Getting called in onto the carpet is always bullshit. The courier equivalent, having to stop by Central Station, is no different. There’s rarely good reason for it. They’ll usually just hold a check, say it couldn’t make the mail, just to see us in the flesh. Make sure we are who we say, and are doing what we’re supposed to. Although why wouldn’t we? What would be the point? Do they think we’re going to split this meager salary with someone else? I think it’s really because they’re stuck in that damn office, all day everyday. Probably want to feel like they have more control, mostly because they don’t.
The only reason I even humor them occasionally, is to integrate with my fellow couriers. Well, one in particular. Her name is Myra, and I like everything about her. Except for her name. I have trouble saying it. Everytime I hear it, it sounds like a clumsy way to start saying something else. Myra-dishes are ready to be harvested. Myra-sh is almost gone. Myra-tions are almost out. And before you get ahead of me, thinking this is going to be a whole “will they, won’t they” kinda thing, I’ll save you the suspense. We won’t. Not only is she out of my league, but she’s a way better courier than I am as well. Hell, Myra might be the best courier ever. Apparently she accepts several deliveries at once, and coordinates her route to make them all on time. No one else would even attempt that. Her speed and efficiency really sticks in the craw of some of the old school guys.
When I arrive today, I’m more than disappointed when she is nowhere to be found. I check the mailboxes, and her’s is empty. Meaning Myra isn’t at all likely to show. Making it mostly a huge waste for me to have ventured in here. Carol, the dispatcher, has been watching me from her booth, as I roam around in my search. She for some reason finds it necessary to address this over the loudspeaker, saying “She isn’t here Romeo, you can stop looking.” This draws several chuckles from various points in the open office. I turn towards the dispatch booth, and flip her the bird. Then I quickly make my way over to Carol before she can continue this conversation publicly. I open the door to her booth, and she immediately gestures for me to close it. Something I could’ve figured out on my own.
“What has been taking you so damn long?” Carol asks.
“How do you mean?” I ask, already knowing.
“When you first started here you’re deliveries were well-timed. Now? Well, you’ve slowed considerably. Usually goes the other way around. Most couriers get faster over time.”
“I’ve been dealing with some shin splints,” I explain, but it’s a lie I just made up. “Besides, I always make it on time.”
“Yeah, barely. You’re not gonna get any bonuses that way. And it wouldn’t impress Myra none.”
“When did you see her last?”
“She hasn’t been here in weeks.”
“But her mailbox is empty?” I protest.
“Pay attention to your own mailbox please. We can’t even fit anymore in there,” she says, and hands over my most recent paycheck.
“Just throw it in the trash Carol. I’ve gotta get back out there, throw me a good one once in awhile would ya?”
“Stop being the slowest courier in town, and I will.”
With that I depart Central Station, for what I hope will be at least several months. Forever would be better though. Having to show up there will cost me close to half a day’s pay, and I didn’t even get to see Myra for two minutes. Now I have to let several buses pass me while I walk several extra blocks, past more bus stops. This is all just in case someone were to notice I wasn’t driving or biking.
See, in the world of messenger service, taking public transportation is a big no-no. Not only would it make a courier seem lazy, or unmotivated, but if a client were to become aware of it they might realize what we’re doing isn’t worth all the fees we charge them. They may then realize that they’re better off finding a way to deliver it themself. Bad for business on both sides.
Considering the insignificance of my profession on the whole, I become more and more apathetic every block. So I stop, about half as far from Central as I normally would. Waiting for the next bus to arrive, I try to be nonchalant. As if I was just standing on this street corner, not waiting for anything. Just coincidentally right next to a bus stop. I’m irritated with myself for continuing to look out for would-be accusers. Finally it arrives, and I step right up, but another passenger has to get off the bus first. The doors open and I’m shocked to be face to face with Myra!
“Hey! You going into Central Station too?” she asks, stepping off the bus. I turn away from the door, letting the driver know to continue on his route.
“Ah…yeah. Although I might get some lunch first,” I say, building more excuses.
“Oh, I just ate. Are you walking this way?”
“Yeah, let’s go,” I manage. Am I walking this way? I’m nearly jumping out of my shoes! I was not expecting this. I feel almost guilty, as if she caught me riding the bus. But she was riding the bus. What do I talk about? What do I talk about? Instead of that.
“I hate having to do this. To go in there? What a bunch of bullshit,” Myra says.
“Yeah what’s the point? It’s pretty pathetic on their part. We’re free agents.”
“Exactly. I mean, technically we’re employed by them, but we could work for anybody ya know?”
“Being paid to take stuff from one place to the other is nothing new,” I add, noticing that I’m getting closer to Central again. I try to walk slower, but Myra doesn’t match my pace. I’m sure she wants to get her visit over with, like I just did.
“Hey, do me a favor? Don’t mention to anyone you saw me riding the bus? My car’s in the shop.”
“That’s nobody’s business Myra.”
“Yeah, but you know how those jackals are.”
“Cool, courier code then?” she asks, offering a fist bump.
“Courier code,” I say with a smile, and oblige the fist bump.
“Catch ya later,” and Myra disappears into Central Station before I can respond.
I don’t actually go to lunch, in fact I can’t eat the rest of the day. It’s part excitement, and part lamentation of whether or not I should’ve asked her out. I did kind of ask her to lunch right? Finally, I celebrate the profitless day with a drink. Or two. Or three. Who’s counting? Let’s toast every one of them to Myra-tatouille is a secret recipe.