Not That You Asked

By Buddy Early, May 2019 Issue.

Our side gigs make

us better people.

I’ve always been fascinated by how other

people live. I’m not talking about the people around me, the people I see every

day who travel the same roads, get their Chinese take-out from the same

restaurant, and buy their oatmeal and mayonnaise at the same supermarket.

(That’s funny if you know of my hang-ups with those two items. Spoiler alert: I

don’t eat them together!) I’m talking about, well, the other people.

It’s one of the things I enjoy about the

side gigs I’ve been juggling in recent years — driving for Uber, Amazon and

(currently) GrubHub. Sure, this side gig helps put a roof over my head and

tacos in my stomach, not to mention facilitates the management of soul-crushing

debt that keeps me humble yet unmarriable. 

But it’s also kind of fun. I drive to all corners of the Valley, getting

a glimpse of various socio-economic groups and unique sub-cultures. In the same

afternoon I might deliver to a north Scottsdale mom whose teenage son has a

higher disposable income than me, and then to a downtown artist who is putting

the finishing touches on a giant Betsy Devos sculpture constructed from

discarded tampons.

I never know what kind of person is going

to open the door and thank me for bringing them Pita Jungle … because no matter

where people live or how they were raised, how much they earn and what their

status is, they all order Pita Jungle. That moment before your customer opens

the door is stirring. What kind of person is on the other side? Are they old or

young, Republican or Democrat, fat or skinny? Did they just get home from work

and arrange to have their food delivered shortly after they have kicked off

their shoes, or do they work from home? Do they keep a clean house or is it a

filth trap? Do they use the “they” pronoun?

Will Dillon, Jordan or Ridley be a man or a


The anticipation is similar to that moment

immediately before your Grindr “date” opens his door, but minus the fear that

this could be the last person to ever see you alive.

As side gigs go, if you must have one, I

like mine. In 2019 most people I know have them. For example, I am certain my

co-worker has a side gig where she bathes in obnoxious perfumes before arriving

at the office so she can report back the level of disgust I experience. And

then there’s my neighbor, whom I’d guess sells weed from our adjoining patio,

which is where he smokes his product throughout the morning, afternoon, evening

and god-damn-do-you-know-what-time-it-is?!

Phoenix may

not be one of the more diverse big cities in the U.S. While we obviously have a

large Hispanic presence, our Black, Asian, and Middle Eastern populations are

fairly small. You won’t find a Little Italy, Koreatown or Germanville in

Arizona. You’d be hardpressed to stumble upon a group of people speaking any

language other than English or Spanish here. However (you had to know a however

was coming), small enclaves are out there. In our own charming Phoenix, my side

gig has led me to encounter tiny neighborhoods — sometimes lone streets and/or

corner plazas — home to Somalians, Greeks, even Russians.

Despite not having a large representation

of people from all around the globe, discovering Phoenix’s diversity can be

eye-opening nonetheless. You learn something when you venture into that

neighborhood you’ve only passed on the freeway while heading out of town; or

explore a community off one of the major arteries you ignore on your way to

work; or travel to one of the far-reaches of the Valley, where you’ve only been

once before and that was at 5 a.m. to pick up your friend who has been on a three-day

bender and can’t remember his name.

That something is: people are the same

everywhere. The fun thing about experiencing other cultures and communities is

celebrating what makes us unique and at the same time understanding that we all

want the same things in life.  We all

want to have a nice income and lead a comfortable life, we want to be

surrounded by loved ones, we like to dance in our living rooms, laugh at

ourselves and each other, and order delivery from Pita Jungle. The way we

experience these things through our own lens, culture, background and

upbringing is what fascinates me.

If this

column were a meme, I suppose it would just be two adorable kids, one from

Kenya and one from Norway, and it simply says “Same, Yet Different.” But I get

paid to write about 800 words, so this is what you get instead. Deal

with it.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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