Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Confessions of a Pizza Driver (Part III)

“I love the smell of pepperoni in the evening...
It smells like freedom.”

I began working for Papa John’s in May, 1997. At that time with Michelle's income from Ford, which was creeping upward as she began climbing the middle-management ladder, we had additional income from my continuing contract work with a computer networking services company, designing web sites for their customers; however, that work was rapidly petering out. The unexpectedly profitable pizza delivery work was a nice bonus, but we were still behind the income pace we needed to maintain to re-assuming our home mortgage from via the HUD program we were involved with.

As luck would have it, Michelle was talking about our situation with her hairdresser one day. It just so happened that her husband was working a contract job for a company in need of a web designer. Phone numbers were exchanged, resumes sent, interviews scheduled.

I got the job!

And the best part was that it was a telecommute circumstance, so I could easily do the web job from home during the day and maintain working for The Papa at night.

Now, with two corporate jobs (Michelle's and mine), combined with my PJ’s income, we could really start putting a dent in our debt.

Over the next year and a half, there were a few more adjustments. In October 1998, my corporate employer asked me to come work in-house, which put a damper on my availability at Papa Johns, so I decided to quit PJ's. HUD had already sold our mortgage to another lender, and we had long since gotten back to making full mortgage payments. Another exciting development was that our mountain of debt was now down to mere molehill status, and getting smaller. So we figured we were pretty much in the clear.


About five months later, everything started breaking at once around the house. First the washer went belly-up, then Michelle's car engine blew. Suddenly that extra $2000 or so per month extra income became sorely missed. I looked at Michelle and said, "Looks like I need to go back to the pizza job until we get some things taken care of."

Fortunately for me, back at PJ's, they apparently had been missing me too. When I called to asked if they needed any help, the manager's first words to me were, “Well, can ya start tonight?”

“I'll be there in 15 minutes,” I replied.

So began my second stint at Papa John’s. The temporary resumption of my career as a pizza driver would last yet another year.

The Home Stretch
Again, the great surprise about this whole pizza job scenario is the fact that I had so much fun doing it. I had very few problems with my fellow drivers. With the notable exception of a couple of minor clashes with a certain big, fat, arrogant dude named Bill, I got along famously with all my cohorts. I still see McGriff socially, and another former driver now has a small general contracting business; He's scheduled to do some work on my house this month. I even acquired my Internet nickname of ‘AJ’ via a PJ’s assistant manager. So all in all, it was a totally worthwhile experience.

I delivered to Nashville Predators players who lived in the area; other drivers had various opportunities to deliver to local Country and Pop stars like Alan Jackson, Amy Grant and Tim McGraw. I once delivered to Blues great Buddy Guy in his hotel room (the dude had the worst breath evAR...yikes!). There always seemed to be fun things like that to liven up a night.

However, the most important part of my 3-year tour there was what happened on the big day: August 20th, 1999. Aided immeasurably by the extra cashflow from my pizza delivery job, Michelle mailed off the final payment of the final bill that we owed to anyone besides our home mortgage lender.

We were debt-free for the first time in more than 20 years!


We've made some stupid mistakes with money, some of which I'll talk about another time. But ultimately what I'm most grateful for is that when we finally dug out of that hole we’d created, we saw the value of staying out.

I now have five-star credit once again, but haven't carried a credit card since I lost them all 10 years ago. It's a cash-only life for my family and me now. And it's GREAT. Y'know it's funny, but when you don't have any payments besides utilities, food and the mortgage, there just seems to be an awful lot more cash in the ol' checking account at the end of each month. I can now afford still buy what I want, pretty much when I want it. If not, I usually don't need to wait more than two weeks to save up, and pay for it in cash (or with a debit card). In today's priceless world of credit card abuse, I admit it's hard to imagine not using one, but it can be done.

And MAN, does it feel good!

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