So, the country town where I ply my pizza trade is kind of in the midst of a period of regeneration, one that in fact has been going on in varying areas for the past half a decade or so. One part of this regeneration is the building of new housing estates, which seem to pop up here or there about once a year or so. Of course, being as we're just a country town, no one is in a massive hurry to map these areas, or update their map software, or their sat nav database, which means there are more than a few "ghost estates" that are a total pain in the cunt to find.
Usually Chris - who is basically self-appointed manager on the days Ali is not in - gives good directions, no matter how new or obscure the road in question, because he's been working in the same place for the past fifteen years and been living in the same village for more than double that. But one day - one tempetuous maelstrom of a day - Chris wasn't in work. Possibly because it was his day off. But fuck that. You hear me, Chris? Fuck that.
So I take the order over the phone and just put the address - let's say it's 11 Cambridge Avenue, although it probably isn't - into the computer without thinking about it. There's good for cause for my lack of attention, in that there are four drivers and so only a 1 in 4 chance that I'll have to deal with the consequences of any potential fuck-ups I might make in the course of taking an order (such as the time I basically got Dominico into a fight).
As it turns out, the wheel of fate didn't favour me, and so about a half hour later I look at the ticket, brow furrowed in a way that suggests intense concentration without actually marring my natural good looks, mentally running a finger through the encyclopedic corridors of my freakish brain and coming up empty.
"Where's Cambridge Avenue?" I ask Phil.
Phil looks at the receipt, and a frown of his own creases his ample brow. "Dunno," he says, and shrugs. "There's a note that says it's on Uley Road."
I look a little closer. Indeed there is. Only it doesn't just say on Uley Road; it says on or off Uley Road, which broadens things quite a bit. Uley Road is about four miles long, and at a barely-educated guess I'd say there are about twenty roads coming off it, all of which have their own forks and shoots. And that's an area of town I'm fairly familiar with, and I sure as fuck don't remember a Cambridge Avenue.
"Thanks. That's... that's helpful."
Phil tips me a salute, but he's not even listening. He's reading this page on the bbc sports website and he's an Arsenal fan, so in fairness he's got a good excuse for being a little distracted. I, on the other hand, am quite secure in supporting the most underachieving team in the country, so I grab the order and head out. No sense in wasting time: I'm a fucking man of fucking action and I've got a fucking pizza to fucking deliver.
Besides, I've got the customer's mobile number on the receipt, so if it all goes pear-shaped - which it wouldn't - I can just ring him up and get a spot of advice.
First up, when I get down to that end of town, I drive right out to the end of Uley Road and check out a newish estate which has a few obscure roads on it that don't always turn up on our maps. I give it a good going over twice, but no cigar. Not even a limp hand-rolled, come to that. I head back up Uley Road, going slow enough to cause three cars to honk loudly and overtake dangerously, and check every turning.
I say every turning, but I actually lost faith in the mission halfway through and parked up in a bus stop to dial the number on the receipt. I was pretty fucking confident I wasn't going to see Cambridge Avenue on any of the road signs I was passing, and besides, it'd be a lot quicker to just go ahead and phone the bloke anyway, right?
Nothing fancy. Nothing world-shattering. Just straight to answerphone. Great. Fucking great. You ring up to order a pizza, you live on a new road in a town that seems to shit out new roads quicker than television shits out "celebrities", and then you turn your arse-buggering phone off. Come on, now. You're taking the piss, aren't you?
I ring the restaurant (I'd like to point out that I use the term restaurant loosely).
"Allo?" It's Phil.
"Hi, it's Matt. I can't find Cambridge Avenue."
"Hold on a sec."
I hold on a sec. A sec turns out to be about three minutes, but that's fine, because I'm having fun sitting in my car at a bus stop with a pizza that's not getting any warmer.
"I looked on the internet," Phil informs me when he comes back on the line.
"It's not there."
"Have you tried phoning the customer?"
"Have I tried...? Yes, I've tried phoning the bloody customer. Can you ring Chris or something?"
Phil sighs. It is a sigh partly of exasperation but also of melancholy. The news of the Fulham result is weighing heavily on his soul, I can tell, but this isn't the time to remonstrate or sympathise. This is a time of action... and anyway, I'd feel a hell of a lot sorrier if I didn't support Derby County.
"I'll see," he says flatly. "You might as well stay there."
About three, maybe four, minutes later my own mobile rings. It's the restaurant.
"You got Chris, then?" I ask by way of greeting.
"I got his answerphone." It's Phil, again. "I left him a message saying to ring you as soon as possible. He might just be on the loo or something-"
"Thanks for that image. Nice. That's nice."
"-so, give it another five minutes, then give up. Their loss."
"And great commitment to customer service. Alright, I'll see you soon."
To be honest I'd have been fine with just giving up there and then, because seriously, if you order a pizza, don't turn your fucking phone off afterwards. That's just retarded. PIZZA ORDERERS OF THE WORLD, LEAVE YOUR FUCKING PHONES ON. IF YOU DO NOT DO THIS VERY SIMPLE AND LOGICAL THING, THE CONSEQUENCES ARE ENTIRELY YOUR OWN FAULT.
But I'm a dependable (not to mention rugged) guy, so I wait it out for another five minutes. But only another five minutes, and then I start up the engine and head back to the restaurant.
I make it about two-thirds of the way when my mobile rings.
"You fucker," I say calmly to my rear view mirror, and pull over to the pavement.
"Chris!" I exclaim, my voice indicating a joy that was nowhere to be found in the confines of my Corsa.
"Alright, you stuck for somewhere?" Businesslike. Good man.
"Yeah, Cambridge Avenue."
"Cambridge Avenue?" There's a pause, and I begin to suspect that such a place didn't even bloody exist. "Oh yeah, I remember it. Yeah, that one's a bit of a bastard. No sign at all."
No sign at all. Brilliant! And the cunt turned his phone off. Brilliant.
"It's actually on Uley Road," Chris continues. "You know the bus stop?"
"The bus stop on Uley Road?" I ask, feeling hysterical laughter bubble up inside me.
"Yes, Chris, I know the bus stop on Uley Road. In fact, I spent probably the last quarter of an hour parked in it."
"You're shitting me?"
"I assure you, Chris, I am not fucking shitting you."
"Hah! Those houses directly outside it? That's Cambridge Avenue."
"Brilliant. Thanks Chris."
"That's pretty funny, isn't it, you sat right outside for fifteen minutes?"
I put the phone down, turn around, and drive back to Cambridge Avenue. In my eyes, if you'd looked closely, you'd have seen a fire that Satan himself would have feared to touch. A fire that could only be extinguished by justice.
Or a tip roughly equal to 10% of the order's value.
I knock on the door of number eleven Cambridge Avenue, and a portly gentleman answers.
"What were you doing out there?" he asks.
This wasn't the question I'd been expecting. "What took you so long", yes, but not "What were you doing out there". The implications of that question from this man - this fat, fat man with the switched-off mobile phone - troubled my mind greatly.
"Out there?" I ask, a rictus grin affixed to my features.
"Yeah, you were sat out there for like ten minutes! We were watching you out of the window. That isn't the same pizza you had with you the whole time, is it?" His nose wrinkles in apparent disgust at the thought that I hadn't left and returned in order to cook him a fresh pizza.
"It is, actually," I say, quite calmly, the pleasant-but-not-that-pleasant smile clinging desperately to my lips. "And I was sat out there because I didn't know where Cambridge Avenue was, on account of it not having a road sign. I tried to ring you, but your mobile was turned off, and as you ordered from your mobile, that's the only number we have."
"My mobile isn't turned off!" the chubber protests, not willing to give up what he seems to have envisioned as some kind of upper ground.
"I'll try ringing it again, shall I?" I ask, still smiling, though at this point the expression is more reminiscent of a chimp baring its teeth before attacking.
I try ringing it again.
It goes straight to answerphone.
"You see?" I say, feeling my mask of sanity slip a little, and I thrust the phone in his direction. "That's your number, right? The one I just rang? The one that just went straight to answer machine?"
"...Yes," he admits, nose held high, dignity not about to be sullied by the simple fucking fact that the pizza boy was right. "But the pizza must be cold now, don't you give a discount?"
The way his piggy eyes light up at the prospect of cheap pizza threatens to send me completely over the edge but I hold in, digging my claws in and keeping as firm a grip as I can on my flailing psyche.
"We ask that all customers provide us with a working phone number in case of any unforeseen problems," I tell him flatly, starting to unload the lukewarm food now. "You failed to do that."
"My mobile phone works!" the lard mountain protests, but more weakly now. He sees that the evidence is on my side, and, perhaps more importantly, he senses a little bit of how close I am to inflicting serious blunt trauma with a box of chicken wings.
"It might well do, sir," I say, "but it's switched off, isn't it? And if you were watching me out of your window while I used my mobile phone, trying to find out where you lived, you could have rectified that problem by coming outside or even just turning your mobile on. So no, your order does not qualify for a discount."
"I shouldn't have to come out to you!" the Fat Man retorts, jowls flapping in the wind like sails in a tempest as his mind renewed its assault on my reasoned argument.
The smile leaves my face, but I manage to keep a handle on my more primal urges.
"Look," I say, placing the food in his outstretched hands - even in the midst of the argument, his arms had been out, waiting to receive the food he obviously so depserately needed - "you're quite welcome to take it up with the owner, or the manager. Both of them will be in tomorrow. I'll make a note of your order number, your complaint, and the fact that you had your mobile phone switched off. Okay?"
There's a pause which I imagine is more awkward for the big-bellied gent than me. It seems to finally have become clear to him that his plan to harass the delivery boy into giving him money off isn't going to work.
He shakes his head. Flesh flaps everywhere. "Forget it," he tells me, magnaminous in defeat.
Only I didn't forget it, and instead it became a cautionary tale, for those of us who want to order pizza but are too retarded to think more than five minutes into the future. Also a tale about how you shouldn't piss someone off who is only working in a temporary position and could be fired the next day without it having a significant impact on his life.
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