The Pizza Man Always Rings Twice

True tales of debauchery, rage, and revenge from six veterans of the pie-delivery trade

So this is the situation: You are famished and dead tired from your long day of widget making. You can barely summon the energy to walk to the kitchen. The fridge is bereft of provisions except for a motley assortment of condiments. In the crisper, there is an ancient-looking Tupperware container. You detect streaks of color through the translucent plastic--sickly hues of green and blue like the ones you see on a bruised ankle three days after a bad accident. You shudder, and very nearly lose your appetite. But the hunger won't let go. It never does with gluttons like you.

So you lunge for the phone, hit speed dial, and order delivery from your favorite pizza place. Thirty minutes later--a blink, really, just time for a toke, a Coke, and a sitcom--and the pizza guy is banging at your door. He is holding a steaming-hot pizza bag. Soon you will be feasting, and the world's woes--or at least your woes, which are really all you're worried about--will recede like the tides. But wait. There is a problem. You must pay the delivery guy. Where the fuck is your wallet? You can't find it. You can't find your checkbook, either. So the pizza guy just stands there and waits.

Eventually, you discover your wallet wedged between the sofa cushions, right next to the missing TV remote. A two for one. Good for you. Now, finally, to the transaction. You notice that the pizza guy looks irritated. It's cold outside, but his hands are bare: He can't make change while wearing gloves. You don't know that. You don't care.

Adam Turman

By the time you finally extract the portrait of Andrew Jackson from your wallet, you glance outside and spot the driver's vehicle. It's the usual rust-bucket jalopy--a single blinking flasher, sputtering engine, side-view mirror dangling like an eye plucked from the socket. You experience a moment of compassion. You think: What a loser. There but for the grace of God go I. So you tip the guy a dollar. And by the time you've planted yourself in front of the TV, you have completely forgotten the delivery guy.

But the pizza guy hasn't forgotten you. In fact, as he wends his way back to the shop for the next run, he is mentally aggregating multiple aspects of your persona--profiling you.

He knows more about you than you will ever know about him. There are the tangibles: your name, your address, your phone number. And there are the countless intangibles. If he has worked in the racket for a few years--and a decade's labor on the pizza road is not so unusual--he has glimpsed the insides of thousands of homes and apartments. He has borne witness to unimaginable squalor. He has breathed in the stink from your unemptied garbage and your beige urine-soaked carpets. He has gawked at the regal excess of your Lake of the Isles mansion. He has made countless numbing visits to your bleak, ill-lit shithole apartment. He has even caught the scent of the hydroponic marijuana you furtively cultivate under grow lights in the basement.

You should know this: If you stiff the pizza man, he will hate you. There are Nazis. There are baby rapists. And there is that vast class of indifferent, callous swine who stiff the pizza man. Same shit, different name. On the other hand, if you do him up right--prompt exchange, $5 tip--the pizza man will sing your praises to his fellow drivers. If you tip him extravagantly--say, $20 or more on a large order--he will personally arrange an audience with the pope to make the case for your beatification. To the pizza man, the tip is the thing.

In the popular imagination, the pizza man is many other things. He is the punch line to loser jokes. The pimply-faced teen working his first job. The reckless driver who mows down the glaucoma-stricken nun in the crosswalk. The stoner who has lost all ambition. The hapless crime victim whose sorry demise gets 30 seconds on the 10:00 p.m. news. Sometimes, though less commonly, the pizza man is celebrated. In Neal Stephenson's cult cyber-punk novel Snow Crash, he is the hero. The Deliverator, as he is called, works in a failing future America in which pizza delivery constitutes a last remaining arena of national competence. And, finally, there is the pizza man as sexual buccaneer--the stud who stops by for impromptu encounters in countless porn movies and Penthouse Forum letters.

As with so many stereotypes, there are nuggets of truth embedded in all of the above. Last month, City Pages sat down with six of Minneapolis's most prolific pizza drivers to talk about their livelihood: the day-to-day realities of the work, the legendary customers, the rank indignities and, of course, drugs and sex. Over stiff drinks--and on condition of anonymity, to keep these modern-day deliverators from running afoul of their bosses or the law--the pizza men shared their stories. One thing became apparent: The average pizza driver is the consummate profiler. All things considered, he is probably better at his job than the average cop, lawyer, psychiatrist, or other professional profiler. When the pizza man fucks with you, he's playing for keeps.

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