It must be onesie week. This week I’ve done three drops to female students, each having a cosy takeaway-evening in and dressed as an animal. I’ve delivered a pizza to a rabbit, a Thai curry to a tiger and a burger to a panda — aren’t they vegetarian?
At the muster point I comment on this to Dimitry, the mad Russian. He has to top anyone else’s story. He says he did a drop last week up in the posh part of town to a swingers’ party, with even more exotic leisure clothing being worn.
"And you know what they order?" he says, cackling, "Cheesecake! Twenty fokken cheesecake! Maybe is not for eat, ha, ha!"
He mimes the sort of things one might employ dairy-based desserts for, if consumption was not the primary purpose. A passing group of Chinese tourists look on bemused.
I don’t believe him. We take Dimitry with a pinch of salt and a handful of chili powder. Wikipedia editors would count him as an ‘unreliable source’. He also reckons the moon landings were faked and that his brakeless fixie is ‘safer’ than my bog-standard hybrid.
Half an hour later I’m grateful I do have brakes. A van abruptly cuts left across me. I brake hard but it still clatters my front wheel, buckling it badly. I can’t read the number plate as it speeds off in the rainy night — not that the police would do anything anyway. I walk it to a nearby bike shop and have to stump up for a new front wheel. We’re self-employed: no expenses, no company insurance. I’ll have worked for nothing tonight.
Now that more riders are on the books than ever, it doesn’t just mean less work each during slack times, it also means some of your regular, peak, lucrative shifts can easily be given away to others if you’re not delivering enough orders — or if you keep clocking out for repairs. We get sympathy, support, but no charity.
But at least I can resume my shift with only a brief logout. I’m soon back on the next job.
Oh. Cheesecake. To that posh part of town.
I don’t know what to expect following Dimitry’s stories. It’s only one slice, though.
Odd. There are banners up saying Happy Birthday and lots of balloons, but the lights are out. No answer to my knock, so I phone the customer. A light goes on upstairs. Down she comes to open the door. She’s wearing a cat onesie. Her make-up is streaky with tears.
What can I say? She clearly needs comforting, but I can hardly hug her. I’m sopping wet, anyway. A party to which nobody came? A mass storming-out, following a fight between cat- and dog-onesie wearers?
I say the only thing I can say.
"Enjoy your cheesecake. Have a good evening."
"You too," she sniffs.
But neither of us is having a good evening.