Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thanks for the Tip

So it seems laid off Wall Street execs are finding jobs driving trucks and making deliveries. While I imagine the pay isn't comensurate to their previously lucrative jobs, I am curious as to what they might think of the perks. Perks, you ask? Well, yes, if you know where to look. Much depends on what you are delivering and to whom.

This got me reflecting back to when I spent time in high school and college delivering drugs to apartment houses, senior citizen complexes, and quiet suburban neighborhoods. No, not as a pusher or some drug mule.... just a teenage kid delivering those legal prescriptions for my job at the local drugstore.

Yet, that's not to say some who got their drugs delivered to their door legally with prescriptions weren't hooked on them. Some were, of course, whether by necessity or dire illness. At the store, we all knew who the suspected addicts were, if their huge drug files didn't give them away, their glassy eyes did. It was those customers, the ones who seemingly were able to snag new doctors to supply their pills or find ways to get hooked on pain pills, sedatives, or sleeping pills --pain or dire illness, notwithstanding. So we got to be detectives, the pharmacist and I. It was fun, hell, it beat calculus. Also, I learned some adults lied and others were real good at stretching the truth.

It was an early lesson in life.

So I wonder now how those Wall street executives, enclosed in a cocoon of life as it were, should react should they again be forced to deal with a generalized public and not the ones concerned with the latest mortgage-backed derivatives. Delivering securities to investors is one thing, delivering pills to the sick, the elderly, and the addicted is another. Even as a kid, the delivery person gets to see the different socio-economic strata on a level playing field. It is a window into how people live, their crutches, weakenesses, illnesses, addictions. You see people at their good and bad, through tragedy, recovery, maintenance, and sometimes death. Sometimes I wished I was delivering pizzas, certainly the tips would have been better, but looking back even this had it had its perks.

Clearly, I still remember some of my regular customers. The woman with emphysema who needed that extra ten minutes to walk to door. The first time I made her delivery, I left too soon thinking she wasn't home. Often, she would be so out of breath when she got to the door, I would have to sign for her. Then there was the Indian woman who could never find her purse because her electricity was cut off but would insist she would "pay next time". The elderly who called needing help opening their pill bottles. The sports agent, a good tipper, who had a hollywood pool in the backyard, but was later indicted for defrauding his clients. The welfare woman caring for her retarded son who everytime would hand me a quarter as a tip and each time I would hand it back to her saying "Keep it, you can use it more than me." She would smile and bless me. We both seemed to get something out of the ritual.

There was the elderly Jewish woman who would tell me stories about her life in Russia and talk about her grandchildren "They're doctors, you know?" she said, waiting for my reaction with a pause. I would always nod, trying to look impressed, though I had heard it a hundred times. The friendly couple, always smiling who would invite me in to show me pictures of their recent trips and want me to stay for lunch. The family whose home reeked of a stench so bad that it still makes me sick just thinking about it. The girl on the soap-opera who lived nearby and got her "pills" delivered. The customers who thought you should also pick up their drycleaning. "It's right next door to your store...would you mind?" or asked you do to do some chore.

Then there was the woman I discovered passed out by the door, who required a call to you see, the list goes on. But it was the grumps, and the people who smiled, the never-tippers, and the over-tippers, the shut-ins who saw you as the only face that day or that week, and the regular customers whose life you got to know and made you feel, as a kid, you were contributing in some minor way. It was small town in the modern world.

So, while I don't imagine any Wall streeter ever willingly giving up his day job to hit the delivery road, although it might not hurt as a refresher course in lost humanity. Something severely lacking in the world of the fast buck. I imagine that in their driven necessity to conquer and make loads of money, they may come to discover a connection to a new world of real people, living real lives. Yeah, the tips aren't great, but some tips last a lifetime, and that might not be a bad thing.

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