks to “normal” people, and other times I tell myself “this is where I belong” and believe it. I’ve been holding down this gig for about a year and a half already but it felt much, much longer than that.
It wasn’t hard work, it was pretty easy, but it was very exhausting running around and picking things up and then sitting in traffic all day getting to the delivery and dropping it off, repeating the cycle for ten hours straight without breaks. The repetition of it all is what killed you.
When I think back on my first day on the job it all seems pretty ironic. I was heartbroken at the prospect of finally succumbing to become a delivery person. I always thought it was the last resort for dysfunctional idiots who couldn’t do anything else. I was totally broke, flat busted. I didn’t have enough money to buy a loaf of bread and Karol was getting tired of it. She still lived with me.
Whoever tells you money can’t buy you love doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The money was gone and so was her love for me. Every day she yelled at me more and more. Sick and tired of being broke, I finally caved in and answered an ad for a delivery company. I sank to the bottom of the labor food chain. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.
Karol didn’t really appreciate my effort taken in relieving my sad financial state. She simply told her friends, “My boyfriend’s a delivery boy”.
Without looking like I was moping too hard I went to the office of Style Runners and filled out all the paperwork. I showed my driver’s license, proof of auto insurance and my DMV driving record of the past five years, all necessary to qualify for the job. After doing so I was told to sit and wait.
I sat there in the waiting room feeling like a total loser, hating my miserable life and the shitty hand Fate had dealt me. My eyes burning a hole down at the carpet feeling shame, it was interrupted by the manager walking up to me with a very large black man in a Style Runners uniform.
“Okay, Tracy, everything seems to be in order. This is Cabernet, one of our best drivers. He’s going to show you the ropes and give you orientation of what we do here. So, off you go and good luck!”
Cabernet shook my hand as I got up. “How you doin’, man?”
“Fine”, I lied.
“You ever driven before?”
“Yeah, I did some drug store deliveries years ago. I kind of have an idea of what I need to do”.
“Good, this shouldn’t take too long, then. Let’s bounce”.
We got in a small car and he immediately radioed in. “Driver 124, standing by in West Los Angeles”, he turned to me and said, “That’s how you tell the dispatchers you’re sitting around waiting for something to do. You never say ‘give me stuff to pick up’, you say ‘Standing by and you give them your location’”.
The dispatcher radioed back in three minutes and he quietly wrote down several locations for pickups. He put the car in gear and began driving west. I thought we were headed to a dumpy area and pick up a bunch of crummy Italian food.
He made a few turns while interjecting a few boring pleasantries.
“Got any kids? Got a girl? My Lakers are letting me down…”
The scenery changed and it changed radically. We moved into Beverly Hills and went up Rodeo Drive. What gives? I thought. Is this a joke?
“Okay, first we’re going to Burberry and then we’re heading over to Cartier to pick up a delivery”. My face lit up and forgot about my self-pity.
He pulled into the Rodeo Drive alley and swung the car into the Burberry parking lot.
We walked down a clean, well-lit staircase to the basement where an attendant stood by a bank of closed circuit cameras and a few rails of garment bags all bearing the Burberry symbol.
“Marcel, picking up a bag and training this new guy here”. Marcel appraised me as if I were some new species let loose upon the world.
“Ah, good luck, my friend”.
“Grab the bag, dude”, Cabernet instructed. I picked it up aggressively.
We got back in the car and Cabernet told me, “Okay, now record the time you picked up the bag on your trip sheet. That’s it, now let’s head over to Cartier”.
We went over to Cartier, where we had to show ID and sign a few papers. Security was pretty tight there and after a few more hoops jumped through we were finally given the bag with the jewels.
“We’ll have to drop off the jewels first”, Cabernet said once we got back to the car.
“Get your belt on, here we go”. We headed over to Coldwater Canyon and pulled up to a high walled estate. Cabernet got out of the car and walked up to the intercom by the tall gate.
“Style Runners delivering the Cartier”, he spoke into the little talk box. A moment later the gate slid open a few feet and a big man in a suit, dark glasses and an earpiece stepped out and took the bag. He quickly jotted his initials on the trip sheet and Cabernet returned to the car.
“Okay, that’s done. Now we gotta go to Jimmy Choo’s”. On and on it went like that all day, my mood elevating from despair to elation at the romantic delivery jobs assigned to us all day in Beverly Hills.
Burberry, Cartier, Jimmy Choo continued on to Hermes, Neiman Marcus and Yves St. Laurent, picking up from glamorous designers and dropping them off at homes in Bel Air, Malibu and Benedict Canyon. Delivery work, yes, but pretty lofty delivery.
When I got home that night I tried to tell Karol about my new job, but she just goofed around on her cell phone talking to her friends. It was strange; we got along fine for years but overnight she hated me and treated me terribly. There was no explanation or reason why she decided to turn on me; she simply decided she hated me now.
I was happy that the delivery job turned out to be pretty good, but she seriously didn’t give a damn. She was non-plussed by everything I told her and communicating with her became impossible. I truly felt alone. One month later she left ne and moved back to her mother in Canada.
I continued to drive on weekends after that and it turned out pretty well. I made the rent every month and ate alright, so the poverty scene was forestalled again. Delivering cool fashion prevented me from feeling any shame at being a delivery person. I never did shame very well, anyway. I always liked myself in spite of the hate coming out of other people. It never really affected me.
I got the radio call to go to The Montclair Group, a modeling agency near the Laurel Canyon area. They were doing business out of a mid-century modern house in the rustic hills. My GPS compassed me to the house, the upper floor stuck out above a cluster of bushes. I pulled over to the side of the driveway and walked up to the entrance, hit the buzzer and identified myself.
“Come in. I have a few bags for you to deliver to a client in Laguna Beach”, a strikingly beautiful girl with big red hair in skin tight black pants ran around the room, all business, no smiles, nothing.
As I followed her to the studio I saw a dozen thin, stunning girls all dashing about every which way, buzzing around like fireflies. Some of the girls were blond, some were brunette, some black, some Asian, and they were all gorgeous. Thin. Ravishing. Like my hostess they were all very serious and stressed.
“Casey, what time is the photographer coming by with the proofs?”
“Excuse me! Are you delivering the Continental breakfast we ordered 45 minutes ago?”
Severe eyebrows pointed at me.
“No, I’m here to pick up some bags”.
“Bailey, did you call Armando?”
“No, Ashley, was I supposed to?”
“Call Armando. Like now. You were supposed to call him like a million years ago”.
As I stood around waiting for the bags more beautiful girls ran in and out of the room, making me feel like I was in a Room of Mirrors at the Fun House with ravishing women all around me. There were no men present at all.
“Are you from Geek Squad?” More severe eyebrows pointed at me. “I need to have my laptop defragged”.
“You don’t know how to defra-“
“Tch! He’s not from Geek Squad”, the Redhead heaved three bags at me. “Okay, here’s the bags. How soon can she get them?”
“Well, Laguna Beach is in Orange County so I’d say about an hour from now, at least, so-“
“GOOD ENOUGH! THANK YOOOOOUUU!”
She practically slammed the door behind me, but it was alright. As beautiful as the girls were, there was something demonically claustrophobic about being in that house. Besides, a beautiful girl that never smiles is as appealing as an ice cream cone with salt and pepper all over it.
“757, holding The Montclair order to Laguna Beach”, I radioed in.
“Ten-four, call clear, 757”, the dispatcher returned back.
I turned up the air conditioning and pulled out some gum and chewed away, slowly crawling up the ramp to the 405 Freeway. My mp3 player was playing the William Tell Overture by Wendy Carlos and I chuckled at the perky synthesizer music.
Traffic moved fairly smoothly up the 405, better than usual. As I went by I occasionally looked over at the shoulder on the freeway, noticing forgotten shirts and pants lying in a heap. A few miles later there was the torn off bumper, the decapitated fender, and the usual spray of broken glass.
As I drove further down I noticed deep, dark grooves burned into the asphalt by squealed tires, indicating sudden braking or wild last-minute swerves. At first I only noted one every few feet, but then there appeared to be more and more.
Traffic gradually slowed down more and more. The other side of the freeway was grooving at a pretty swift pace, but our side started creeping like a fly in molasses. It was hard to see what the cause of the slowdown was, but it didn’t feel right.
I heard a few sirens blasting behind me, faintly, then progressively louder and louder. Then an EMS truck ran down the shoulder I’d just stared at, followed by two police cars and a fire truck blasting its trombone horn to hell.
We crawled further and had to move two lanes to the left, but I got a good view. It was an accident, and it was a good one. There were four cars slammed into each other, radiator steam billowing out, as well as clouds of black smoke from burning oil. One had spun in the opposite direction, another had its front end completely crushed in, the third had the entire left side bashed in with a driver still stuck inside, and the fourth had its rear fender and bumper town off completely.
The fourth car’s owner was a fat, homely man sitting on the ground crying like a child over his car being destroyed. The car with the front end crushed in was a woman comforting her young daughter, a blanket thrown around the little girl’s shoulders. The man in the car spun around was unconscious behind the wheel. He may have been dead, but I didn’t care. I had a delivery to make.
We trudged further up the freeway through the smoke and steam and burned rubber odors. I hated to break it to The Beautiful Redhead, but I probably wasn’t going to deliver the fashion on time. There are times when Death trumps Beauty.