Drive Tales: ‘It’s upside down, so what?’

Parking can be a hassles, especially at beach towns.

Drive tales

One of my many jobs right now is delivering packages for Amazon Prime Now. It’s a little different from Amazon Prime where packages are delivered at Amazon’s choosing by USPS, UPS, and FedEx. With Prime Now, YOU choose when you want your goods delivered. You can choose any two-hour window between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week at no extra charge. If you need something in the next hour, you can pay $7.99 and get it within an hour of paying for it.

Amazon Prime Now also has partnerships with several local businesses, such as Sprouts Farmers Market, Bristol Farms (organic and whole foods), and Sprinkles cupcake factory (seems ironic to throw Sprinkles in there with Sprouts and Bristol Farms….).

And now...this.

And now…this.

  I’ve been doing this since November 18, 2015, and it provides a lot of what I call “Drive Tales.” Following are a few.

  1. Whenever I deliver packages, I ask for a name to go with the order. Since no one has to sign for the order, this verifies that the correct person is receiving the order.
    I delivered two packages full of groceries from Sprouts to a cute Craftsman home. A lady answered the door and I said “Sprouts delivery from Amazon” as she took the two bags.
    I asked her, “Can you provide a name to go with this order?”
    With a puzzled look on her face she said, “No, I can’t. I don’t know what this is.”
    From behind her, a guy on the couch play computer games yelled, “It’s under John Doe!”
    The lady turns around, looks at him, turns back around and says to me, quietly, “In 11 years of marriage this is the first time he’s gone grocery shopping.”
    I’m thinking that Amazon Prime Now might have saved a marriage….
  2. I was training a new employee and we were following the GPS when we had to come to a stop at a fence. The GPS wanted us to go through the fence, over the cliff, into the canyon, and up the other side to that house that we could see. Unfortunately, in order to actually get to the house, we had to drive 1½ miles around the canyon.
    GPS navigation technology is great but the best technology still resides in the upper part of our heads. Sadly, the GPS doesn’t recognize fences, walls, bollards, spike strips, canyons, or cliffs, so it’s not unusual for the Amazon app to tell us to stop at the side of a freeway to deliver the order. I wouldn’t have a problem with that if I didn’t have to climb that 150′ cliff….
  3. I wasn’t a real convert to whether or not delivering packages in 2-hour windows was a business model that could succeed. Then, one day, again while training a new employee, we delivered 18 bags of groceries to a house with a front door with several glass panes and a curtain. My first thought was, “Lazy. Go to the store!)
    We rang the doorbell and could see the curtain moving and hear someone “playing” with the doorknob. I thought it was a child.
    After several minutes the door finally opened. Standing there was a woman with twin newborn sons in her arms.
    Now I understood. It’s not the product; it’s the person’s situation. I’ve delivered to many elderly who don’t drive anymore, people just home from the hospital, people on crutches or in wheelchairs, etc.
  4. How come the extraordinarily wealthy don’t have visible address numbers on their homes? Perhaps they don’t want to be found….
  5. In one huge, prestigious condominium complex I couldn’t find address numbers anywhere. I got out my 500 lumens flashlight and was shining the light all over the buildings trying to find addresses. Suddenly, three police cars pulled up and surrounded me. They wanted to know what I was doing. I said that I was delivering packages for Amazon and was simply trying to find address numbers. One of the officers said, “Oh. You’re not the first. They are up there” as he pointed to the top of the 4-story building. Yep, way up there where they are not visible to anyone….
  6. At another condominium complex the address numbers were there but….
    The buildings were painted a dark gray. The address numbers were painted a shade of gray that was 1% lighter than the building. Yeah, those are really readable at night…..
  7. One condominium complex of eleven 6-story buildings doesn’t have address numbers. When I’m having difficulty finding an address, I can call the customer. I did that and told the customer, “Russel from Amazon here with your Sprouts order but I need help finding your condo.”
    “Where are you?” she asked.
    “I don’t know because there are no address numbers on the buildings.”
    “Oh, yeah. Drive to the nearest street and then drive down to the nearest intersection and tell me where you are.”
    “I’m here at McCartney Drive and Lennon Avenue.”
    Oh. You went the wrong way. Make a U turn and drive to the other intersection. I’m in the building on the corner of Harrison Parkway and Starkey Boulevard.”
    Why didn’t she just tell me that to begin with?
  8. One guy lived on the fifth floor of a 5-story building. I couldn’t find any elevators; quite unusual for a 5-story building.
    I lugged two heavy bags up 10 flights of stairs, 2 flights per story. My knock on the door was answered by a 6′-5″ guy weighing about 300 pounds (think defensive lineman for a professional football team), standing there in his tightey whitey underwear briefs. After handing him the two packages I asked where the elevators were. They were in the building but they only connected to the garages.
    “Could you let me into the garage to get these other six packages to you?”
    “I’d have to get dressed. What’s the purpose of delivery if I have to get dressed?”
    No, he didn’t let me into the garages, so I made three more trips up and down ten flights of stairs. With all that exercise, though, I didn’t feel guilty about eating a pizza that night….

It’s upside down, so what?

One of my goals for delivering people for Uber and delivering packages for Amazon is to discover the nooks and crannies of San Diego County, the places where I have not been and probably would not go under normal circumstances.

With Amazon’s Prime Now service, I get to go to restaurants and stores that I definitely would not have gone to because I’m so stuck in my rut of a routine.

Yesterday, I had some pickups at Northgate, a Hispanic food market.

As soon as I walked in the door, there they were, two of them calling my name, begging me to take at least one of them home.

But I was working, on a time-sensitive delivery, and the register lines were long long long.

I couldn’t take time out to buy one.

Well, this morning, I went back to Northgate.

There they were, about forty of them, each wanting to go home with me.

Well, one did:

Pineapple downside up cake

Trust me when I say it doesn’t look like that anymore.

25% of it is gone. Poof! Like magic! Gone, gone, gone….

….and good, good, good.

As they might say at Northgate, “Bueno! Bueno! Muy bueno!”

I’m not a big fan of cakes, for the most part, me being a pie person. But I do love my pineapple downside up cakes.

My question, though, is, Why does a Hispanic food store have forty pineapple upside down cakes while regular grocery stores like Vons, Albertsons, Ralphs, Kroger, Food4Less, etc., have nary a one? Does Northgate buy them all before the other stores wake up? Do Hispanics really eat pineapple upside down cakes like that? Hmmm. Maybe I have some Hispanicity in my background that I’m not aware of….

Who are you and why are you on my property

During my delivery rounds for Amazon, I meet a lot of dogs and cats.

The dogs love me.



Check out the expressions on these three cat greeters from last week:

Cat greeter

Cat greeter

Cat greeter

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Notice the black spot on the forehead of the first cat. It’s more than just a black spot. It was a tumor. I so wanted to take the poor thing to a vet and have it looked at but the cat had a collar on and was hanging out where it lived, and who am I to assume that the cat didn’t have a vet appointment scheduled for the next day or so. Still felt sorry for it, though.

On a side note, I believe I am very close to returning to daily blogging. Everything will hinge on these next couple of weeks, but it could be even sooner. Here’s hoping!

Perhaps she just needed someone to listen to her…

I have been driving for Uber every day for a couple of weeks, a few hours each day.

Here’s what happened this morning:

Uber app: Rider request, National City, 12 minutes

Russel: “12 minutes? Are there no Uber drivers on President’s Day?” (as he swipes the app to accept the rider request.)

Uber app upon arrival at pickup location: “Wait for rider. Rider has been notified.”

Rider’s name is Honey. Remember that.

Female person as she opens the passenger side door: “Are you Russel?”

Russel: “Yes! Are you Honey?”

Female: “Yes.”

Russel: “Great! We found each other! Get in and let’s go!”

Honey: “First I have to ask if you’re a cop.”

Russel: “One of the few professions I have never been in.”

Honey: “Why should I believe you?”

Russel: “Well, you’re trusting a total stranger to pick you up just because he’s driving for Uber….”

Honey: “What do you want to do?”

Russel: “I don’t quite understand. Where would you like to go?”

Honey: “We could stay right here are the Clarion.” (which is the pick-up location)

Russel: “So you don’t need a ride anywhere?”

Honey: “I would love a ride!”

Russel: “So where to?”

Honey: “So you don’t want anything?”

Russel: “I’m just here to take you to wherever you need to go.”

Honey: “So you don’t want anything?”

Russel: “I don’t think we’re understanding each other.”

Honey: “I better go.” (as she gets out of the car)

Well, I did get paid a whopping $2.25 for driving 12 minutes (9 miles) to talk with her for 5 minutes. Perhaps she just needed someone to listen to her….

Officially an Uber driver!

I’m not a very good hourly employee because companies limit me to working a mere 40 hours a week.

I guess you could say that I’m not a very good 40-hour-a-week employee either.

Thus, since Amazon will only schedule me for a maximum of 40 hours a week, and no more than 5 days a week, that leaves a lot of time over the course of the week to do other things. So……….

As of today, I’m officially an Uber driver!

The only thing I could ever think of regarding Uber was drivers picking up the drunks at midnight. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to do that. When upper-management executives, such as Benjamin Golden of Taco Bell, go into a drunken rage and attack the Uber driver (see Benjamin Golden attacks Uber driver), well, that’s not something that I want to be part of.

However, after talking to some co-workers at Amazon, I thought, “I don’t have to work at the midnight bewitching hour….”

UberThis morning, I made myself available to Uber at 7:00 a.m. just to see what would happen. Almost immediately I had a rider, and as soon as I dropped that rider off, I had another rider. In the course of 32 minutes and 24 miles, I made $14.00. Not a lot, but my Excel spreadsheet tells me that is $26.25 per hour, more than Amazon pays…. My 2015 Toyota Corolla LE Plus gets 35 miles per gallon, and gas right now is $2.659 per gallon, so my expenses there were a mere $1.82, leaving me with a net after expenses but before taxes of $12.18. I can handle that.

After reading more this morning of the Uber documents, tips, and tricks for being a successful Uber driver, apparently I am in a pretty good location. Within a five-mile radius of where Jim and I live are:

Major medical center.
Two major malls.
Two major downtown areas.
Three Walmarts—a super store, a neighborhood market, and a regular Walmart.
A major university with 35,000 students.

I’m going to make myself available to Uber each morning from 6:00 a.m. to noon for a week and see what happens, just how busy I can be and how much money I can make. I’m not anticipating many drunken idiots between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and noon so Benjamin Goldens shouldn’t be a problem….

Out and About...

Out and About…

For more information about Ray’s property inspection service and blog, visit Real Estate Solutions by Russel Ray at Or call (619) 341-0173.

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