Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Drugstore Delivery Boy

Lot’s of time you spend just looking in the rearview. It’s a habit you get into. Sometimes you’re just looking at yourself, your face up close, maybe trying to pop a zit, or see if you missed a hair shaving that morning, or if there are boogers in your nose, or you’re just looking to see if you’re still the same person you’ve always seen in mirrors. The same asshole doing the same stupid shit you’ve always done. Yeah. It’s hard to keep steering straight while you’re doing this, but you learn. You push hard against the wheel with your hands to keep it steady. You learn to do three or four things at once. Multi-tasking I’ve heard it called. Something a delivery guy’s got to do a lot of. You learn to get all the brown paper bags in order on the seat next to you. To kind of hold them there with your right arm when you stop suddenly or take a turn too hard. To keep sneaking glances over at them to make sure they haven’t tipped over and spilled their meds out onto the floor, where it’ll be hell trying to find them, because you know they’ve probably rolled all the way under the seat or disappeared like that kid in the Twilight Zone who accidentally rolled into the fifth dimension. Lots of stuff gets lost in the truck. Who knows where the hell it goes. And then one day, like when you are getting off work and you’ve parked the truck for the night, a bottle of meds will fall out onto the cement when you close the door. One time I found a bottle dated four years before. Who knows?

So, yeah, you get really busy, and you start driving like a maniac, weaving in and out of traffic, getting on and off the freeway for short stretches to try to make good time, and all the while trying to keep the bags in order and steady on the passenger’s seat, and also trying to read the clipboard with all the delivery addresses and names listed on it, where you keep trying to check things off with a pencil that is attached to the clipboard with a long thin chain-thing, like they have on pens at banks, that keeps getting all tangled up in itself. It’s not easy. It can be damn stressful. I got to the point where I could plan out my trips way ahead of time in my head. I knew every damn shortcut and back alley in the city. I knew the timing of the lights, when to make three right turns instead of waiting at a soft green to make a left. I knew where all the houses were, and in what order I’d go to them, and the paths to take between them to cut down on backtracking. My head would be abuzz with all of these things, and I’d drive on instinct, without ever thinking about it. The radio would be blaring some classic rock station and I’d have all the windows rolled down and would be singing along, weaving through traffic and screaming at other cars. Shit, I’d be four or five streets ahead of myself in my mind. And I’d grab the bags and sometimes leave the truck running in the driveway, and I’d sprint to the door and knock and ring the damn doorbell like a madman. Sometimes these damn people would take fucking forever to come to the door. And I’d be shitting bricks, hopping up and down and trying to look in the little window in the front door, sometimes calling out, “Anybody home! Delivery! Drugs on the steps!” and other shit like that. If nobody answered after a while I just left a note, in my horrible chicken-scratch, that I’d tried to deliver the medications but that nobody was home, and I’d put the pharmacy’s phone number on the bottom, and I’d stick the note in the crack in the door and hope for the best. Sometimes someone would come running after my truck as I pulled away. I usually pretended not to notice them. I was already gone to the next place in my mind.

So, like I was telling you, you do happen to look into that rearview a lot when you’re driving around all day like that. Hell, I like looking at myself. Is that so wrong? And this brings me to, well, that’s kind of what caused most of the crashes I got into with that truck. There were a couple that were really bad. The last one totally ruined that piece-of-shit 1989 Toyota pickup. I was rolling off the freeway off ramp at a pretty good clip. It was at a place where there a like five or six lanes merging into three lanes, and it was downhill, so I’m flying, just fucking flying through all this, all these cars trying to merge, and I’m changing lanes back and forth like a motherfucker trying to pass people, like I was playing Frogger at superspeed. It was like the Blitzkrieg was after me. I was jamming. Gunning it. Pedal to the metal and all that crap. Yeah. I was really motoring. And so, I look up in the rearview to do a quick check of my booger situation, and then blam, just like that, I go ramming into the rear end of some dumbfuck. And that’s that. The truck is fucked. I slow it down and slam it up against a curb. The thing is smoking like a chimney, and the hood is all bent up, and I just know I am like totally fucked. You know that feeling in your gut that like everything is just wrong and that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it? It was like my whole world just sort of collapsed. I sat there in the truck and kind of put my head in my hands and leaned against the steering wheel. Some jerkoff comes knocking on my window, and he’s like all fucking P.O.’d and shit, and he’s yelling at me, and saying stuff like, “Didn’t you see my brake lights?” and other stupid crap like that. I’m just kind of dazed. The seat belt held me in, so I wasn’t hurt or anything, but I was feeling really awful. The guy was really being an asshole, so I just kind of turned to him and said, “Hey buddy. Why don’t you take a flying fuck and get the hell out of my face.” And then I rolled the window all the way up. He got real pissed then. Man. He was fucking livid. Started screaming all kinds of shit and pounding on the glass. I flipped him off and put my head in my arms, leaning on the steering wheel again. It was kind of fun. I kind of just kept ignoring him and eventually he went away. I remember sitting there thinking about how tough my life was going to be from there on out. How bad things were going to be. Nothing was ever going to be good again, to be easy, and I’d have to suffer. I knew I’d have to suffer, and that I’d have to keep paying for my mistakes over and over again.

I decided suddenly to drive the truck back to the pharmacy. It wasn’t a short drive, probably about five miles. I just turned the keys, the thing jangled and sputtered to life like a wrecked lawnmower, and I got the hell out of there lickity-fucking-split. The guy whose car I’d rammed into was screaming at me and trying to come after me, but I jumped the center divider and flipped a bitch pretty damn quick, heading back towards the freeway onramp. The hood of the trunk was bent up, kind of crumpled too, and there was all kinds of steam coming from the engine, but I made it back on the freeway, though I did stay in the slow lane. The front bumper was hanging off, barely there, and I think one of the headlights was cracked. The truck was doing a lot of lunging and making some damn strange sounds, like banging and popping kind of sounds, and I could tell all of the water and many of the vital fluids had drained out of the thing. It was slow going. People were honking at me, flipping me off, and yelling at me to get the fuck off of the road, but I kept at it. It seemed really important that I get back to the pharmacy. I didn’t know what else to do. I was a long way from home. My car was back in the pharmacy parking lot. The stores around there had all closed, and I was sure my boss had gone home.

I often ended up being out on deliveries when the place closed. I’d usually get back late, park the truck in the lot, and slide my delivery log, the keys, the cash bag, and whatever brown bags of drugs I had left over through the mail slot in the side of the front door. It was funny seeing all that stuff lying there on the floor like that. That’s what the boss wanted me to do. I didn’t argue.

It was getting late, getting to that point when the day starts thinking about turning into night. I had one headlight on the truck that was working. It would have to do. I drove that beat-up piece-of-shit truck all the way back, smoking and dripping and clanking, the steering wheel shaking so bad I felt like I was having a epileptic fit, but I made it into the parking lot. I slammed the damn truck into a parking block and turned off the engine. Smoke was still bellowing from it. The thing was in bad shape. I knew it was wrecked. There was nothing I could do about it. I took a walk around to the back of the building. There were some dumpsters back there and it stunk bad. I threw the keys into some bushes, and heaved the clipboard onto the roof of the building. I put the cash bag in one of the dumpsters, and walked away back to my car, doing nothing but thinking about how hard my life was going to be from then on.