What I Learned From a Year at Pizza Hut
Like many during these tough economic times, the summer of 2009 I resigned to taking up a second job to meet the rising demand of bills and the decrease in income. My wife had just lost her job as a work-from-home sales rep. and the fact that she was half way into her first trimester put me into panic mode. We decided it would be best for my wife to rest at home during her pregnancy. Besides, who was going to hire someone knowing they were going to quit in a few months?
It should be understood, however, that I was all but excited about this additional employment opportunity. “A second job?!” I thought to myself. “This is crazy! I’m 24, have a college degree, a wife, and countless other responsibilities. How in the world am I going to manage all of this while working two jobs?!” Those thoughts and doubts were gone almost as soon as they came. You see, ever since my wife and I were dating we had made it a clear goal to give her the option of staying at home full-time once she had kids. This second job thing wasn’t just a way to pay bills, it was a way to keep my wife at home fulfilling the role she had always dreamed of. So, any doubt or fear or worry I had about being burned-out quickly went out the window because I knew I had to do whatever it took to make this happen.
It wasn’t long before I found a great part-time job that would work around my full-time schedule, give me the opportunity to earn more than minimum wage, and was close to home: Delivery driver; Pizza Hut Corporation; Clackamas, Oregon. I can’t say I was thrilled with the title, proud of my work, or looking forward to adding this position to the ole’ resume, but it was a means to an end and that was all I needed right now. So, I donned my uniform, polished my car-topper, and wore out my GPS. A year and a half later, I have survived and am chronicling my thoughts about my time spent at Pizza Hut.
1. The position of pizza delivery driver is sorely underrated. From barking dogs, hidden apartment buildings that I swore needed a treasure map to find, littered front porches that held about a year’s worth of garbage to non-tipping patrons, I feel like I can say I’ve seen just about everything. I once made a delivery to a trailer park where the customer offered to tip me in weed. I politely declined. I’m not going to say that being a pizza hut driver is the toughest job out there; spending over half your shift on the road listening to the radio ain’t half bad. And I also won’t say that most of the delivery guys out there are doing their part for the P.R., but I will say that there are a lot of under-appreciated jobs out there. From the pregnant girl who hands you your burritos at Taco Bell, to the working mother that wipes down your table at Denny’s, to the freaked out father-to-be who delivers your pizza, everyone has a story and everyone deserves appreciation for the work they do.
2. You’re never too educated to roll up your sleeves. When I first started at Pizza Hut, I was almost embarrassed to tell my co-workers my background; the fact that I had graduated college and worked for a successful printing company. I took on more of a spectator role at first. I watched people, their work ethic, listened to their stories. What I saw were a bunch of people who were just trying to make it. I’m not going to say that having a degree and a good job made me ignorant or arrogant, but I think I got a little rusty at good old-fashioned manual labor. There’s something about doing the dishes in scalding hot water until your hands are both blistered and pruned that build character. It makes you appreciate what you have. Did I enjoy it? Heck no. Did I regain a proper understanding of what it means to earn your keep? You bet. On the opposite spectrum, there were times I wanted to flaunt my degree all over the place. When a customer complained that their pizza was just a little too crispy (when it wasn’t) or when a manager made me scrub a perfectly spotless floor (when it was), I felt like saying, “Don’t you know that I went to college? I’m most-likely more educated than you ever will be, and here you are thinking you know the best way to do things!” Wow, typing that just now was hard to do. I can’t believe how arrogant I was at times, how often I wanted to use my status as a way of avoiding responsibility. The point is that there is no amount of education that can spare you from life’s humility.
3. The salt of the earth are some good people. I know most of the customer-related stories I have told so far have carried a negative tone. The fact is that there are a lot of good people out there. Regular working-class, low-income folks who get what life is all about. I had the fortunate privilege of my store being sandwiched between a very affluent neighborhood and a very poor neighborhood. The comparison was staggering. Most of the time I got stiffed (food service slang for “no tip”) was in the wealthy neighborhood. I’m not trying to make any sort of political statement, but it seemed as if those living off less income understood my situation better. They knew I wasn’t striving for a career in food delivery services, and many of them took it upon themselves to bless me with their hard-earned money. Last Christmas I was doing a delivery run in a terrible snow storm. My son was about a week old at the time, and my mind was not on my work. As I approached the run-down apartment, I was greeted by the warm smile of a woman who must have been at least 150 years old. “Come in! Get warm!” as she motioned for me out of the cold and into her entry way. “How are you?” she asked. “I’m well. I’m excited for my shift to end so I can go home and see my son. He was born a week ago on Christmas Eve.” “Oh my goodness! God Bless you!” Without hesitation the old lady, who definitely did not have much to spare, pulled out a $20 bill for a tip. I’m not sure her total was even $20, so when she handed me the money I was speechless. Like I mentioned before, avoiding any political statements, I have a great appreciation and respect for those who work hard for their money and give without hesitation.
4. It was worth it. I will never forget the evening. I had a rough night of deliveries. I think I walked away with about $12 worth of tips for my entire shift. I was in a crummy mood. I walked up to the front door of my house and as I opened the door, saw my wife on the ground playing with my baby boy. It was in that moment that I realized why I was doing what I was doing. To see the smile on my wife’s face and know that she didn’t have to worry about money or being away from her baby while she was at work was priceless. I have recently decided to put more time and effort into my graphic design company,enrichdesign.us, along with my full time job at my printing company (www.bridgetown.com), and have made the decision to stop working at Pizza Hut. It’s a bit of a leap of faith, as anyone in graphic design can tell you the work is anything but steady, but I am looking forward to building something I am passionate about. I am proud of the fact that when my son gets older I can tell him I worked two jobs so he could be at home with his mom, that I did whatever it took to keep things together and get the bills paid. I’m proud of my wife for encouraging me all those times that I wanted to quit or blow-up at a thankless customer. If life calls for you to give a little bit more than you have, to do a little bit more than you want, and to try a little bit more than you think it’s worth, don’t ignore it; it could be your greatest education.Tags: delivery driver, economy, pizza hut, recession