Courier Days...."cool times?"

There was a comment to an earlier post from a friend out in Colorado, Tim Faia.

Tim and I have known each other for years, we have managed to maintain contact through different stages of our lives even with 2,000 plus miles between us. In the earliest stages of our friendship Tim was living in Ocean City Maryland just a block away from a house the was the summer home to a gathering of my college friends. During this time I was working as a bicycle messenger in Washington, DC. Those were wild times, but honestly....those times would have been just as wild had I been painting houses or working as a short order cook at the Tastee Diner. A great deal of the energy and passion that surrounded that job had to do with the energy and passion that a person in their early 20's carries. Being that it was summer I managed to spend a fair amount of time at the beach, enough time that some of the people down there thought that I was living there myself. Tim who was a cycling surfer was always intrigued by the occupation of the bicycle messenger, as a competitive racer Tim currently maintains a curiosity for this occupation. All of his ideas are correct....there are great things about this job....other than the pay check and the risk. There is a great freedom to riding around on your bike all day, but....

let me post Tim's comment...for a direct response

Are you longing for your courier days? Seems like a cool time, the crew down in Denver is less core than the D.C. group I met through you and Markus.
Tim | 10.15.04 - 7:18 pm | #

No, Tim, I am not longing nor have I ever longed for those courier days.
I can ride my bike through the city and take those same set of risks any time I want. I left the courier industry to be a mover....a job that offered similar freedoms, but gave me money for the hours I was there. As a commission courier there were times when the hourly average was low....not just for me....but for all....I hated being there and not making money. For the last year or so as a messenger I was working for two companies simultaneously to make sure that I was not riding around without packages in my bag, but even that left me hanging in the park more than I felt I needed to. Some couriers live for the endless hours in the park, head to Dupont Circle or Farragutt North and by 10 am you will see some gatherings of messengers, some of them will already be toasting the day with a 40, others may be rolling a joint, while some are just waiting for their pager to go off or for their name to be called on the radio. It always seemed like there was plenty of time after work for hangin with the fellas....I did not need to start catching up with my bar buddies first thing in the am and my bar interests could wait until the sun set.

There are some people that make money as messengers, but they are few and far between. For the most part messengers are living hand to mouth, in small apartment, in group houses, Washington DC is a very expensive city. It is unlikey that very many messengers could own a house and support a family on their messenger income. There are those that do make it work, but many of them have an additional source of income. Very few of these people will ever see a retirement check, the paybacks of a 401K or even an IRA. Many of these people live off the radar....many not paying taxes and even more living without health insurance....can you imagine living such a dangerous lifestyle without health insurance?
(I can...as I did!)

Sure there are the couriers who work as a messenger so that they can stay fit to race bikes, live in this fine country of the USA without papers, have the freedom to play music and have their band tour when ever they choose, stay home and paint or write when they wish, stay in bed and sleep off a painful hang over, or live, act, and dress as they wish. But, for the most part, these people are showing up for work early and staying late, with more commitment and less freedom than your average businessman with a tie. Rain, Snow, Sleet, or Ice and the courier needs to be there....if they are not there....they are not getting paid or they may lose their position in the hierarchy of their company. Consistent couriers are giving steady work, flaky couriers are used to pick up the slack, and the friends are fed and get to ride the Gravy Train!

In a personal email with a friend who owns a Courier Company in San Francisco (pete's blog about his business)we chatted about his dream job; Pete has just started a MUSIC BLOG, where he reviews bands and shares his opinions on vary artists with his readers. This is a just for fun, but Pete would love that to be his job....my feeling is that most any dream job over time becomes just a job.

In some ways I feel that the messengers who are still out there "doing it" would not mind having other options. The "Lifers." as they are often called, are not all wrapped up in the romance of the career, but rather are showing up to work to make money and pay the bills. There are some great things about the messenger industry. It is a colorful gathering of personalities. Many of these people are making the world a better place by sharing their artistic talents, voicing their political opinions, contributing to the cycling culture, or just by being good people. But, more likely than not these people would still be colorful contributors if they were working another job.

There is a sad fact that our time at any job has it cumulative advantages. At any job the longer a person is there, the more they learn, thus the greater possibility of advancement. A laborer shows up on the site and starts by carrying boards and nails, then starts to swing a hammer and use a saw, before they know it they are framing a house and so on and so on.... In the industry of the messenger the employee learns the city, memorizes the clients, gets more savy and more strength on the bike...and then what? There is very little room for movement...a courier can shoot for the "TOP DOG" position with their company, but what next? Dispatcher? Sales? Who knows? There are so many companies out there because at some point the presidents of these companies were working for a messenger company and felt that they could do this all themselves...Now there are a hundred companies....and not quite enough work to keep them all busy.


this BLOG was yet another topic that could not be tackled in one post
this is a topic that could be a complete sociological work in itself

I do not have the experience or the know how to write this work
but I do have an opinion
and well....
since I have an opinion, as unthought out as it may be, I shared that opinion with you


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