Friday, December 30, 2005

VW Blues

When I began working at Bill's, I was 16 years old and had a drivers license...the primary requirement for holding the job, as my primary duty was to deliver liquor. (Or anything else the customer wanted) The delivery vehicle was somewhat of a letdown for me, (or any 16 year old) a blue 1955 VW van. It had 4 cylinders and a very odd 5 speed transmission. Looking back, I can see that the owners made a wise choice in buying the VW as we thrashed the poor vehicle mercilessly and yet it never really faltered. It didn't go much faster than 45 or 50 miles per hour and when it was going that fast, you felt quite vulnerable, perched on a hard bench seat just a few inches away from the front bumper.

Being such a boxy vehicle, it was a pain to drive down the many narrow alleys that were part of "downtown" Manhattan Beach. It was always tough to find a parking place for this vehicle and so double parking and parking at red curbs was normal. And since our boss contributed a few cases of liquor to the local police department each year, we were immune from being ticketed. (We usually left the engine running while we were away from the van, delivering; something you can't even imagine doing today!)

Part of the delivery process was the "Tip". I quickly learned how use appropriate body language and words that would motivate a customer to open their wallet one more time and extract a little something for me. Some tips were easy to get; if the order totaled $4.53, I would always get the .47 cents of change. But if it totaled $4.02, I had to work at it to get the .98 cents. A few "Yes sir's", maybe a, "Can I carry this heavy box into your kitchen for you?"Ah! Amateur psychology at its best!

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