Saturday nights in the town centre can get raucous. I’m on my way back from a delivery. A drunk couple staggers towards me in the middle of the road. They sound Geordie to me, but they’re wearing jackets and it’s not that cold tonight, so maybe I’m wrong.
The guy suddenly lunges at me unprovoked, throws a waist-high kick at me, and shouts “YOU COULDN’T!”
Well, I think that’s what he shouts. Perhaps, with his accent and his being drunk, I’ve misheard. Anyway his kick misses wildly. Even a modest aim was higher than his ability. ‘As in most of your life, mate,’ I think to myself.
“Lee, don’t do that!”, laughs the woman with him, as if amused by a mischievous child dropping a sweet wrapper.
A variety of revenge scenarios go through my mind. But I just smile, say nothing, cycle on.
They were lucky they encountered me, and not Dmitry, the Mad Russian. Three riders in our city battle for top place in the weekly stats.
There’s Dmitry, whose past is a mystery. Perhaps he wanted to work for the KGB but filled the form carelessly and ended up in GB instead.
There’s Lawrence, the well-spoken Oxford law grad, always smiling and calm even though he can’t get a proper job.
And there’s Ben, the laid-back American, who was a courier in New York before coming here to be a student.
They’re all fast and strong, but Dmitry is the fastest and strongest. A good laugh, but you wouldn’t mess with him.
Back at the muster point where we wait for orders, I tell the other riders what happened. There’s head shaking and nodding and sympathy.
Except for Dmitry. He’s furious. He wants a revenge mission. “Wotdefok?”, he growls. “Where dese people? I find dem, I keek de sheet out of dem.”
We try to calm him. We’re already in trouble for a couple of riders cycling on the pavement. GBH and manslaughter could have an even more adverse effect on the company’s reputation.
We’re saved by the bell, or rather the Deliveroo app: Dmitry gets a ping for the next job. He can cycle off his fury, which should help him retain his place at the top of the stats. Somebody is about to get a curry arriving super-fast. Win-win.
Ben starts a story about making a delivery in New York, something about being attacked by a guy in the street with a gun. It makes my experience sound rather tame.
Before he can finish, he gets a ping, and immediately I get one too. The eight o’clock rush. My restaurant pickup is back where I nearly got kicked, but there’s no sign of the drunks, just lots of lively pubgoers who wave me through with a smile, benignly shouting “Deliverooooo!”.
There’s a newly-appeared pool of sick, though, with smeary high-heel shoe prints in it. Hers, I reckon. So I think I won that one.
This is the first in our new series of monthly columns written by an anonymous delivery bike courier for Deliveroo. He’ll be reporting regularly from the front lines of pizza delivery (other food types are available), revealing what it’s like to earn a living from behind handlebars, and the characters he meets along the way.