The Nineties: Alternative Rock and Pizza Pt. 1
The Soundtrack to My '90s, Pizza Delivery Driver Job
Most of the time I write about movies, however, today I wanted to take a break and write about my favorite style of music; which you can probably guess from the title of the article: ’90s alternative rock.
Before ’90s rock, my musical world revolved around scores: Star Wars, Jaws, Aliens, Back to the Future, Predator 2, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Total Recall… you name it, I probably listened to it. I listened to all those scores with rare moments in between of listening to Top 40 radio.
So, what happened in the ’90s?
In June 1994, I got a job delivering pizza after I returned from my first year of college. I did my first year of college at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, UT. At the other end of the hall from me was a guy named Al. Before Cedar City, Al had delivered pizza in either Reno or Elko, but I forget where exactly. Anyway, Al always had the most awesome stories to tell; they were really funny and adventurous. They kept me on the edge of my seat, and were filled with thrills, chills, intrigue, and even sex.
Also, there was adult language.
“If you don’t swear before you deliver pizza,” Al told me, “you will definitely, no bullshit, absolutely fucking swear after you deliver pizza. Goddammit!”
He wasn’t joking.
It took only a couple of sessions with Al before I realized I wanted to be able to tell these kinds of stories. More than that, I wanted to live these kinds of stories. So, the summer after my first year of college, when I went back home to Las Vegas, I took up delivering pizza for Pizza Hut.
I would never be the same again.
One thing I would learn over the next five years, when it comes to pizza, is that anything is possible.
My dial was set to the now defunct 103.5 The Edge (KEDG). They were a new alternative station at the time, and they played the hits better than anyone else; supplying the soundtrack for my pizza delivery years.
In no particular order, these are probably my top pizza delivery stories, accompanied by the song I most remember playing on the radio at the time.
It is important to note that NONE OF THIS is made up.
When I was in the store, the manager I remember working most with was Clint who loved to blast Candlebox. “Can we have a Metallica close?” I would ask. “No,” he would say, and continued,”but we can have a Candlebox close!”
This job would prove to be everything I had ever wanted it to be.
Sometimes you didn’t even need to leave the store for something to happen.
After all, people had to call in first to place their order for pizza, and the smartest person at the house was never the one who got to call.
As it turned out, you didn’t even need to leave the store to have an adventure.
To wit: Every phone call started the same way. “Thank you for calling Pizza Hut, Stewart and Nellis. Will this be for pickup or delivery?”
If they wanted to come in and pick it up, we took their phone number and their name— that was it. (Why their phone number if they were coming in? If several hours went by and they didn’t show up, we’d give them a call to find out what happened. There was a hundred other reasons why we’d need their number, but that was the most basic. Also, the computer stored what kind of pizzas people would order. We’d recite their past order and ask if they wanted to order the same one again this time.)
Most of the time the carryout orders were pretty easy.
It was during the delivery orders that the adventures began.
If they wanted a delivery, then we had to make sure they were within our delivery area. “What are you nearest cross streets?” (we’d ask).
If their cross streets were in our delivery area, we went ahead and took their order. If their cross streets were not in our delivery area, we gave them the number of the delivery unit they needed to call.
Most people simply said thanks and hung up.
That was how we did it.
One night one guy didn’t want to play that way. “Actually, I’m on my last quarter. Can you take my order, call the right store for me, and place my order with them?”
Trying to get a free line to dial out on a busy Friday or Saturday night, as it was when I was on the phone with this guy, was next to impossible. I would go back-and-forth on the customer service I gave this man, but it honestly didn’t sound like he was on his last quarter. How could I tell by the way he sounded? I don’t know.
Just a hunch.
“I’m sorry, sir,” I said. “We’re really busy. I can’t do that. All the phone lines are flooded.”
“Fine,” the guy said. “I’ll just call Dominoes.”
“How?” I asked. “You’re on your last quarter.”
The guy hung up— I knew my hunch had proved true.
Sometimes, though, they were in such a hurry to place their order (and sometimes their English wasn’t the best) that they just plain ignored the question.
The following is a conversation that took place more than once:
“What are you nearest cross streets?”
“Pepperoni and cheese.”
“No, I need your cross streets.”
“Uh, regular crust.”
“No! What are the nearest major cross streets?”
“And bring peppers and cheese.”
Sometimes we actually got them to give us their cross streets.
Other times they just hung up, and eventually they would call back wondering where their pizza was.
“We called like an hour ago. The pizza is still not here.”
“Okay, let me look up your order. What’s your phone number?”
“Pepperoni and cheese.”
You could think asking someone for their phone number would be a simple request, however, it was not.
“I don’t know!” one guy told me, shouting. “I don’t call myself!”
He was actually angry.
After we got their phone number, if they were in our system, we confirmed their address and proceeded with the order.
If they were not in our system, then we had to get their address.
“Okay, can I get your address?” I’d ask.
Most of the time they’d give us their address.
Not all the time.
“Eastgate Apartments,” one guy told me.
“Okay, but can you give me the address please.”
“I don’t know!” the guy told me, shouting. “I’m in Eastgate Apartments! You’re the delivery people. You should know!”
Some people honestly did not know their own address.
I wanted to ask them, “How do you get mail?”
Once you got to the part where you actually took their order, it was all pretty simple; not anything too exciting. Well, there was the stuffed crust pizza, which not all of our customers understood as stuffed crust. “Crust crust,” they would call it.
I knew what they meant.
At any rate, as humorous as those might be, they paled to what could happen when you actually left the store.
Halloween, Fourth of July, New Years, Super Bowl, Mike Tyson, The OJ Parade, and The Seinfeld Finale:
There were a few nights of the year when people were either glued to their sets or otherwise just did not want to cook, and/or when the adventures or the potential for them increased dramatically.
The OJ Parade, as I call it, was my first Friday night delivering pizza, which was June 17, 1994. I remember listening to Green Day’s Longview album as I worked that night. The entire nation was glued to their TV screens, and they all wanted pizza. I missed a moment of the chase here and there, but mostly I caught all of it.
I made a fortune that night (by the way).
When the Seinfeld finale aired, most people ordered so that the delivery would get there either before or after the show was on. I missed all of it, but by all accounts no one was pleased with it. They all said it was terrible.
When I finally saw it myself, I agreed with them.
Super Bowl and New Years were always big delivery days, too, but never as big as you would imagine. Pizza Hut would always schedule a few commercials at key points during the big game, and we got some business, but there was always way too many drivers. New Years was more or less the same thing. The only excitement came from the guys who ordered from the bar, and then bought you a shot or a beer. Once in a while, you’d end up at some place and you knew you wouldn’t be able to get to anywhere else before midnight, so you’d spend New Years there. Wherever you were, someone invited you in or bought you a drink. Everyone was just happy.
Mike Tyson fights were also big money nights.
Say what you want about him, he drew a crowd.
The man had a good publicity machine.
Everyone was always pissy when the main title fight would only last ninety seconds, but hey, you can’t have everything.
Fourth of July was crazy even though there weren’t that many deliveries because most people chose to barbecue (I don’t blame them). However, during the deliveries that I did take, I found myself dodging fireworks and firecrackers. Going down one street with my windows down, a firecracker actually shot through one window and then out the other. I don’t know how I didn’t get burned. Another time, a firework landed on my passenger seat. I used the pizza bag and threw it out of the window. The seat got burned a little bit, and when I turned around, all the kids who had shot it had scattered.
Halloween was another night for antics.
In the days before everyone had a cell phone glued to their hand, I had to hunt for a payphone to call a customer when a problem arose. When I got to the payphone, I put the phone to my ear and suddenly I felt a wet – a wet something. When I pulled the phone away, I saw someone had put ketchup all over the phone.
…I was the one who used it next.
It was on Halloween one year – my first one – that I was racing to get a delivery to the house, and I took a dip too fast and bottomed out. It put a hole in my oil pan, cracked my rack and pinion, took my power steering, and nearly broke the torsion bar. Luckily, my brother was in auto shop at his high school and they fixed the car.
As it was an auto shop class, the car never quite ran right again, but it ran well enough for me to trade it in for a used car that would last me six months.
However, that is another story, and it’s not for here.
Like I said, I delivered for Pizza Hut, and sometimes we had encounters with drivers from other pizza delivery places. Say, like Dominoes. One day, a rival driver almost caused me to get into a wreck because he almost ran me off the road. Understandably, I was more than a bit pissed off, but I stifled it because I had a pizza to deliver.
After delivering the pizza, I was on my way back to my car, and who showed up?
The same rival driver.
He laughed at my sight.
“What’s up, man?” he said.
I didn’t say anything.
My attention was focused on his car.
It was in the customer’s driveway (which was a no-no for Pizza Hut drivers).
The windows were down.
The engine was running.
It was like this moment of revenge that had been sent to me.
I rolled up his windows and locked his car doors. All of them.
Then, I went on my way.
Nothing ever came of that.
That’s enough for now. I’ll continue this trip down my musical memory lane next time.
Until then, keep on rocking!