30 Minutes or Less

I learned a lot in college. But no lesson during those four years was more important than the one that I learned late one night in the home of two strangers.

I was working for Domino’s Pizza. The job came with its disadvantages. Like delivering to churches that seemed to have a bylaw against tipping.

“Here’s your pizza. That’ll be $8.99.”

“Okay. Here’s $9.00. I’ll stand here and wait for you to give me my penny back.”

But it also came with some advantages. Like delivering to happy drunks who gave 120% tips.

“Here’s your pizza. That’ll be $8.99.”

“Well here’s your hundred dollar bill. Keep the change. Go Dawgs!”

Thankfully, the happy drunks in my small college town liked pizza more than the Christians did. But sadly, not all of the drunks were happy. Especially when you didn’t bring them there pizza in 30 minutes or less.

Joe was my boss. He was a hard worker and he expected us to work hard. But he was fair. It was easy to respect him because he knew what he was doing and he was always willing to help. Seeing as how I was a pizza delivery boy that couldn’t manage to go from the bathroom to the kitchen in my own house without getting lost, I needed all of the help I could get.

I was up for the next delivery. It was a long way away from our store but Joe reassured me with his directions. I was feeling confident as I walked to my car under that early evening north Georgia sky. An hour later, the sky was completely black and I wasn’t feeling so confident. I still hadn’t found that house.

These were the days before cell phones. The pay phone at Fat Harry’s Stop ‘N Sip was my cell phone. I probably spent $20 going back and forth to that gas station pay phone to ask Joe for directions. Finally, Joe’s directions clicked. I knew where to go and how to get there. What I didn’t know was that the house I was delivering to also happened to be where the cast of Deliverance was having a little get together.

The house was off of a dark road that snaked it’s way through the woods. The driveway was gravel. The house was a trailer. The two men inside were furious.

I’ve never been called so many cuss words. That’s saying a lot for a Southern Baptist preacher. I have a feeling that Chris Rock, had he been there that night, would have told these two gentlemen to cool it with the language. Chris Rock wasn’t there. It was just me. In the middle of nowhere. Alone with two strangers.

In the short time that it took me to walk from my Mazda 323 to the front door of their modular home these two men must have reminded me 20 times about the Domino’s policy of a free pizza if it’s not delivered in 30 minutes or less. Why couldn’t Domino’s have a 4 hours or less policy?

These guys weren’t paying and they were letting me know about it. Really letting me know about it. As in, I’m now inside of their house, with the door closed, listening to them tell me that they weren’t going to pay. I’ve never been kidnapped before but this seemed pretty close.

So that’s when I pulled out my switchblade.

Not really. But that would have been very cool on my part. Maybe next time.

If you’re not familiar with the movie Deliverance, do everything you can to keep it that way. Just know this. There are some weird looking bad guys in that movie. I know I’m not supposed to judge but that’s kind of hard not to do when you’re sort of being kidnapped. The two guys in that house looked just like the weird bad guys from Deliverance. I drew my own conclusions and wasn’t too thrilled with where they were leading me.

I noticed that one of the gentlemen was on the phone. I hoped that the guy on the other end of the phone wasn’t named The Gimp. The guy motioned for me to come over and handed me the phone. The voice I heard was a familiar one. It was my boss, Joe.

Joe usually talked loud and fast with the hint of a laugh behind every word. Not this time. This time his voice was steady, quiet and serious.

“Jay. Listen to me. Get out of that house as fast as you can.”

I handed the phone back while looking at the front door, hoping it was unlocked. It was. I ran out to my car, leaving in my wake the cast of Deliverance, the pizza, my tip money and probably a few years of my life.

I made it back to the store in 30 minutes or less having learned a very important lesson.

If the cast of Deliverance, or at least people looking like they belong in the cast of Deliverance, decides to have a party in your town and, for whatever reason, you’re in charge of bringing the pizza, make sure that you get it there on time.

And if you can’t do that, bring a switchblade.