Opinion

Stream of class consciousness | Andy Hobbs

For a year in college, I delivered pizzas for a mom-and-pop shop in a Midwestern town.

Only once did a woman answer the door in her underwear. Two barely legal but surprisingly classy women, actually. One stood in the doorway, her green robe parted down the middle, her friend prancing into the kitchen entrance about 10 feet behind with white lace skivvies a-blazing.

I was dropping straws and fumbling money, you know, because it was cold outside. The de facto uniform was my black Jerry Springer Security shirt. It always got a laugh from customers. Maybe that’s what those women were laughing about.

The gig taught you to read a map and people. Pizza delivery is a people-watcher’s dream.

One delivery involved two similar orders, but on opposite sides of the tracks. The first stop was in a middle class subdivision with shiny cars in the driveways and house numbers carved in stone. The man in the yellow polo shirt maybe tipped a buck, which is average, but always appreciated. Even the occasional non-tipper didn’t offend me. All I did was drive an overpriced pizza to your house while listening to classic rock and getting paid.

The next order came from a fragrant trailer on the outskirts of town. A drunk man was wearing a white tank top. His wife was chasing and yelling at the dirty kids, who ran around in only their diapers.

I handed him the same order as the customer before. He handed me a sweaty crumpled $20 bill. Keep the change, he said.

Why did this guy tip so well? Customers in low-income neighborhoods actually tipped the best. Maybe he identified with the demands of a wage-earning job. Maybe he was just generous when he drank.

Earlier in college, I encountered a similar question while participating in a leukemia fundraiser. A team of volunteers approached cars at a busy intersection, holding out buckets for donations. It was fascinating to see the business executive in the high-end sports car ignore you as he stared straight ahead, while right behind him, a family in a rusty pickup truck was digging for coins.

In 2011, the spirit of the times created a heightened sense of class consciousness and raised new questions about how we live.

Class consciousness surfaced at the local level with the Sound Transit light rail project. The reason that light rail won’t come to Federal Way is because South King County is tax poor, at least compared to areas farther north. The money just isn’t there. South King County has more working class residents with limited resources, especially when it comes to transportation. The city highlights this fact when communicating with Sound Transit. In a cruel twist, Federal Way taxpayers will still pay their share of the light rail’s northern line, sitting out of reach while riding past it on a crowded bus.

What does a victory for the city look like? Does it look like light rail? Does it look like compensation, either willingly or by law?

Anytime another piece of the American Dream crumbles, it’s time to examine what’s fair and decide who determines what’s fair. Ask the right questions and you will find the answers.

 

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