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Ledger of Life: Shoe Change



During my middle to late 20s, I spent several years working at a regionally franchised pizza shop. While my official title was delivery driver, my roles at the restaurant also included kitchen make station (making food), waiting tables, food prep, and cleaning the hoods of the oven. If you haven’t ever had the pleasure of climbing on top of an industrial size oven to clean the greasy overhead ventilation hoods, then consider yourself lucky. This task involved climbing up a ladder, two buckets in hand (one soapy water, one sanitizer water) to stand on an oven, blazing away at eight-hundred degrees, in order to clean the grease off the stainless steel ventilation hoods. Hood cleaning was a job delegated only to the tallest guys in the shop, of which I was one. While not the worst imaginable task one could undertake during a work day, it surely wasn’t something to look forward to. The driving aspect of the job was not so bad. Having the ability to listen to music and smoke cigarettes (this was before I kicked the habit) while I worked made the job that much more enjoyable.

During my time as a delivery driver, I encountered some of the most appreciative customers in my years within the service industry. Minus occasional rudeness, people have the tendency to be awfully nice to someone bringing food to their doorstep. I often think about how the act of food delivery is still in its infancy within our species. Our ancestors would likely perceive the act of giving an order and having food brought right to our home a service reserved exclusively for high royalty. Fear not, ancestors, these luxuries are not only for the lords of the land. Common people can indulge in having a fresh, hot, cheesy pizza brought right to their residence. What a gloriously delicious time to be alive.

One relatively slow shift during a summer afternoon, the phones in the kitchen rang. Anticipating the prospect of a potential delivery, I answered the phone. Using the standard phone script, I asked if the order would be for pick-up or delivery. The woman on the other end of the line said it was for delivery and proceeded to inquire “What is the cheapest thing on the menu?” My response to this interesting inquiry was “Our sauce packets are fifty cents a piece, but the cheapest, non add-on item would be our sub sandwiches.” At that point, I listed the variety of sandwich choices available. She chose the Italian sub. Not a bad choice, as I consumed quite a few of those tasty sandwiches while employed at the restaurant. After taking her delivery information, I hung up the phone and walked over to the make station to prepare her sandwich. Once out of the oven, I boxed the sandwich, placed it in the delivery bag and was on my way out of the front door of the shop.

The drive was relatively short, as the customer’s house was not too far out in the delivery area. Turning onto the street, I slowed to scan for the correct address on the passing houses. Finding the right one, I turned into the driveway, grabbed the delivery bag and made my way to the porch. Ringing the doorbell, I waited for the customer to answer. The woman who greeted me when the door swung open was most likely in her mid-sixties, looking a bit frayed around the edges. Unenthusiastically, she said “hello.” I proceeded to remove her order from my delivery bag, handing it to her. She placed the bag on a table by the door and came back to the doorway holding a tennis shoe. I thought, “we do not accept shoes as a valid form of payment.” The customer held out the shoe over my still upright bag and turned it upside down. Out of the shoe came a flurry of nickels, dimes and quarters. The coin currency rested on my bag while I stood there perplexed. Did she really just pay for her entire order with change that came from a tennis shoe? The answer came a moment later. Placing two dollar bills on top of the change, the customer said “It should be exact, have a good day,” after which she closed the door. I took her word for it. How could I possibly question the validity of the change’s amount when it came from a shoe? Laughing aloud, I gathered the change and pocketed it. The phrase “pocket change” is a common one. If I were to coin a term from this experience (pun absolutely intended), it would be “shoe change”. Seems as good of a place as any to store loose change.

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