From October 2015 to August 2016, I was biding my time by delivering packages for Amazon Prime Now and people for Uber. One of my Uber passengers was an 87-year-old man who had been born and raised in San Diego, and had lived his entire life here. He immediately recognized an accent and we had a great conversation during the 10-minute ride, the tail end of which went something like this:
Uber Passenger: “Where are you from?”
Me: La Mesa
UP: No, originally. I’d guess Texas.
Me: Why Texas?
UP: The accent.
Me: Yes, Texas. But I’ve been here for 23 years. Surely I don’t still have a Texas accent!
UP: You do. Are you a Native?
Me: I don’t understand. I was born in Texas.
UP: But are you a Native?
Me: Okay. What’s a Native?
UP: A Native is someone who no longer GOES home because he IS home.
ME: I like that. I arrived in San Diego on April 27, 1993. By that definition, I have been a Native since April 28, 1993.
One of my many jobs right now is delivering packages for Amazon Prime Now. It’s a little different from Amazon Prime where packages are delivered at Amazon’s choosing by USPS, UPS, and FedEx. With Prime Now, YOU choose when you want your goods delivered. You can choose any two-hour window between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., seven days a week at no extra charge. If you need something in the next hour, you can pay $7.99 and get it within an hour of paying for it.
Amazon Prime Now also has partnerships with several local businesses, such as Sprouts Farmers Market, Bristol Farms (organic and whole foods), and Sprinkles cupcake factory (seems ironic to throw Sprinkles in there with Sprouts and Bristol Farms….).
I’ve been doing this since November 18, 2015, and it provides a lot of what I call “Drive Tales.” Following are a few.
- Whenever I deliver packages, I ask for a name to go with the order. Since no one has to sign for the order, this verifies that the correct person is receiving the order.
I delivered two packages full of groceries from Sprouts to a cute Craftsman home. A lady answered the door and I said “Sprouts delivery from Amazon” as she took the two bags.
I asked her, “Can you provide a name to go with this order?”
With a puzzled look on her face she said, “No, I can’t. I don’t know what this is.”
From behind her, a guy on the couch play computer games yelled, “It’s under John Doe!”
The lady turns around, looks at him, turns back around and says to me, quietly, “In 11 years of marriage this is the first time he’s gone grocery shopping.”
I’m thinking that Amazon Prime Now might have saved a marriage….
- I was training a new employee and we were following the GPS when we had to come to a stop at a fence. The GPS wanted us to go through the fence, over the cliff, into the canyon, and up the other side to that house that we could see. Unfortunately, in order to actually get to the house, we had to drive 1½ miles around the canyon.
GPS navigation technology is great but the best technology still resides in the upper part of our heads. Sadly, the GPS doesn’t recognize fences, walls, bollards, spike strips, canyons, or cliffs, so it’s not unusual for the Amazon app to tell us to stop at the side of a freeway to deliver the order. I wouldn’t have a problem with that if I didn’t have to climb that 150′ cliff….
- I wasn’t a real convert to whether or not delivering packages in 2-hour windows was a business model that could succeed. Then, one day, again while training a new employee, we delivered 18 bags of groceries to a house with a front door with several glass panes and a curtain. My first thought was, “Lazy. Go to the store!)
We rang the doorbell and could see the curtain moving and hear someone “playing” with the doorknob. I thought it was a child.
After several minutes the door finally opened. Standing there was a woman with twin newborn sons in her arms.
Now I understood. It’s not the product; it’s the person’s situation. I’ve delivered to many elderly who don’t drive anymore, people just home from the hospital, people on crutches or in wheelchairs, etc.
- How come the extraordinarily wealthy don’t have visible address numbers on their homes? Perhaps they don’t want to be found….
- In one huge, prestigious condominium complex I couldn’t find address numbers anywhere. I got out my 500 lumens flashlight and was shining the light all over the buildings trying to find addresses. Suddenly, three police cars pulled up and surrounded me. They wanted to know what I was doing. I said that I was delivering packages for Amazon and was simply trying to find address numbers. One of the officers said, “Oh. You’re not the first. They are up there” as he pointed to the top of the 4-story building. Yep, way up there where they are not visible to anyone….
- At another condominium complex the address numbers were there but….
The buildings were painted a dark gray. The address numbers were painted a shade of gray that was 1% lighter than the building. Yeah, those are really readable at night…..
- One condominium complex of eleven 6-story buildings doesn’t have address numbers. When I’m having difficulty finding an address, I can call the customer. I did that and told the customer, “Russel from Amazon here with your Sprouts order but I need help finding your condo.”
“Where are you?” she asked.
“I don’t know because there are no address numbers on the buildings.”
“Oh, yeah. Drive to the nearest street and then drive down to the nearest intersection and tell me where you are.”
“I’m here at McCartney Drive and Lennon Avenue.”
Oh. You went the wrong way. Make a U turn and drive to the other intersection. I’m in the building on the corner of Harrison Parkway and Starkey Boulevard.”
Why didn’t she just tell me that to begin with?
- One guy lived on the fifth floor of a 5-story building. I couldn’t find any elevators; quite unusual for a 5-story building.
I lugged two heavy bags up 10 flights of stairs, 2 flights per story. My knock on the door was answered by a 6′-5″ guy weighing about 300 pounds (think defensive lineman for a professional football team), standing there in his tightey whitey underwear briefs. After handing him the two packages I asked where the elevators were. They were in the building but they only connected to the garages.
“Could you let me into the garage to get these other six packages to you?”
“I’d have to get dressed. What’s the purpose of delivery if I have to get dressed?”
No, he didn’t let me into the garages, so I made three more trips up and down ten flights of stairs. With all that exercise, though, I didn’t feel guilty about eating a pizza that night….
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Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America
I have a new job!
It’s definitely not what I thought I would be doing at the age of 60½ but it meets my needs, pays very well, is fun, allows me to drive a lot (which allows me to find new and exciting things of which to take pictures), and allows me to listen to my vast music collection during the times that I work.
The company is a startup subcontractor to Amazon Prime Now, itself a startup here in San Diego.
I have had a 2-hour training session, a 4-hour training session, and a 7-hour training session. Today, I start full-time with four more 7-hour training sessions before Amazon Prime Now launches in San Diego on November 18.
Because I’m a subcontractor to the subcontractor, I can work as much as I want, any day I want, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and midnight.
The holiday season will affect my pay so to start I’ll probably be working 12 hour days, five days a week, and take advantage of the higher rate of pay for the holiday season.
Jim and I are a one-car family, so I will have to schedule my work around taking him to his job Sunday through Thursday at 1:15 and picking him up at 10:30. By the end of the year because of the holiday pay, we just might be a two-car family.
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Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America