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    The Pizza Delivery Boy

    By on March 30, 2014 in Memory Lane with 1 Comment

    hOne of my all-time favorite jobs was working at Romeo’s Pizza back in the early 1970’s. It was a small Italian Restaurant with a counter and a few tables. They specialized in old-fashioned, hand-thrown pizzas. I was a delivery boy and pizza maker. I worked there with several of my college friends.

    Romeo’s Pizza was owned by Jack and Babe Romeo. Jack was an Italian immigrant with a thick accent. He was a hard worker and fair employer. He ALWAYS wore an all-white chef uniform. We, (the delivery boys), were constantly razzing him about his accent and command of the English language; “Sum-umma-beech”, was one of his trademark statements. He would often play along with deadpan humor.

    We’d come into the front door after a delivery, usually with customers eating at the counter, and ask out loud, “Where’s Jack?”

    To which Jack would immediately reply, “Jack’s off”, invariably causing everybody in the restaurant to bust a gut with laughter.

    Babe, his wife, worked with Jack at the restaurant. She was tall, very thin, and had the darkest tan that I’ve ever seen on a person who wasn’t of African descent. She was a vocal and devoted Elvis Presley fan and would often engage in lengthy conversations laced with his praises.

    They had a daughter, Gina, who was short and very well-endowed, which she displayed proudly in her tight, low-cut tops. Occasionally, she would work the phones taking orders. Gina was in her early teens and would often go on deliveries with us. She was always talking shit trying to get a rise out the delivery boys, who were mostly in their late teens. She wanted us to refer to her as “Gina (as in va-GINA) Roamer”. Tempting as it was, we refrained from her request, thinking that Jack and Babe may not quite see the humor in it as we did.

    Delivering pizzas was great fun. I would use mom’s trusty Plymouth Belvedere. We had big, aluminum pizza warmers that were heated with butane to transport the pizzas. It would just fit into the backseat of the car. Of course the car ALWAYS smelled of pizza, which meant that I always smelled like pizza after driving the car. It was great getting paid to drive around, listening to the radio, while bringing the gift of pizza to parties throughout the area. Being one of the better pizza restaurants in the area launched us delivery boys to celebrity status.

    hOnce, after a night of delivering pizzas, I was heading home at around 1 AM. I had just merged onto the freeway heading south when I looked into the rear-view mirror to see several all-white police cars, with lights flashing and sirens screaming. I quickly pulled over to the shoulder of the freeway.

    Now back then, I didn’t know of the proper protocol for interacting with an officer of the law while being engaged in a traffic stop. I didn’t know that you should first, roll down the window, and then place your hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on the steering wheel, in plain view of the officer, so they know that you are cooperative and not brandishing a weapon of any kind.

    No. My instincts were polar opposite of that. First, I threw open the door, then jumped out, and marched back toward the police cars with the flashing lights. I immediately heard a chorus of “Freeze! Place your hands above your head! NOW!” That’s when I noticed several very large men in orange jump-suits aiming high-powered rifles directly at me from behind the doors of their vehicles. Thankfully, my autonomic nervous system responded properly and shot my hands up in the air before I had a chance to think about it and do something completely inappropriate.

    At that point the officers surrounded me and whipped me around stomach-first against the back of the Belvedere instructing me to place my hands on top of the trunk. This is when they frisked me and then hand-cuffed my arms behind my back. They then grabbed the keys from the ignition and proceeded to thoroughly search the car.

    I’m one of those people who will consciously try not to look guilty whenever a cop passes me on the road. I can be so obsessed with appearing guilty, that I will actually act guilty. It must be something from my childhood. My father embraced the US Marine Corps method of determining guilt between two or more people, whenever my sister and I both denied being guilty of some wrongdoing. He would spank both of us, back and forth, until one of us confessed to the crime. Unfortunately, this did not work for me because I didn’t do well with pain and my sister had a butt that could take a licking and keep on ticking. Therefore, I always confessed to crimes that I didn’t commit and so was looked upon as a bad, yet chronic liar by my parents and presto, my free-flowing guilt around authority was born. I would totally fail a sobriety test, even though I was completely sober. I would have that unmistakable look of guilt while I vainly attempted to recite the alphabet backwards. I’d come up with Z-Y-X and then completely blank on the rest.

    After searching my car, one of the officers turned me around and shined the brightest flashlight known to man directly into my eyes. It was like staring into the eye of God.

    “Where are you going?” he barked at me.

    “Home” I replied. “What did I do?”

    “Where are you coming from?” he curtly continued, ignoring my question.

    “ … From Romeo’s Pizza. I work there.” I said. I could sense that I was already slipping into my “obvious guilt” demeanor. I prayed that they wouldn’t give me a sobriety test.

    “Where were you around 10 O’clock tonight?”

    “I think that I was delivering pizzas.” I said, as if I were searching for an alibi, making me appear even more suspicious.

    Now, this is when I thought about all of the pizza deliveries that I went on that night to people, in rooms that were literally spewing clouds of pot, enveloping my body and permeating my clothes, right down to my underwear. “I must smell like a skunk”, I thought to myself. I may as well have had the words “bust me” tattooed on my forehead. I came within a hair of preemptively blurting out a full confession for whatever they thought that I had done.

    The officer grilling me continued, “Young man, earlier tonight there was a bombing of a government building in Burlingame along Peninsular Avenue and a witness identified a vehicle matching the exact description of your car just before the time of the bombing. They also said that they saw a large, silver, box in the back of the car. Were you in that area tonight?”

    I thought back. Peninsular Avenue was one of the main thoroughfares in Burlingame and so I was probably on it several times tonight. Oh Shit. I was guilty by association. I may as well spill the beans.

    “Yes officer,” I confessed, “I was on Peninsular Avenue several times tonight delivering pizzas. That big silver box was a pizza warmer.“ Right after I said it I thought that nobody could possibly believe such an obvious lie.

    By this time they had finished scouring over the Belvedere, inside, outside, and underside. One of the orange-suited officers that was searching the car came up to the officer grilling me and said, “The vehicle is clean. There is also a very strong, distinct smell of … pizza.”

    At this point, the officers all huddled together to discuss my fate away from where I could hear them. Soon, the big one came back over and said that he’d check on my story but my car reeked of pizza so he would thus give me the benefit of the doubt and let me go. He then wrote down all of my vital information and said that I could go for now, and then he added with squinted eyes, “Just don’t leave town.” which only fed my free-flowing guilt even more.

    “I won’t officer, thank-you officer.” I stammered and then got in my car and left the scene thanking God that my car stunk of pepperoni pizza. I occasionally wonder if my name is still on some obscure watch-list for potential subversive activists with possible ties to the Mafia.

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    1. That’s funny. I react the same way to police when they’re nearby. I’m never doing anything wrong (at least, not something intentionally or knowingly), but I still have such an aversion to appearing guilty that I get nervous and being to feel guilty. Nice to know others are the same!

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