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
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
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.
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