Pea Pod Prototype

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The Pea Pod Prototype

During the second semester of freshman year I befriended a boy named Frank, who lived in Roseland. He also rode his bike to school every day. He told me about a really great after school job he had delivering groceries for Tumey’s grocery store at 115th and Wentworth. Frank said the store owner could always use help on a part time basis. He probably wanted to quit his job and needed to recruit his replacement.

At home, I approached Mom with the idea of allowing me to work at Tumey’s after school. I already rode my bike to school, and the store was just another half mile further. She agreed and I went to Tumey’s with Frank to apply for the job.

My bike had a big basket mounted on the front from my paper route, and it was ready for the job. Mr. Tumey hired me for two days a week. At first I didn’t get to deliver anything. Mr. Tumey handed me a broom, and told me to sweep the floor. I did a great job of it. Next, he asked me to stack cereal boxes on the top shelf. I used the tongs on the end of a long pole to put them up there. The next time, he gave me a bucket of ammonia water, a brush on a pole, and a large squeegee. He took me outside and showed me how to wash the windows. Each day I went, he had another job for me.

Eventually, a telephone order came for groceries. Mrs. Tumey made a list on a paper-bag. When the list was done she wrote the address on the same bag. The Tumey’s knew all of the phone customers very well because the same people also shopped in the store when they could.

Mrs. Tumey ran around the little store collecting all of the items on the list and put them into a box. Mr. Tumey cut the meat items and wrapped them. Once she completed the list, she added the bill and recorded the amount on a receipt in her book. One copy went to the customer, the other stayed in the book.

It was time for delivery, and they called me from my sweeping job to take the order. Finally, after a couple of weeks at work I would be delivering groceries on my trusty bike.

The box looked very large, but I put both arms around it and lifted. Wow! That box was heavy. I could barely make it out the front door. Outside, I stood in front of the bike holding a box which made the veins pop out of my head. How do I get the box into the basket when the bike is leaning over on the kickstand? I took the box back in, then came out and propped the bike against the building. I wrestled the box up into the basket. It hung up on the wires half way in. That’s stupid, I told myself, the next time I’ll fit the empty box into the basket before she loads it up.

During the next challenge I rode three blocks with this huge load up front. My Sunday newspaper loads were heavy too, and I was accustomed to a loaded front wheel, but this box was at least double the heaviest paper load.

With every bump I heard bottles clinking against each other. Now, I know why Schwinn sells a delivery bike with the small front wheel and the huge basket. I wished I had one right then and there! My basket stood high above the wheel and made the bike unstable with a high center of gravity. On a delivery bike the load is low to the ground. A delivery bike also has a kick stand that holds the front wheel straight and off the ground. It keeps the bike rock solid. The basket is lower and wider making it much easier to load and unload.

My first delivery went to a customer who lived on a block of two and three flats. This lady lived on the third floor. I had to use the open back stairway for delivery. Somehow, I wrestled the box out of the basket. The road vibration had settled it in place. Miraculously, the bike didn’t tip over while I pried the box from the basket, and nothing fell out.

The box weighed at least thirty pounds, and I weighed ninety. The climb up the stairs was like climbing Mount Everest. By the time I got to the last landing my arms were tired, my legs were shaking, and I could feel the box slipping out of my fingers. What did I get myself into, I kept thinking?

God was with me all the way because I made it. I pressed the bell with a knuckle and then rested by pushing the box against the building. The lady took her sweet time to answer the door but finally came. She told me to place the box on the kitchen table. I politely handed her the bill and she paid. Ceremoniously, she awarded me with a quarter.

As I rode back, I felt a cold breeze drying the hot sweat from my back.

That first trip taught me a lot about packing boxes, and making them lighter. It made sense to split a large heavy load into a couple of trips.

The Tumey’s had a son named Gil. He didn’t work in the store. Gill came home from school in his baseball uniform. He played on the Fenger High School team and practiced after school. He came in, kissed his mom, said hi to his dad, grabbed a snack, and disappeared to the apartment upstairs.

When the store closed at 5:30 I rode home taking every short cut I knew and rolled in at 6:00 p.m. just as Mom put supper on the table.

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