Riding with the homeys (home delivery, that is)

In the city we take overnight delivery for granted. We’re near airports and encoiled by dense networks of highways and paved roads and our purple, brown or yellow-liveried servants shuttle almost unnoticed amongst us, leaving our packages of must-have goods. The further you get from the big cities, however, the more those highway arteries turn into veins, moving the lifeblood of commerce through their communities. If you get far enough out, those veins even become capillaries – narrow county roads, some paved, others often covered (mostly) with gravel, some hemmed in by brush and branches. The one thing they all have in common is that there’s someone waiting at the end of each one for that missing auto part, box of seeds, or froo-froo underwear.

My brother Jeff is an independent contractor for one of the big delivery services, and he services several rural communities in Missouri. He started with one truck a few years ago, and has expanded by buying two other trucks and hiring sub-contractors to drive additional routes. The newer trucks are diesel-powered Mercedes Sprinters, comparatively easy to operate and much more economical to run. My brother still drives his original one-ton Chevy truck with the big box. His route averages about 260 miles per day, the truck has more than 260,000 miles on it, making it a truck of 1,000 days. The miles aren’t the only things on it; a not-so-fine layer of dust from the gravel roads coats every surface inside the cab, and long scratches groove the sides and top of the truck so densely it looks like a weaving pattern. The branches grow thick and close to the “roads” in most of the places he goes. The outside edge of the driver’s seat of the truck, brushed by Jeff’s cheeks 80 or 90 times a day as he slides out, is ripped and the foam padding is practically gone. As the boss, Jeff could certainly keep one of the Mercedes for himself, but this Chevy has to operate at peak efficiency if he’s going to make any money, and no one is going to watch over this old truck as attentively as he will.

I meet my brother Tuesday morning at his terminal to ride along for the day. He already has his day’s deliveries stacked behind the truck, organized by community and order of delivery; there’s no point making a long day even longer by not being organized. Before loading up, however, we first have to replace the passenger-side mirror, which was lost to a tree on the previous run. Experienced in this task, Jeff has the new mirror in place in less than five minutes. Then we start loading; I’m hoping my extra set of hands will make the process go faster, but I feel more like I’m in Jeff’s way as he hands boxes up and directs me to where they should be placed. I should have played more Tetris when I was younger. I look at the large lettering on the side of one box: “Fra – geel – ay,” I say outloud. “Must be from Italy!”

8 thoughts on “Riding with the homeys (home delivery, that is)

  1. You forgot about the part where I was faster than a speeding bullet, lept tall buildings in a single bound, and more powerful than a locomotive.

    Honestly, I blush. Seeing my name on your blog gave me a warm feeling inside…..could have been gas though.

  2. Uncle Ben,

    Yep that’s me! I’m his only brother. This cybertown ain’t big enough for more than two of us.

  3. Another yep re the “gassy reality” (and I haven’t eaten any vegetables since last week)!

    ALMOST persuaded Tiger Lilly to pull my finger once, but the Mall Diva managed to wrap her arms around TL at the last spit-second screaming something about sacrificing a beaded wrist sweater for the common good…..

  4. Tiger almost pulled your finger? It’s good that Diva is teaching her a little wisdom, “Never pull the uncle’s gas ignition finger!”

  5. As much as I’d love to jump in and join the finger-pulling discussion (loved the wrist sweater reference, I miss that) I’m going to segue here for a moment and comment on something I just noticed: the ‘On the Nightstand’.

    “A Peace to End All Peace: the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the modern Middle East” by David Fromkin. NW–is that what you call light reading at the end of your day to help you relax and drift off to sleep.

    Man, I think I have the Reader’s Digest and a crossword puzzle on my nightstand. If I had a book like that on my nightstand it would simply be acting as a paperweight.

    Hope you’re having a great holiday with loved ones. P.S. I just did a post on a story I saw re: Tightwad MO, are you anywhere near there? I’m gonna drive through on our next trip to TX and buy a souvenir. They must have t-shirts: Move to MO and be a Tightwad.

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