To this day, if you walk into my old Mahjong, and crank your head directly to the right, you will see a poster encouraging you to join the team. Among the collage of ethnically diverse, smiling* men and women, there is a blurb espousing the apparently insouciant lifestyle of a driver.
"Do you want to drive around in your own car, listening to your own tunes? As a driver at Mahjong, you can get paid to be your own boss on the open road."
If you're picturing a man sliding over the front counter, pizza bag in hand, giving a cavalier grin before he settles into his car, then flooring it for the horizon with the Beach Boys cranked so he can make it home in time to take his best gal to makeout point, you haven't read any of this blog prior to this point.
The order queue system was about as simple as they come. First in, first out. You take the order at the top of the screen, which is the most recent, when you return your name goes at the bottom of the list. Somehow the drivers managed to turn this system into a hotbed of human indecency.
Taking a double was common practice if it was busy, but if you took two orders when it was dead, even if they were right next door to each other, you might as well have had the mark of Cain.
Drivers had an extraordinarily long memory for being burned. There was a form of politics at work that was fascinating to watch. Deals were cut, rivalrous teams were formed, misdeeds from six months ago were brought up, all with viciousness that would be at home on a battlefield. It ill-befitted men fighting for 4 dollars in tips. These were men fighting to live.
The in-fighting wasn't simply to take more orders, either. It was to avoid known bad tippers, to seize known good ones, to take doubles or triples at unreasonable times, to foist particular orders upon particular drivers. Ron was often the perpetrator of such heinous acts, being a ruthless motherfucker. In return, he was often the victim when other drivers would team up. It was brutal social efficiency.
Howard Zinn said: "I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don't want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: 'The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is.'"
Much in the posts to follow will revolve around the drivers and their exploits as they struggle to breathe in their boxcars. I maintain that you should never feel sorry for fucking drivers.
*Never witnessed in the wild.