The Day I Met Vladdy Putin.

So just started this job of delivering pizzas. There’s a backstory there but rather than tell it, I’m gonna jump right into the pool of adventures that is delivering pizza.

I’m gonna tell you how I met Vladdy Putin. Some of you might recognize the pet name of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The day after Thanksgiving is off to a steady start. Reportedly among the busiest days of the year. No one wants to cook after the holiday.

I’m driving midday to evening. Not as busy as they expected. Small orders going long distances. My runs have been awash with irritations, frustrations, annoyances in both logistics, like finding the places, and customers, like minuscule to no tips. (Like restaurant servers, drivers earn below minimum wage & depend on tips.)

It’s been a bad day every which way.

But a great delivery — smooth-as-silk delivery, nice customer, generous tip — can change that in a heartbeat.

7 o’clock, pick up the order. Pizza and breadsticks to Embry-Riddle, the aeronautical university. Renowned. Expensive. But students are proving to be shitty tippers. As in zero. Even though their schools cost a zillion dollars to attend and/or they’re from wealthy families.

Embry-Riddle is a university. As thick with buildings and dorms and thus confusing like any university. Thus the laminated map of the campus at the pizza shop. An experienced driver details the route to the customer’s dormitory.

I’m good to go.

I arrive with pizza piping hot in the parking lot of M-400 dorm, as the order states.

All dorm entrances have security codes. Drivers, of course, don’t know those so we call the student to meet us outside for delivery & payment.

So I call. “The owner of this number hasn’t set up voice messages,” says the automated female voice.

I call again. Again. Again. Same.

Fuck!

It’s dark. It’s cold. Leaving the hot pizza in the car, I leave the car and march to M-4000 hoping it’s the correct building. No numbers visible!

Thick steel door. Of course. I pound pound pound with fired-up fists and PRAY that someone hears.

On top of everything else making this customer inaccessible, it’s Thanksgiving weekend. Most students are away for the holiday.

Seems there IS a God! A female student appears in the hallway. She’s wearing earbuds. How she heard the pounding is amazing! She approaches cautiously, opens the door a crack.

“I’m with {pizza place}. I’m trying to deliver a pizza to Vladdy Putin. He lives in this dorm. Do you know him?”

“No.” Of course not.

“I’ve really got to find him. He’s not answering his phone. It’s not set up to receive calls. Do you mind if I come in and knock on a couple of doors. Maybe I’ll get lucky or someone’ll know him.”

This despite that drivers are NOT supposed to enter homes. But this is a large complex with locked individual doors. She grants me entry.

I knock on the first door on my left. Correction, pound. Thick steel doors.

Three guys live here, evidenced by fun bubble tags taped to the door. None reads Vladdy. Still, they might know him and be able to direct me. My hopes are raised as minutes tick away and the pizza cools.

No answer. Of course.

I move on to the next door. No answer. Of course.

What a fucking waste of time.

I gratefully thank the young lady wearing earbuds. Dash into the cold night into my car. Dial Vladdy again x 5.  Not that I expect him to have set up his phone to receive calls in the last 10 minutes.

Pounding on locked thick dorm doors, enlisting ANY help from the ONE human being there on a holiday weekend, repeated calls — all valiant efforts to get pizza and breadsticks to Vladdy Putin.

Bet it’s not this hard at the sealed-shut imposing Kremlin!

Between the drive and exceptional delivery efforts, 30 minutes have passed. Way way waaaaaaaayyyyyy too long! There are new orders waiting to be picked up at the shop. Other customers waiting for their hot pizzas, wings, breadsticks, garlic knots.

Vladdy Putin is not the center of the universe! — though circumstances have certainly made him so.

For the first time in my short — Day 2, to be precise — delivery career, I give up. Throw in the towel. Wave the white flag. I’ve gone the extra mile x 100. Done everything a human being could do.

Vladdy Putin. Is that even his real name?

He’s already PAID by credit card. So yeah, a legit order. But pranks happen. Maybe this is one.

Whatever. 45 minutes and the customer can’t be reached despite every Herculean effort. I’m heading back to the shop, undeliverable pizza and breadsticks in tow. Maybe we’ll get to partake of the mistake?

Halfway there, my phone rings.

“blah blahblah blahblah ordered a pizza blahblah.” “Ordered a pizza” is all I can discern in a REALLY SHITTY connection. Muddy, echo-ey, impossible.

Customer service is not my greatest strength, I admit. I love work. I like tasks, not people. My frustration at 45 minutes of wasted time and a customer who doesn’t even have his damn phone set up is through the roof.

Don’t make out a damn thing he saying! Whether he can hear me, who knows. I give it a go. I’m that desperate.

“I’ve been trying to deliver for the last 45 minutes! Your phone’s not hooked up! The dorm’s got security doors. I’m coming back. Wait outside the building.”

Speaking of the broker-no-nonsence stern dictates of the KGB.

I U-turn and speed back to the parking lot where I already wasted 25 minutes.

Despite the shitty phone connection, I keep Vladdy on the line the entire drive. Not gonna risk calling & calling him again to no avail!

I pull into the empty lot, beneath the brightest streetlamp there, next to a bright blue car. Vladdy’s nowhere to be seen. Of course.

I describe the setting. He and a buddy walk over. Finally!

I’m ready to erupt. I really am. But he’s a customer. So I seek civility. Tone down the summary of all frustrated efforts to deliver him his goodies from a verbal dropping of the atomic bomb to a simple granade. Maybe two.

Then a discovery. Not only is Vladdy’s phone not set up to receive calls — bad enough for any delivery driver — BUT the address is wrong!

ARRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

What’s another dozen granades at this point?!?

I reel it in best I can. Politely stress the importance of phone service AND a correct address. Especially since drivers DEPEND on phones to reach you inside your locked-up secured dorm!

Looking more and more like the Kremlin every moment.

Otherwise, how are drivers supposed to get pizzas to the customers? Carrier pigeons? Roped around a missile targeted at the building. No one wants that.

No matter how much you love or want pizza.

In the end, it’s mission accomplished. Pizza and breadsticks got delivered. An hour late. After 45 minutes of wasted time AND, don’t forget, a U-turn flipped en route back to the store!

That is how I met Vladdy Putin.

Not a world leader, granted.

Wish it had been.

For starters, he’d have tipped better. Way better. Of that I’m certain.

The local Putin tipped a measly 2 bucks and a penny for all that frustration and grief (that he, remember, caused).

Plus the real Putin would’ve insisted on sharing shots of Russian medicine, aka vodka, before sending me on my delivering way.

 

 

Kingpin of communism and one of the world’s scariest and most covert mafia. Sure. But that’s a gentleman manners!

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