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The Delivery Life – Finding a New Normal

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This is the start of a series that's a bit out of the normal for this site.

But let's face it. There is no normal. Not any more. Especially not in delivery. Maybe someday there will be a new normal.

I'm usually talking about the business of doing delivery. I encourage couriers to embrace their role as business owners.

There was such a profound feeling yesterday while I was out doing deliveries. It was overwhelming to the point I had to go home early. And I just felt I needed to write about it. No one may ever read this, but that's okay. It's not to get reads or clicks or an audience or anything like that. This is totally selfish. It's the stuff I feel the NEED to write.

So, for a little while anyway, I'll share some of my experience. So if you're looking for the business and nuts and bolts stuff, you'll at least have fair warning when you see the title lead with The Delivery Life.

Image of the world wearing a mask. I used this image in a previous article, but it just kinda says it all right now, doesn't it?
I know, I already used this image in an earlier article. But it just kinda says it all right now.

Life happens, and boy is it happening

Everything changed this last week, didn't it? We knew about Coronavirus, we saw it starting to spread through the U.S. But yeah, it sure hit the fan last week when they started cancelling everything. March Madness, gone. Concerts, church services, movies in the theatre, all either gone or severely limited.

And the reality of it hit me. I may be seeing more of it than most because I'm out there every day, I'm going from restaurant to customer to restaurant.

There's a harsh reality in that. I'm at risk. And yet, I'm wondering if I'm needed that much more because of all this? Is this all shifting from a business to a sense of mission? Or is it something I just need for myself because I'm the worst at being hemmed in.

Things seem different but the same.

I was asked yesterday what I'm seeing that's different. Has there been anything crazy?

Honestly, the main differences I've been seeing up til now have been little, subtle, and yet very telling. I'm seeing a much greater level of gratitude when I show up with food for people. Maybe it's that I'm the closest thing to human contact they get. That kind of thing…. that can be very real, you know? And people keep their distance. People are taking this seriously, and that's a good thing.

But, until this morning, things hadn't changed that much.

As of 40 minutes ago, that's very different in my city. As of 8:00 AM this morning, Denver has ordered all restaurants and bars to close. Only takeout and delivery will be allowed.

My first thought: More business

I told my wife yesterday morning that I expected the city would announce that today or tomorrow (which would now be yesterday or today but since I said it then, well, you know…) they would be closing the restaurants. Colorado has been pretty quick to adopt the measures that start out in other places. Within a few hours the mayor and then the governor announced those measures.

So my first inclination was, okay, that can be good, it should keep me busy, right?

I wasn't prepared for how it would hit me though when I went out on deliveries.

When I saw the faces of the workers in the restaurants.

That kind of thing hits you hard when you realize that there are a lot of people that I'm coming in contact that probably feel almost like it was a death sentence. Using that phrase seems like hyperbole, it's not meant to be. The thing is, when you find out you may be unemployed, or maybe that your business is about to go under, the moment that feeling hits you it sometimes doesn't feel much different than that. It's not hyperbole to them.

That's the reality for a lot of restaurant workers in Denver. Some places will stay open, some will focus on takeout and delivery. But it's going to be a skeleton staff. People are losing their jobs. Some of these restaurants are going to close altogether. Some aren't opening up again.

That reality hits you hard.

I think some of these places, they're going to try to keep going. They'll do what they can to keep people working.

But you gotta realize just how hard it is to keep a restaurant afloat. The margins are paper thin. You need a lot of volume to make a go of it. A few deliveries and take out orders won't pay the bills. And it won't pay for the staff that it takes to put it all out. Some of these guys are going to operate at a loss for as long as they can make it just to take care of their people. But a lot of these places, they just can't survive this.

And seeing the faces, feeling like I was walking into a funeral in restaurant after restaurant… that hit me.

Some of these mom and pop places especially, you really come to appreciate them, you know? There's personality and style and, even though my interactions are always for just a few seconds, I've come to enjoy that part of that. I think I'm struggling some right now because I know I'm going to lose some of that eventually. I think there's a sense of mourning in all this.

You think about things differently.

As I'm driving, I see a guy standing on a corner that I'm approaching coughing. Hard.

That's when it hit me how hyper aware we've become to things now. Normally I'd see that and think, poor guy, hope he's feeling better. Now I'm realizing my windows are open, can I get them rolled up before those little buggers can get inside my car? How good is the cabin air filter in my car, can the virus get through them? It's an overreaction probably, but I'm pretty sure right now I'm not the only one thinking that kind of thing, am I?

And I don't like that. It just feels….. selfish. I don't like being where I see something like that and it worried me for me more than it does for them.

And then there's the friendly dog

Or when I deliver that food and you see the familiar posture of the customer, barely opening the door, squeezing themself into the opening. It's familiar to me because I've assumed that position many many times. I have two big, enthusiastic labs who either want to greet everyone (or scare everyone) or make a break for the great outdoors. There's always that big enthusiastic overgrown puppy who breaks free and comes out to greet you. The owner is always apologetic, but being a dog lover getting a few moments to pet a new friend is always a highlight.

But now it's different. You wonder for a moment, can a virus be transmitted through dog fur? I actually just googled it – it looks like it probably can't but it doesn't sound like it's definitive. But given that thought, the look of horror now on the customer's face when the dog breaks free like that may not be the embarassment or anything like that. Are they wondering the same thing? Are they wondering if Fido is creating a form of contact now with this delivery guy that they're trying to avoid? I wonder if they are about to spray and bathe the heck out of Fido while donning every form of protection they can? A couple of weeks ago that might seem like almost a comical picture, right? It's not so comical today.

It's like I'm wearing a totally different set of glasses.

I had to call it a day pretty early yesterday.

Part of it was, thing were dramatically slower for deliveries. I'm not sure why. Was it that people were ordering less? Were people making plans to get one last shot at the restaurants before it closes down? I kind of hope not, that would tell me we haven't learned anything yet.

Or were there just more drivers out there thinking the same thing, that there was opportunity? Are the Uber rideshare people giving up driving people and shifting to delivery? Is the market so saturated now that none of us will get much?

Between the long waits and just the general mood, I decided to go home early.

Instead, my wife and I streamed a couple of episodes of This is Us. I love that series, it's incredibly well written. But it's also real life enough I'm not sure it helps the mood, you know?

Anyway, it's just those kinds of things that circulate through my mind. It's stuff I have to get out. I don't know if anyone wants to read it all, and I'm okay if they don't.

How are you feeling with this new normal where there is no normal?

Maybe a normal will settle in, but so much is up in the air. What are your thoughts?

Email me: Ron@EntreCourier. I want to hear your stories.

Thanks for putting up with this.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

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Tony Xu at Doordash Lied to Me as a Customer about their Corona virus/COVID-19 Response
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The Delivery Life - a Quiet, Uneasy Hopefulness