And there’s the bathroom issue.
The Google search Amazon driver urinates summons a cavalcade of caught-in-the-act videos depicting poor saps, since fired, who simply couldn’t hold it any longer. While their decision to pee in the side yard—or on the front porch!—of a customer is not excusable, it is, to those of us in the Order of the Arrow (my made-up name for Amazon delivery associates), understandable.
Before sending me out alone, the company assigned me two “ride-alongs” with its top driver, the legendary Marco, who went out with 280 packages the second day I rode shotgun with him, took his full lunch break, did not roll through a single stop sign, and was finished by sundown. Marco taught me to keep a lookout not just for porch pirates—lowlifes who swoop in behind us to pilfer packages—but also for portable toilets. In neighborhoods miles from a service station or any public lavatory, a Port-a-John, or a Honey Pot, can be no less welcome than an oasis in the desert. (The afternoon I leapt from the van and beelined to a Honey Pot, only to find it padlocked, was the closest I’ve come to crying on the job.)
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Delivering in El Sobrante one day, I popped into a convenience store on San Pablo Avenue. I bought an energy bar, but that was a mere pretext. “I wonder if I might use your lavatory,” I asked the proprietor, a gentleman of Indian descent, judging by his accent, in a dapper beret.
A cloud passed over his face. “You make number one or two?”
“Just one!” I promised. He inclined his head toward the back of the store, in the direction of the “Employees only” bathroom.
After thanking him on my way out, I mentioned that I was new at Amazon, still figuring out restroom strategies.
“Amazon drivers, FedEx drivers, UPS, Uber, Lyft—everybody has to go.”
But where? When no john can be found, when the delivery associate is denied permission to use the gas-station bathroom, he is sometimes left with no other choice than to repair to the dark interior of the cargo bay—the belly of the beast—with an empty Gatorade bottle.
It was late afternoon on a Monday when I may or may not have been forced to such an extreme. I was dispensing packages on Primrose Lane in Pinole, and I remember thinking, afterward: Aside from the fact that my checking account is overdrawn and I’m 30 deliveries behind and the sun will be down in an hour and I’m about to take a furtive whiz in the back of a van, life really is a holiday on Primrose Lane!
Pinole, incidentally, is the hometown of the ex–Miami Hurricanes quarterback Gino Torretta, a great guy who won the Heisman Trophy in 1992. I covered him then, and a few years later when he was playing for the Rhein Fire in the NFL’s World League. Gino and I hoisted a stein or two at a beer hall in Düsseldorf. Some of the American players were having trouble enunciating the German farewell, auf Wiedersehen. To solve that problem, they would say these words as rapidly as possible: Our feet are the same!