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Courier Envy(6 posts)

Courier EnvyBrendano
Nov 27, 2003 4:00 AM
I had a bad case of bike courier envy when I was driving to work this morning. It's a perfect winter's day - ice blue skies, a slight breeze, fresh cold air. Saw a bike courier cutting through the traffic on his first delivery of the morning and was sorely temped to walk into work and resign immediately. Has anyone out there actually been a bike courier before? I'd imagine it isn't so pleasant when it's dark and sleeting, but even that sounds more appealing on occasion than sitting behind a computer all day...
re: Courier EnvyDjudd
Nov 27, 2003 3:40 PM
I was a courier for five years in NYC and DC. It paid the bills while I was in grad school. That was the early to mid eighties ... before fax machines. I talk to guys who are still "on the street" and they tell me they don't make nearly the money we used to. However, I must say it was a great job. Imagine spending your day in an all out sprint stopping only for lunch and to make drops. Traffic was less of a bother than weather.
Couriers get a bad rap especially in DC as dangerous and careless. This is because of a few fools who dive-bomb sidewalks and hurdle through pedestrians. For the most part couriers are careful about the way they ride...they have to be. I know several couriers that can match bike-handling skills with anyone
re: Courier Envyfraser
Nov 27, 2003 7:22 PM
10 years ago. i spent 6 months as a courier to fund my travels round australia. borrowed a clunky old mtb and off i went. didnt notice the bad weather unless it was really wet. cold isnt an issue. i made good money and a bunch of mates. smoked like a trooper,ate junk and drank beer every night. never been fitter. i still run into some of the guys on road bike bunch rides. still think it was the best job i ever had.the buzz of getting a series of drops done within a time limit was incredible. i get courier envy too but still chat to them in the elevators, they are human and have a good sence of humour. you have to.
re: Courier EnvyBrendano
Nov 28, 2003 2:22 AM
Sounds like you both had fantastic experiences and have been left with some good memories - it's definitely something to consider (if only I could drum up the courage to leave behind the security of a regular salary etc! Would be ideal as a 6 month career break, come to think of it...)
re: Courier Envyaaroncvc
Nov 28, 2003 10:36 AM
...i am a courier in DC. it's a horrible job. i've been on the street and behind the desk, making the calls. very few companies care about their couriers, and the ones that claim to don't back it up with action.

imagine a job where you are paid entirely on commission, as an independant contractor, with no health coverage, in an industry that just eats humans beings alive (physically, emotionally, and mentally). you bust your ass for 100-150 bucks a day, if you're a decent courier. on the nice days, you feel happy to be outside, not stuck behind a desk... but in the summer when you can't stop sweating for a minute, and in the winter when you can't feel your toes or fingers, you realize how tough you have to be to do the job.

i'm lucky enough to have found a gig working as an employee, running passports around town. i hit up embassies with people's visa applications, mail back their passport at the end of the day. it's a great situation, affording me about 20-25 hours a week to train. but still, my salary is pretty low, and while the health benefits are actually the best i've had (used to work in the IT field), it's still hard to make ends meet. but i'm doing what i love (training and racing) so i can't complain.

all that being said, i would not trade the life changing and deeply affecting experience of being a courier. some people, including a few guys on my squad, really love this job... for me, having dispatched for one of the biggest companies in the region, and seeing the owners make ridiculous amounts of money, driving bmw 5 series cars, contrasted to the people on the street (some much more intelligent, with a better education, and much more offer), making $2.78 for downtown local runs... i just can't feel anything warm towards the industry, and neither should you.

books like "the immortal class" glorify being a courier. take it from "an insider", all of that is b.s. - anyone who says otherwise is delusional.
re: Courier Envypurplepaul
Nov 28, 2003 3:53 PM
I was a courier in NYC for 1 day right out of college. I had all these glorious notions of being outside, free as a bird.

Well, to start with, you have to like waking up really early (I don't).

Then, you have to trust sleazy sounding bosses to calculate your pay correctly. Since I was the new guy, they had me going from the southern tip of Manhattan up to the mid 80's, somewhere between 5 and 6 miles, with one package. You get paid more going above certain streets, taking a bigger package, etc. But, at the end of the day, when I asked how much I had made, they said it was complicated and they'd have to let me know. So, sensing that I wasn't going to come out of this very well, I quit.

It was probably the hottest day of the summer. And, still, get behind a bus and you feel like you just fell into an oven. And this is after you leave airconditioned buildings that make standing on the sidewalk feel like being in an oven.

When I took my glasses off at the end of the day, the area around my eyes was the only skin that was still white. Everything else looked like I had been rolling around in an ash pile. Imagine the lungs.

When I ran out of water, I asked a secretary if I could fill up my bottle and she said NO! Ditto to using the bathroom.

And to put things over the top, someone complained that I was wearing lycra shorts so my boss told me to wear sweatpants from now on. Yeah, right.

They were really sorry to see me go. I could speak english, I delivered things really fast and they knew I was dependable.
A few weeks later, I received my check: $72 after taxes.

Unless you're really desperate, I can't see why anyone would choose to do it. When I see messengers riding in the rain I think how glad I am I didn't give it more of a chance. Who knows, given the odds, I might be dead.