A Slice of Life: The Highs and Lows of Delivering Pizza in Whistler

Life in the mountains is different than in the hustle and bustle of a standard metropolis. Where ‘normal’ people aim for a career that provides security, benefits and opportunity for growth, Whistler’s dream job is one that pays well and doesn’t mess with your shred schedule. Which is why many pro snowboarders over the years have taken to slanging pies in the evenings. Pizza Delivery Guy is a solid career option in the mountains; it might even be the best gig going.

 

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Dave Barnes Illustration

By Jonathan Baum

To find out, I picked up a few driving shifts and spoke to some legends of the delivery game to learn more about how pizza grease lubes the machine that runs our mountain town.

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THE PERFECT IMAGE
I showed up to my first shift dressed in the image I have associated with pizza delivery drivers in Whistler—jeans, backwards hat, unshaven face and an ‘eat-my-shorts’ demeanour. But an overly peppy lady who introduced herself as the new general manager was critical of my appearance and gave me a uniform with clear instructions to tuck in, shave, and fix my attitude. I learned that the corporate overlords sent her to Whistler to fix what they perceive as an image problem with the staff. The uniform is a representation of the company and the company likes perfect brand consistency.

What the executives can’t seem to understand is that the ‘perfect’ image in Toronto or New York is not the perfect image in Whistler. When a customer orders a hot pizza on a cold winter night, they expect a skiddy snowboarder they can invite in for a bong rip, not some nerdy extension of a multi-national pizza corporation. Up here, putting on a branded uniform symbolizes an act of obedience, a loss of individuality, and a demonstration of loyalty to the corporation. Not exactly what this town is built on.

“When a customer orders a hot pizza on a cold winter night, they expect a skiddy snowboarder they can invite in for a bong rip, not some nerdy extension of a multi-national pizza corporation.”

This clash with corporate is nothing new though. Long-time local Andrew Burns staged a delivery for a TV interview spotlighting his life as a professional snowboarder/pizza driver. He wasn’t actually working, so wore only the logoed shirt with jeans instead of khakis and had no hot pouch for the pizza. Instead of being happy for the free marketing, corporate came down on him for not wearing the full uniform.

Rube Goldberg, a legend for both snowboarding and pizza delivery, notes that he lost respect when in uniform, and his tips increased significantly when he wasn’t dressed like a billboard for the company. On one occasion, uniformed and with a company decal on the roof of his truck, some punks at staff housing threw his truck into neutral and rolled it down the hill as far as they could before he got back from the delivery. It’s a lot more fun to prank a tool of a large corporation than a fellow skid trying to fund his shred addiction. It’s unlikely that corporate overlords will relent.

Their analysts have done research, gathered data and studied trends, and the results show that nerds are better for business than dirtbags. Yet for all of their analysis, they fail to recognize that the statistical phenomenon ‘regression towards the mean’ is at work, and everything evens out over time. Their efforts are in vain, because in the world of late-night Whistler pizza, dirtbags are the mean. And over a long enough timeframe, the mean always reasserts itself—I leave my shirt un-tucked and start my shift.

 

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Dave Barnes Illustration

 

CATERING TO THE CUSTOMER
While the drivers in Whistler are their own breed, the customers are also very different from their big city counterparts. Up here, it’s locals living the hedonist lifestyle, and carefree tourists (with money to burn) who want to tap into those good times for as long as they can. Local delivery hunk Adam Cseff was recently greeted by a naked 60-year-old lady, while her friends laughed hysterically in the background.

Sexualizing the pizza boy is not an uncommon occurrence, he assures me. It’s hard to say exactly what it is that attracts people to the pizza guy, it could be that bringing someone food activates pheromones, or the fact that they can easily be summoned directly to your door. Whatever the cause, in Whistler, pizza guys know the deal—endure the sexual objectification for the large tip that comes with it.

I would be remiss in not mentioning some of the hardships of the job. Habitual non-tippers not only affect your pay, but also take a mental toll. Knowing that you are burning your own gas and spending your time bringing a pizza to someone who refuses to show appreciation can sour even the most jovial of deliverers.

“In Whistler, pizza guys know the deal—endure the sexual objectification for the large tip that comes with it.”

One driver, who will remain anonymous, took matters into his own hands by starting a practice he referred to as “Middle-manning.” On orders for notorious and routine low-tippers, he would cut an inch strip from the middle of the pizza, eat the strip, and then push the two halves together, making the theft unnoticeable

The middleman always gets his cut. Another headache is the pizza/taxi scam, a ploy used by customers who think they can beat the system. They will order a pizza to their home, show up at the store while the pizza is being cooked, and ask the driver to take them home with the pizza, potentially getting the ride and the pizza for less than the price of a cab. If you are thinking of pulling this off, you better be really damn friendly and tip really damn well, because there is a reason the driver chose to deliver pizza and not people—pizza smells better than you, talks less than you, and never asks to stop for smokes.

HIGH ON PIE
There have always been rumours about guys selling drugs on the job but it seems to be just that, a myth. My research indicates that a good driver makes enough money slanging pies, there’s no need to risk it all. Pizza is like its own drug anyways—addictive, devastating to your health, and when consumed correctly, able to make you reach higher levels of consciousness.

“As I cleared the smoke I heard one of them say: ‘this guy has the best job in the world.'”

But while selling is rare, offers to receive are often not. On my first day of driving, I delivered to some locals who graciously invited me in for a bong toke. At first I refused, but I could see the disappointment in their eyes. In an attempt to appease the clients and represent the company as well as I could, I accepted at their second insistence. As I cleared the smoke I heard one of them say: “this guy has the best job in the world.”

But then I got lost on my next delivery and had to call the customer twice for directions. When I finally found her she looked incredibly grumpy and I couldn’t stop giggling about it, which didn’t help the situation. Apparently she thought this reason enough not to tip me. I noted her name and address so that next time I’d be sure to get my cut

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