Nothing Up My Sleeve

Jon Gallagher

Peddling Pizzas in the Burg


How do you get a Knox College graduate off your front porch?

Pay him for the pizza.

Okay, so most Knox College graduates have real jobs and this applies only to me.  After graduating from Knox, I needed a way to support my family until they issued a diploma and I could get on with my life.

I finished up my work at Knox in October 1993.  At the time, I was 36 years old and had a wife and two kids to support.  I was under the impression that I could start substitute teaching immediately, but then found out that you had to be a college graduate with a BA to do that.  Even though I’d finished my course work, the board of whoevers wouldn’t meet to confer a degree upon me until January 1994. 

This meant I had to find a job where I didn’t need a Bachelor of Arts.

This meant I started delivering pizzas for the downtown Pizza Hut. 

I would deliver pizzas in Galesburg for the next ten years.  I spent five years at Pizza Hut and another five at Papa John’s.  I was also a high school teacher for three of those years, but continued to deliver pizzas on a part time basis for some extra cash.

During that time, I was also a semi-regular columnist for the Zephyr.  This column is the column that neither employer would allow me to write.  But since I don’t work for them anymore….

Pizza delivery drivers depend on tips to make a living.  Depending on who they drive for, they may or may not get an hourly wage.  Sometimes, they get gas money, and sometimes, they don’t.  Again, everything depends on the employer.

When I worked for Pizza Hut and Papa John’s, both paid minimum wage to drivers.  Pizza Hut paid us 50 cents per delivery for gas.  Papa John’s paid 6% of the ticket’s total for gas.  Back then, gas was hovering around $1.50 a gallon.  I’m not sure what they pay now that gas is nearly twice as expensive.

Hungry Howie’s and Domino’s also paid an hourly wage, plus a set amount per delivery.  Some of the independent pizza places paid a set amount per night.  One that I know of paid their drivers a flat $25 and they got to keep all their tips.  Hungry Howie’s charged $1.25 for delivery, but the drivers only got 50 or 75 cents of that (which never seemed fair, but then, I didn’t work for them, so I didn’t really care).

Managers at both Pizza Hut and Papa John’s insisted that pizza be delivered in the order in which the order was received.  Yeah, right.

I might have told a manager or two that that was the way I handled it, but once the pizza got to the front seat of my car, delivery order was MY discretion.  And let me tell you:  If you were a known tipper, you got your order FIRST.  If you were a known non-tipper, you went to the bottom of the stack.

If that sounds like I was an ass about it, then you’re correct.  My bills got paid, especially when I was doing this full-time, based on the tips I received.  I wanted to take care of my customers who did tip so they’d order again and again.  For customers who didn’t tip, I actually hoped that they’d call some other delivery place.

Getting pizzas to their appointed destinations sometimes presented a challenge.  Meeting customer expectations often presented even more.

Domino’s once had a policy that if your pizza wasn’t delivered in 30 minutes or less, it was free.  They stopped doing that in the mid 80’s, but there are people today, 25 years later, who think that’s still everyone’s policy.  Domino’s stopped doing it after they got sued when a driver, somewhere in the US, hit a kid on a bike. 

Still, I’d get to the door 35 minutes after someone had placed an order, and enter into a debate about whether or not they had to pay for the pizza or not.  Usually, I won.

One night while working for Papa John’s, I set out on my final run of the evening with six or seven deliveries in tow.  I was the only driver that late at night and for some reason, we had a late night rush.  At the final delivery, the customer was pretty upset.  He wanted his pizza for free and told me that he’d already called my manager and that she had told him we’d just give him the pizza.  After all, it had been about an hour since he’d ordered.

By this time in my career, I’d heard this story a few times, so I just told him, “Great.  Let me call and confirm that.”

The customer started stammering and stuttering, and coming up with all sorts of excuses why I couldn’t use his phone.  That wasn’t a problem, because I had a car phone.  Cell phones were in high use at the time, so this threw him for a loop.  I went back to my car, called my boss, and she told me that he had in fact called, but that she had reminded him that she had told him it would be an hour.

I went back to the door and the customer was pretty grumpy, to put it mildly.  “If I have to pay for that pizza, you can just shove it up your ass!” he yelled before I even got to the door.

I shrugged my shoulders, turned on my heel, and headed back to my car.  No sense in arguing.

“Hey!  Where the hell do you think you’re going?” he yelled after me.

“Sorry.  I gotta go shove some pizza up my ass.  Have a nice evening.”

He paid for his pizza, but he wasn’t real happy about it.  He didn’t tip, either.

I wasn’t allowed to tell people that they needed to tip.  Well, while on duty I wasn’t allowed to do that.  When I wasn’t on duty, I could scream it from the top of the Bondi Building if I wanted (but I couldn’t write about it in the Zephyr).

A lot of people I talked to told me that they couldn’t afford to tip.  If that’s the case, then they couldn’t afford to order pizza either.  I don’t have any problem with people who didn’t tip providing that they didn’t use my gas to receive their pizza.  Both places I worked had a special program for people who didn’t tip their driver.

It was called “CARRY OUT.”

If people who ordered were truly broke, or on a very limited budget, there were lots of alternative meals that would cost a whole lot less than pizza.  There have been many times in my life that I could get a package of hot dogs and buns and feed my family for a whole lot less than what a large pizza costs.

There’s a story about a young boy who goes into a restaurant and asks the waitress how much a dish of ice cream costs.  She tells him it’s 75 cents for one scoop.  He then asks how much it is with chocolate topping.  She tells him it’s a dollar.  He begins counting his pennies and orders a scoop without the topping.  When she comes back, he’s left his money on the counter to pay for his ice cream and she finds a dollar in change. 

Seventy five cents for the ice cream, and twenty five cents for the tip.

Now that’s the kind of kid that I’d bend over backwards for.  And I’d make sure he got his topping at no charge.

There are some people in Galesburg, however, that I would not bend over backwards for… and those are the type that refused to take a hint.

I became somewhat famous for “dropping” hints to people who didn’t tip.  Pizza Hut’s deliveries were processed using 4 x 6 cards printed with the name, and address of the delivery, plus what they had ordered and the total amount.  After we delivered, these cards became trash.

I used mine in a different way.  I kept a stack of them and at the top of them, I’d write, in bold red ink, “DELIVER FIRST.  THEY ALWAYS TIP!”

When I’d get to a house that stiffed me, I’d accidentally on purpose, drop one of those cards in the yard so the stiffer could find it.  About fifty percent of the time, when I went back to the place that had stiffed me, there’d be a tip the next time.

Over on the south side of town, there was a business that ordered pizzas once a week for their employees.  I’m not entirely sure of the name of the business, but I know they either built or repaired cars.  I’d dropped plenty of hints in their driveway during the past few months, but they never tipped.

Finally, I delivered to them and the receptionist said, “Any by the way, don’t bother dropping any notes in our driveway.  We’re not going to tip.”

“No problem,” I told her.  “Just don’t plan on getting your pizza first.”  She was blunt so I figured that I would be too.

Of course, there was another lady that I’ll always remember.  To this day, more than ten years after the fact, I can tell you her name and address.  One Sunday, she ordered and I drew the delivery.  Her order came to a dollar amount plus 99 cents.  She was too lazy to write her check for the 99 cents (and have to do some actual work when it came to subtracting the amount in her checkbook), so she rounded up to the next dollar.

This meant I got a whole penny tip.

At least she didn’t tell me not to spend it all in one place.

When I got back to the car, I was pretty steamed about it.  I took her delivery card, wrote at the top, “A WHOLE 1C TIP” and dropped that in her yard.  I was hoping that a neighbor would find it and see what kind of a cheapskate lived next door (and this was a pretty fancy neighborhood).

By the time I got back to the restaurant, my boss was shooting fire out of his ears.

It seemed that this nice lady had found my note and called the manager to read him the riot act.  Now it was his turn to read me his version.

I should explain a little about my boss.  He was a big guy, nearly twice my size with arms the size of my legs.  Each arm sported biker tattoos (which were always covered by sleeves so customers wouldn’t see them).  He kept his ponytail hidden under his hat and he wore a fu-manchu moustache.  He rode his Harley to work and he had a temper that sent most guys into a fetal-and-rock position.  He was NOT to be messed with at any cost.

Gary grabbed me and took me to the very back of the restaurant where there was a bank of phones for weekend order takers.  He explained that this nice lady had found my note and that she wanted an apology from me.  This was not a request on his part; it was an order.

I reluctantly agreed and picked up the phone to call her.  When she got on the line, I said, “Mrs. So-and-So, this is Jon from the pizza place, and I was just calling to say I’m sorry.”

At this point, the lady launched into her own little tirade.  She told me what a worthless piece of crap I was and that if I had any brains, I’d get a job where I didn’t have to spend my money for gas and wouldn’t have to depend on tips.  She continued to insult my intelligence for several minutes while I remained silent.  Gary stood beside me wondering what was going on.  He couldn’t hear her side of the conversation, just what must have sounded like the muted trumpet that Charlie Brown hears when his teacher speaks.

When the lady finally wound down, I asked very politely, “Are you finished?”  She told me that she was.

It was my turn.  “You didn’t let me finish.  I called to say I’m sorry that you’re such a cheap ass.  See, I DO have an education.  I’ve got a BA from Knox College and I graduated Magna Cum Laude which means I got really good grades.  I’m guessing you and your husband didn’t do quite so well because you don’t live in the best part of town.  I’m also guessing that you didn’t go to a private school like Knox.  You probably settled for a state school (I never throw this in people’s faces unless they deserve it and this witch deserved it). I deliver pizzas to make a little extra money and I don’t need this job!”

By this time, Gary’s jaw had become unhinged and his face had turned white.  I continued to verbally assault this stupid lady, all the time pulling off my uniform shirt and hat.  I finished my part of the conversation by telling her that I didn’t need this job and suggesting some rather unique, yet impossible sexual positions for her to try.  “And I can say all this because I JUST QUIT!”

I threw my shirt and hat at Gary’s feet, slammed the receiver back in its cradle, and headed for the door.  Gary had recovered by this time and was right behind me as I headed for the parking lot.

Meanwhile, the kitchen of the restaurant had gotten deathly quiet.  Everyone had heard my tirade and figured that Gary was going outside with me so he could kill me right there in the parking lot.

There I am, standing in the middle of our parking lot, bare-chested, and going nose to nose with Gary about what had just happened.  I think Gary actually turned his hat around so he could get closer to my face to yell at me.  We were both shouting at the tops of our lungs, arms flying all over the place as we simultaneously made our points.  We would have made any major league manager and umpire proud. 

We both ran out of gas about the same time.

We stood there, winded, both just looking at each other.

“So you’re going home for the day?” Gary asked.

“Yeah.” I replied.

“See you tomorrow after school?”


Gary and I remain very close friends to this day.  He was one of the groomsmen in my wedding and we’re still in the same fantasy football league.

My days as a pizza delivery driver carried over to my job at Circuit City in Peoria.  I was standing at the customer service counter when a delivery driver came in with an order for one of our employees.  I called back and told the employee that her pizza had arrived.

She came up, paid the guy for the pizza, and waited for every cent of her change.

Old habits die hard.  I asked her if she was going to tip him while he was still standing there.

She said, “No.”

I pulled out two bucks and handed to him.  I wanted to make sure that our store didn’t get the reputation of being a business that didn’t tip.  I figured that when I ordered from that place, I wanted my pizza hot.

When he left, I made sure the young lady who didn’t tip understood the rules of ordering delivery pizza.

Rule number one:  Thou shalt always tip.

Rule number two:  Know your address.

Rule number three:  Always tip.


Next week – The best places to deliver and the worst places to deliver in the Burg.


Nothing Up My Sleeve

Jon Gallagher

Peddling Pizzas in the Burg Part 2…The Best (and Worst) Tippers in Galesburg


Last week I got something off my chest that’s been there for a LONG time.  I finally, nearly seven years after I delivered my last pizza in Galesburg, got to rant about the folks in Galesburg who don’t tip the pizza guy.

There are lots of houses that will raise a red flag among delivery drivers.  We all knew who didn’t tip and those deliveries were often pawned off on some new guy on the crew.  Once when working for Pizza Hut, a driver who was in line in front of me was set to draw a house known for stiffing the driver. 

Suddenly, he decided it was time to take his break that he was entitled to but had never ever taken in the past.  As soon as I grabbed the delivery (after insulting his family heritage for several generations), he was ready to punch back in and take the next delivery which was going to a well known good tipper.

He’s probably still wondering how that right rear tire of his lost all its air.

 I thought I’d give a partial list of some of the best places to deliver, along with some of the worst.  These are in no particular order.

St. Mary’s Hospital was usually good for tips whether the pizza was being delivered to the ER or the lab or even to a patient’s room.  The maternity ward there tended to be very generous when it came to tipping the pizza guy and I always made sure pizzas got to them as fast as I legally could.

Cottage Hospital, on the other hand, was a location that we hated to see pop up on the delivery screen.  The maternity ward there was notorious for stiffing the drivers and one of their nurses actually called my restaurant to complain.  It seems that someone outside the hospital had told her how we hated to go there and she didn’t think that was right. 

She never did start tipping.

She also never got her pizza first, ever again.

The lab at Cottage was pretty reliable for a small tip, depending on the shift.  Third shift lab workers showed a lot of class by tipping well. 

In general, car dealers were very generous.  The salesmen and sales managers seemed to understand the plight of the pizza delivery guy, or maybe they just knew how fast we went through cars and wanted our business. 

One car dealer in town sorely lagged behind all the others.  I’d tell you which one (since I’m not real shy about naming names), but since I’m going to tell you about one person in particular, I’ll withhold it.

The owner of this particular car dealership was really bad about tipping.  He was one of those who was too lazy to subtract the cents column in his check register, so he always rounded up to the next dollar amount.  That usually left us with a twenty-nine cent tip after all was said and done. 

One time he made fun of my car that I was using to peddle the pizzas – a broken down, rusted out Sundance that had seen its better days about a decade earlier.  He asked how soon I was going to trade the beast in.  I informed him that I’d have to deliver to him a whole bunch more times and that it would take quite a while to save up all those twenty nine cent tips.

My next car, a very nice Mitsubishi with low miles, was bought with tips from other people and from a guy who always tipped. 

Another place I liked to go was Sandburg College.  I can’t think of a single instance when I delivered to somewhere on their campus and didn’t come away with at least a dollar tip.  They were a long drive, but usually worth the effort.

Knox College, on the other hand, presented an interesting dichotomy.  Some places on campus tipped pretty well.  Other places were awful.  You just sort of had to know.

For example, Post Hall is usually reserved for freshman female students.  Since the population is made up of first year students, some of them may not know that it’s proper to tip the pizza guy.  Each year, it became a challenge to deliver there.  Some years were better than others.  By the end of the year, however, most of the girls there were pros at tipping.

International students, on the other hand, didn’t have a clue.  They probably still don’t. 

Most of the frat houses on campus were good about tipping.  There always seemed to be one or two rebels, but the challenge to the pizza guy was a simple one.  We made it a competition between frat houses and we let them know that whoever got known as the best tippers would ultimately get their pizza first.

Bribing college guys with food seems to always be a powerful reinforcing tool.

When the college itself would order pizzas for special occasions, the tip was just pot luck.  Sometimes a tip would be included, sometimes not.  I think it depended on which person in the accounts receivable department was responsible for cutting the check. 

Sandburg never had that problem.

A couple of times Monmouth College would call and have Papa John’s cater a big event.  Their staff made sure we got a good tip each and every time.

The biggest single tip I ever got was at Monmouth College, but it wasn’t from them. 

Monmouth was playing a football game against a rival college (I think it was Cornell), and their football coach called a week in advance to order food.  He wanted - are you ready for this – one hundred and twenty pizzas to be delivered to the team bus right after the game.

Three of us at the restaurant set about making the order.  I packed them into thermal bags and then into my car.  I had pizzas packed in that car like clowns in a VW.  There was no room for anything, and that many pizzas made it so I had very little room to operate the car.  I got to their bus ten minutes before the final horn and was rewarded with a tip of $150.  I took it back to the restaurant and gave my other two co workers $30 each (it was my gas, after all, and that’s what they thought was fair).

Housing projects were among the least favorite places in Galesburg to deliver.  The one on McKnight Street, for a long time, was an area that NO pizza place in Galesburg would service.  Back in the late 80’s, a Pizza Hut driver was lured into an apartment there, hit over the head with a baseball bat, stabbed several times, then drug down to Cedar Creek where he was left for dead.  He survived, his attackers were caught, tried, and convicted, but the housing project bore the repercussions for years to come.

The projects on East Knox Street and the projects on West South were no fun either.  More than once residents tried to pay me with food stamps; one even chased me to the car when I refused.

The worst of the bunch though were the three story apartments by Hy-Vee.  Not only did they not tip regularly, you usually had to climb three sets of stairs in order to get stiffed.  The other thing we hated about them was that you had to enter a hallway to reach the apartments which put you out of public view for a while, a safety issue that could have caused a great deal of trouble.

I kept track of who tipped and who didn’t by address in a book that I kept in my car.  If the person on the second or third floor didn’t tip, then I’d call them from my car phone just as I got to the project to tell them to come down to the ground floor if they wanted their food.  Those who tipped in the past got theirs brought to their door.

My personal least favorite place to deliver was Maytag.  Aside from the fact that very few workers tipped, it seemed that there was an ongoing game being played each and every time they ordered.

I understand that factory workers have a set time for meals.  I worked in a factory (Gates Rubber), so I get it.  I know all about foremen who are jerks and who seem to have nothing better to do than to sit around waiting for someone to get back from their break thirty seconds late.

Most of the time, Maytag workers would order their pizzas in advance to be delivered at a predetermined time, usually 8:00 PM, and usually on a Friday night (the busiest night).  We would do our best to get the pizza to them right at 8:00 so they’d have a hot supper.  Even if they didn’t tip, time orders (as these were called) took priority.

Pizza places arrange for the driver to be at the time order about five minutes ahead of schedule.  This usually means the driver has to wait which also means they can’t be out delivering.  On a busy night like a Friday, this costs the driver money, both in tips and delivery charges.  If a time order doesn’t tip, then it just adds insult to injury.

Because of this, a lot of drivers would take another delivery or two and hit those before heading for the factory.  This was a dangerous game to play because if the food wasn’t there by the appointed time, workers got upset.  Upset workers meant they’d call the store to bitch, and bitching customer usually meant a free pizza at a later date (and free orders, traditionally, did NOT ever tip).

The game that Maytag workers like to play involved submitting their time order for an earlier time, thus making sure they got it by 8:00 when they took their break.  They’d order their pizzas to be delivered at 7:45, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, knowing full well they wouldn’t be down to pick it up until 8:00.  That meant that a driver would waste anywhere between twenty and thirty minutes waiting for a worker who probably wasn’t going to tip.

There were lots of Friday nights when I stood in the lobby at Maytag with drivers from Happy Joe’s, Hungry Howie’s, Alfano’s, Pizza House, and KFC, all of us just killing time till our customer arrived.

When I would draw the delivery for an early time order, I’d arrive at the appointed time, then put a stopwatch on the order.  If the person who ordered it hadn’t arrived to pick it up within five minutes of the requested time, then I pulled the pizza(s) from the thermal bag which kept it kind of warm, and let them cool off on top of the bag.  For those jerks who ordered a delivery at 7:45 and then wasted twenty minutes of my time, I made sure their pizza had spent a good ten minutes out of the bag.

Of course, if I recognized the name on the order as someone who tipped regularly, then it stayed in the bag till they gave me a reason not to keep it there.

Most of my big tips came from normal, everyday people.   The residents of exclusive neighborhoods like Soangetaha always tipped, but nothing that was out of the ordinary.  There was one Soangetaha resident who made sure we got at least a $5.00 tip each time, but the rest of the area usually averaged around $2.00 per delivery.

Other places that I tried to avoid were cheap motels, Kimberly Terrace, nursing homes in general (the workers ordered, not the residents), and schools.

Some of the better places to deliver were the better motels (Jumer’s, as it was then called), most retail businesses, Henry Hill Correctional Center (as long as employees were doing the ordering and not inmate families), the Public Safety Building, fire stations, and banks.

So what’s a good tip nowadays?  I checked with a couple of drivers who still make pizza runs in Galesburg.  Two dollars is about the average tip, depending on the order.  A good rule of thumb is a dollar per pizza with a $2.00 minimum, and about a $10 max unless it’s a really big order.

Just remember, the guy (or gal) making sure you get your meal hot is paying for his own gas, insurance, and upkeep on the car.  Be generous and you’ll be surprised how much your service improves.


Next week… You’ll never believe what happened on the way to your house…. Funny stories about pizza deliveries in Galesburg.



Nothing Up My Sleeve

Jon Gallagher

Peddling Pizzas in the Burg, Part 3


Since I spent ten years of my life delivering pizzas in Galesburg, I’ve compiled enough stories for a book. 

Somehow, I don’t think it’d be a best seller.

Still, I thought you might enjoy some of the tales of my adventures over the years.  The scary thing, all these stories are true.

There are a lot of jerks in Galesburg, and it seems that a good number of them order pizza at sometime in their miserable lives.  The bigger the jerk, the more likely it was that I was going to draw their delivery.

Take for example one house just west of Cottage Hospital.  When I pulled up out front, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  I got to the door, rang the bell and noticed another car pulling up behind mine in the street.  Another driver from another pizza place got out and started heading for the very porch on which I was standing. 

The resident, Mr. Jerk, opened the door and announced that I was the winner.  He started pulling out his billfold to pay when the other pizza driver got to the door.  Mr. Jerk told him that I’d gotten there first, so I was the one they were going to pay.  About that time, a third and fourth car pulled up and delivery guys piled out of both of them.

Mr. Jerk had ordered the same order from every pizza delivery place in town.  He turned away the other two drivers along with the guy who was standing beside me.

Still another car pulled into his driveway.  That driver got out with his thermal bag only to be sent away.

As Mr. Jerk handed me some money (it was going to be a few cents tip), I told him I couldn’t take his money.  He looked at me like I’d just stepped off a space ship and was speaking fluent Martian.  I explained that he was a jerk and that he had just wasted the time of several drivers in town, not to mention food.  I told him that I didn’t play games and that he should try to have a really lousy night.

He probably complied with my request because he sure wasn’t going to get anything to eat.

When I got back to my store, I explained to the boss what had happened and my boss told me that he backed me up.  Mr. Jerk got put on our list of people that we didn’t deliver to.

Jerks come in all forms.  Once I delivered to a motel on Grand Avenue that was well known for renting its rooms by the hour.  The delivery was to the second floor, but all the rooms were accessible from the outside which meant you got to stand on a narrow walkway, separated from a fall by a little iron rail.

This jerk opened his door, clad in just a pair of boxers.  Behind him in bed was possibly the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen.  She had the covers pulled up to almost her chin (thank God!), and her tooth was shimmering in the light as she smiled what she hoped would be a seductive smile.   She didn’t have a prayer.

I told the guy the price which was less than ten bucks.  He had the money in his hand, but he said, “Hey… how about a piece for a piece?  You know?”  He raised his eyebrows in a knowing gesture and jerked his head in the direction of the woman.  She was doing the smile thing again.  It still wasn’t working.

“Nah,” I said.  “I gotta have something worth at least ten bucks.”

I got clear back to my car before I heard someone yell, “HEY, YOU SOB!!!”  Evidently the Jerk’s woman had explained to him that I had just insulted her.  It must have taken a couple of times through before he finally got it.

He came running down the outside stairs in his boxers and started to chase me (I’m not sure what he was going to do if he caught my car, but maybe this was a trick he’d learned from his dog).  I felt pretty much obliged to peel out of the parking lot and shower him with a bath of high velocity gravel for his trouble.

Sometimes people weren’t jerks, but they were, shall we say, a little challenged in the brain department.

One Saturday morning, I spent quite a bit of time hunting for a particular address in the south part of town.  I don’t remember the address exactly, but let’s say the house number was 746. 

There was no 746 on this street. 

Order takers have been known to make mistakes, so I used my car phone (cell phones weren’t readily available at this time) to call the customer and ask for the address again.  The lady on the other end insisted she lived at 746.  I asked for confirmation on the street.  She repeated the name of the street.  I asked if she was sure it was South and not North.  She was.

There was no 746.

I told the lady this.  She started getting very excited about the fact that she knew her own address.  I asked her what color her house was.

She said it was green.  It had white shutters.

I was sitting in front of a green house with white shutters.  But I was sitting in front of 764, not 746.  So I asked her to come out her front door and point at the numbers on her house.

Again she started barking about knowing her own address and how I must be some sort of idiot.  Suddenly, the door at 764 opened and a lady with a cordless phone stepped out on the porch and started pointing at the 764.  I asked her to read the numbers one at a time.

I swear to God, she said, “Seven, six, four.  That’s Seven forty-six.”  By this time, I was getting out of the car and shaking my head.  God must have sent a lightning bolt down to cure her dyslexia because she realized what she was reading and what she was saying.  She took her pizza and then swore up and down that someone must have come to her house in the middle of the night and switched the two numbers around.

At least she gave me a decent tip.

Then there was another guy who didn’t know his address.  He decided to surprise his family by ordering pizza for them while he was at work.  The order was paid for and a nice tip was included so all I had to do was take it to his door and hand it over to his wife.

That’s where things got a little problematic.

I got to the address he had given me.  The lady at the door was surprised, especially when I told her that her husband had ordered the food and paid for it.  See, she didn’t have a husband.

I double checked the address and was at the right house.  I called the husband back and he said, “Maybe I didn’t get the numbers right.”  Then he told he to try reversing a couple of them and seeing if that worked. 

It didn’t.

He finally described his house and I drove up and down the street till I found it.  At least he’d given me the right street, but not one of the numbers matched.  The pizzas got delivered, but the wife had already fixed supper for her and the kids, and I’d just wasted 45 minutes of my night.

When I got back to our pizza place, I was able to vent a little bit to our shift leader/assistant manager.  After all, HE was the one who had ordered the pizza for his family and didn’t know his own address.

Sometimes the driver can be at fault.  I know you find this hard to believe, but there have been a few occasions where I may have had a lapse in judgment whilst peddling pizzas in the Burg.

I had spent five years delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut when Papa John’s came to town.  Papa John’s offered better pay and a percentage of the order for gas money rather than the flat fifty cent rate the Pizza Hut paid.  I gave notice at Pizza Hut, left several good friends behind, and moved on to the competition.

On my second night working for Papa John’s, I finished up a set of two or three deliveries and headed back to the store to pick up more.  I parked the car and got half way to the door before I realized that I was about ten feet from walking in the back door of Pizza Hut in my Papa John’s uniform.

Old habits die hard.  And since I was about to be REALLY embarrassed, I turned on my heel and hightailed it for the car. 

There have been other times when I was a little confused about where I was going.  While still working for Pizza Hut, I grabbed a couple of deliveries bound for Knoxville.  I noticed a third delivery as well, this one headed for the Super 8 Motel, so I grabbed it as well.

We delivered quite a few pizzas to the Super 8 Motel in Knoxville, so I didn’t think much more about it.

At least, I didn’t think about it until I got to the proper room at the motel only to find out that the guest there didn’t order pizza.

A closer inspection of the delivery ticket showed me I was in the wrong town.   The delivery was supposed to go to the Super 8 in Galesburg… not Knoxville. 

Anyone can be off by a few miles now and then.  Just ask the captain of the Exxon Valdez. 

I called back to the store to let the manager on duty know that I’d screwed up.  I really didn’t have to call him.  The customer at the Super 8 in Galesburg already had.  The manager authorized me to give him the pizza for free as soon as I suggested it.

I was trying to provide good customer service, especially since I’d screwed up.

When I got to the door of the motel room, I knew I was in trouble.  The guy, a big burly truck driver who was used to bullying people around, snatched open the door and demanded to know who the stupid so-and-so was who was responsible for this stupid mistake.  Behind him, three other guys sat on the edges of the beds, laughing.

Sheepishly, I told him I was responsible.  I started to explain my mistake and that he was going to get a free pizza out of it, but he wouldn’t listen.  He continued to insult me, taking every chance he could to tell me just how “stupid” I was.  He told me how worthless I was and how delivering pizzas was probably about the only job a “retard” like me could find, and I couldn’t even do that right.

I’ll take just about anything for a time, but when someone calls me “stupid,” my blood boils a little faster.  I knew he was just performing for the guys behind him, because every time he said “stupid,” he turned around to get approval from them.

After about the tenth time (no exaggeration) he called me stupid, I decided that I’d been standing there, hanging my head long enough.  I don’t remember my exact words, but this is a pretty close approximation.

“No, sir, I’m not stupid.  I made a dumb mistake, but I’m not stupid.  In fact, I have a BA from Knox College.  In case you don’t know, that’s a college.  That’s where you go after you get out of high school.  High school is what you go to after you get out of junior high, just in case you didn’t know that.  Let me tell you what ‘stupid’ is.  Stupid is having to spend the night in a dump like this with three of your buddies because you can’t afford somewhere else.  ‘Stupid’ is driving one of those trucks out there because you didn’t finish the sixth grade and can’t read good enough to get a real job.  But most of all, ‘stupid’ is standing there insulting the guy who has your FREE supper in his hands when he has the power to do this…”

I pulled the taco pizza out of the thermal bag, opened it, and dumped it at his feet.  I shoved the empty box into his chest and said, “That, sir, is REALLY stupid.”

Meanwhile, the three guys behind him

On the way back to the pizza place, I KNEW I was fired.  I didn’t care.  Seeing all those corn chips and all that lettuce land at the guy’s feet felt really really good.

The manager on duty met me at the door.  He had tears streaming down his face and he was still laughing.  “Tell me you didn’t do what you just did,” he said.

“At least I brought your bag back,” I said.  “I’m fired, right?”

Not a chance.  The motel guy had been such a jerk on the phone, both when he ordered, then when he called back to find out why his pizza was taking so long that they were ready to make me King.  To this day, if I see that manager, he says, “I wish I could have seen his face!”