At the restaurant where I’m waiting, a mask-less father of two yells at the hostess carrying my delivery order to me that his mild wings are too hot, making a huge scene in the “socially distant” restaurant with people piled on top of each other. Little does he know, he is literally delaying America’s new economy by 30 seconds.
I’m not narcissistic enough to claim that my employment with food delivery apps like Doordash and Grubhub is the backbone of our economy, but it sure allows for a detailed perspective on the slightly reopened world that we continue to struggle to understand.
People in Virginia can now eat at their favorite restaurants again, and that’s great, until people realize they are clinging on to what is left of the past during the temporary present.
You can eat inside again, but long gone are the crowded bars and comforting craziness of a mob of happy people. It’s human nature, and seeing many restaurants struggle to contain people from coughing all over each other; is there really anyone to blame?
I sit in a parking lot for 24 minutes. Another album finished. I sanitize again. I get an order on the app. Seven dollars to drive four miles out of town. Maybe something to make my day slightly more interesting in this heat.
I accept the order. I stand in line. I see someone wearing a Virginia Tech hat. His name is Sam, or Sean, or something. Says he’s a rising freshman. I give him my condolences.
I pick up the order, balancing the recipient’s bucket of Sprite in my passenger seat, and I drop it off at their door wearing a bandana over my face like some great train robber of the past. Their video doorbell catches a glimpse of me walking away, but surely never my license plate in case they have a complaint.
Delivering food for people in the gig economy is a strange experience. You see people at reopened restaurants willing to catch a deadly virus over a stale baseball steak, and then you deliver those steaks to those who are willing to double the cost of their food order so they don’t catch the virus and you can make more than minimum wage. Then you sit and wait all over again.
The parallel is shocking, to say the least. It shows what we as humans value the most in our lives: people. People and food. It’s wonderful and dangerous and scary and cool. You tell someone they can’t have something for a while, and they start craving it to the point of delusion.
For college students of our generation, we were raised believing that we live dull lives, and that the good times are long gone, replaced with nostalgia and gentrification. Food delivery apps, albeit a small, insignificant slice of the change our country has seen in the past months, convey this feeling of emptiness. You see the world, and you see people; they’re different. They are quiet; their voices muzzled, which makes any conversation incredibly difficult for those with even the mildest impediment.
A lady in a car yells at me for parking in the street. Fair enough.
You can’t tell if restaurant staff are smiling or scowling at you as they hand you the food, although they are probably just hiding their frustration with the abundance of orders transported by many internship-less college students working for apps.
In the past, if you wanted to work while seeing the world, you would be a sailor, or a journalist, or maybe even a flight attendant. Now, you deliver food. There is no shame in it to make extra money during these times – I do it.
If you want to as well, at the very least you will get out of it is the ultimate perspective on human nature during what many are calling “The coronavirus halftime show” starring slightly less disease than last week. You may not get a lot of orders some days, and you may not get tipped, but being a part of the gig economy will give you a front-row seat to the show.