СодержаниеThe Package → Часть 1

The rain made everything sound different—the engine of my delivery van, the traffic as it rolled by on a film of fallen clouds, the occasional dull honk. I didn’t have a great job, but it wasn’t bad, either. I knew the city so well that I could lose myself in thought and still do the work, still get paid, still have plenty of time for myself. When you’re inside your own head, the travel time between buildings evaporates. It’s as if I could vanish from one stop and reappear at the next.

My story begins on a day I delivered to a place I’d never been. That’s usually a fun challenge. There’s a certain satisfaction when you find a new place without using the map. Rookies use maps.

If you work in the city long enough, it begins to deal with you on a personal level. Streets reveal their moods. Sometimes the signal lights love you. Sometimes they fight you. When you’re hunting for a new building, you hope the city is on your side. You have to use a little bit of thinking— you might call it the process of elimination—and you need a little bit of instinct, but not too much of either. If you think too hard, you overshoot your target and end up at the Pier or the Tenderloin. If you relax and let the city help, the destination does all the work for you. It was one of those days.

It’s amazing how many times you can travel the same route without noticing a particular sign. Then when you’re looking for it, there it is. Universe Avenue. I would have sworn it wasn’t there a day ago, but I knew it didn’t work that way.

It was a scruffy package, barely up to company standards. I calculated the distance from my van to the doorway and decided the packing material could handle the moisture. On behalf of the package and myself, I surrendered to the rain.

This delivery required a signature. Those were the best kind. I could talk to people without any awkward lulls in the conversation. I liked people, but I didn’t feel comfortable chatting unless there was a reason. A delivery was a good excuse for some shallow interaction. People were happy to see me and I was never at a loss for words. I’d say, “Sign on this line, ” and they’d say, “Thank you. ” We’d exchange some meaningless wishes and I’d be off. That’s how it was supposed to work.

I walked up the four steps to the ornate wooden door and pressed the doorbell. A muffled bing-bong filled the interior and leaked out the cracks of the doorjamb.

Delivery people don’t like to leave the little yellow note, a confession of delivery failure. It means a do-over. I liked to do my work once. I liked my tasks to have beginnings and ends. As a rule of thumb, almost any customer can get to the front door in about a minute. But I usually waited two, in case someone was indisposed or having trouble walking. Two minutes is an eternity when you’re standing under a doorway on a rainy San Francisco afternoon.

Rookies wear jackets.

Two minutes passed. The company’s rules said I couldn’t try the doorknob. They were emphatic about that.

Ah, rules.


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