I guess I have been lucky enough to have spent my pizza career working in a city where years can go by without a murder and thefts don’t usually involve a gun. I have had some minor scares that was possibly the result of paranoia from being in a certain part of town and perhaps there really was no threat. This one was different.
Five or six years ago I delivered to a place where you turn a corner from busy respectable street and are magically transported into a very scummy area just by turning a corner. By this time I was allready a hardened pizza veteran and wasn’t easily rattled. When I pulled up to the building I realized I had never been in it before in all my years delivering. A pizza delivery guy develops the ability to remember these things for some reason. It was an ancient structure, judging by the architecture at least 120 years old. It appeared to be about a 20 unit building and was pretty beat up on the outside but similar to many other buildings in the area. It appeared to have the original old fashioned wood door that felt like it weighed hundreds of pounds.
The inside hallway looked like the inside of a building you would see in a war torn city, no exaggeration. You could see where huge chunks of plaster had fallen from the walls and left on the floor. I was knee deep in old boards and garbage in some spots. There was one flickering bulb hanging from wire on the ceiling barely enough to navigate this obstacle course. This was the most decrepit building I have seen that people actually lived in.
I was put on edge by these surroundings and was further entertained by each door I came to opening a few inches and people staring at me as if I shouldn’t be there. Some of the doors opened wider and I would get the pleasure of seeing two or three people staring at me, all of them looking angry. The interiors of the apartments weren’t any better than the hallways. People opened their doors and stared at me with either blank or angry faces from about eight or nine different apartments on my my way to the third floor. I wondered why so many people would do this, do they wait by the door in case there might be someone to watch. Are they looking for cops? There were the aromas of pot and hash coming from most doors but that was to be expected in most scummy apartments. On many other occasions I have seen other people peek out their doors as I walked through an apartment building but in most cases it is a nosy old lady who has nothing better to do than concern herself than to watch traffic in hallways.
By the time I reached the room I was looking for I was expecting to be stabbed and robbed. The fellow in the apartment dissappointed me, he wasn’t aggressive but was a bit nervous or jumpy or something. He signed for the credit card and I went on my merry way. The only thing that was really odd about his apartment was that it was bathed in red light. I have a feeling that he wasn’t developing pictures in there, who knows what was going on. As he shut his door I noticed it was a metal door and not a flimsy fake wood door like you see in most apartments. I’m assuming that a large number of doors had been kicked in prior to installing the metal doors on all the apartments.
The trip downstairs was pretty much a repeat of the trip upstairs, doors opening and people staring at me. This time a couple of people came right out into the hallway to stare at me. All I could think of was that everyone one of these people are going to assume that I have a big pile of cash on me and its quite possible that I did, I don’t remember. It appeared that the people were angrier on the trip down, maybe because I had the nerve to walk through the hallway again forcing them to look out their doors a second time. They all looked out of it, you don’t have to have a conversation with someone to know this. Every person I saw looked like they were hopped up on something.
As I reached the top of the steps that led to the main floor two men from the apartment at the bottom of the stairs emerged from their room, stood in the hall and stared at me during my trip down the steps. At this point I realized that it was a straight line from the bottom of the stairs to the front door which myself or somebody else had left open and that my car was straight out from that and also with the door open. I didn’t remember leaving my car door open but considering the place I was at was just happy it was still there. The two fellows were a little too close to the bottom of the stairs for my liking and with an unobstructed straight line from me to my car I was tempted to sprint down the stairs and dive into the car. If the two fellows got in my may I should have enough momentum to plow through them. I managed to keep my cool, put on my “don’t fuck with me face” and gave a very slight nod to the fellows as I walked calmly by and calmly got in the car. I then drove away at top speed as if the building was coming to get me.
Later that night I asked one of the other drivers if he knew anything about that place. The guy I asked was somewhat of a shady character himself so I guessed he would know something about it. He did know of the place and described it as a crackhouse and a flophouse and he said he wouldn’t go in there, and he’d never had to go there with an order. I then realized if he wouldn’t go in there that I should have been even more scared for the guy I asked was pretty scary himself. Perhaps in a larger or a rougher city pizza drivers may see places like this every third delivery but it sure freaked me out.
That delivery also came back to haunt me because about a month later a call came in from Visa that there had been a puchase from a stolen credit card. The manager went back throught the records and matched the amount to that delivery. It was no surprise. What that restaurant would do would just ask for the credit card number over the phone and just take the slip out to be signed. You never actually had to see the card. At that particular time there had been a rash of stolen credit numbers going through that store and the manager got the bright idea that the drivers had to go back to the people’s houses and collect cash from the offenders. I didn’t think much of this policy and never even attempted to collect any money. He said I should go back to that address and collect for the amount from the stolen card. I think I laughed for about five minutes and then I told him I would pay him double the amount if he would go down and get it back himself.