For those of us whose cooking skills begin and end with a microwave, another necessary month of shelter-in-place probably means ordering a lot of delivery. And in this time of social distancing – now more than ever – the essential service delivery drivers provide has become more apparent than ever.
This week on Sung’s Garage, we wanted to shine a light on James and Vincent, two such Southern Californians ferrying our food and goods in these tumultuous times. We’re gonna get to know these two essential workers; familiarize ourselves with their vroom-vrooms; and maybe even pick up a tip or two about handling our future deliveries.
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The first of our two guests today is the quintessentially old-school James, who’s been working for one of the two major delivery companies for a staggering 20 years. And by his account, this company is “one of the great companies to work for.”
The company offers their workers face masks and latex/rubber gloves to assist them in handling packages. As no one is certain how long Covid-19 can survive on a given surface, the company’s weekly disinfecting of workers’ vehicles (“from the cab on to the cargo area”) goes a long way in making them feel safe, if James’s reaction is any indication.
Our second guest, Vincent, finds himself on the other side of the tracks so to speak. The company he works for is one of the preeminent food delivery services, yet their treatment of their employees would not betray this fact.
“They pay a lot of lip service, but they aren’t actually providing the goods that we need,” laments Vincent. While the company technically provides them with personal protective equipment, the employees still have to pay the $5 flat-rate shipping (every single week!) to obtain the PPE. To add insult to injury, the website by which they are meant to order the equipment isn’t even particularly functional.
I hate to disappoint anyone, but neither of our guests owns K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider. James is, however, in a relationship with his 2003 Ford Explorer.
James’s second baby (his wife, he emphasized, is his first), his truck rolls with aftermarket wheels, LED lights in the brake panels, and some Flowmasters. He modified the interior with some wood, lending the space a very “OG feel” in Sung’s eyes.
Additionally, the Explorer – which has 280,000 miles on it! – has been ceramic coated, which makes it harder for contaminants to stick to the paint. The process takes 16 hours but comes highly recommended by James.
Vincent’s ride, on the other hand, is a 2004 Acura RSX named “Serena,” after one of his closest friends.
He’s made no changes to the car since he purchased it two years ago, though he has previously contemplated following in the grand tradition of the rice rockets of yore. “So when I got this car actually, in typical gay fashion, I created a Pinterest board of all the mods I wanted to do,” Vincent enthused.
His instincts at the time gravitated towards some nice old rims and an entirely black paint job, modding out the bumper with a lower, more pointed lip. Though Vincent debated whether or not he would remove the Serena’s spoiler, he seemed pretty set on some underglow lights for his seats.
Advice is always best straight from the horse’s mouth, and James dropped some general advice for all of us quarantining at home when receiving deliveries.
“From what I’ve seen personally […], they’re trying to limit the contact between courier and customer […] to limit the spread of the virus,” James explains. The seasoned driver advised using gloves when handling packages, adding that spraying the outside of the box with Lysol will help minimize bringing any possible traces of the Coronavirus into the house.
These protocols highlight the risks essential workers like James and Vincent take when bringing you your orders – risks that may be easy to overlook. So when companies like the one Vincent works for use customers’ in-app tips as a reason to pay drivers less, the degree to which these folx are undervalued becomes quickly apparent.
In order to circumvent this sort of injustice, both Vincent and James recommend that consumers tip their drivers cash, which the drivers do not have to report. For those wary of dealing with dirty bills, Vincent suggested asking for drivers’ Venmo accounts in the delivery notes, allowing people to send electronic tips directly instead.
And, as always, a big shout to the frontline workers out there supporting our societies during the Coronavirus pandemic – all the nurses, doctors, and scientists toiling day and night to keep us safe. Putting out the biggest of big loves to all of you!