Best of RAH:
The Szechuan Taxi
by Dave Bealer
This commentary first appeared in the February 1994 issue of Random
Copyright © 1994 Dave Bealer, All Rights Reserved.
People who live in genuine rural areas should probably skip this
article because they won't understand it.
What's that? You don't know what constitutes a "genuine rural area?"
Alright, if you can pick up the telephone and have a pizza delivered
to your home, you do not live in a genuine rural area.
What kind of definition of genuine rural area is that? An accurate one. I
grew up in a genuine rural area in northeastern Pennsylvania. The closest
pizza delivery place would not deliver to our house. They would deliver to
a parking lot a quarter mile away at the bottom of the hill, but they would
not set foot (tire, actually) in our village.
Not that it was a dangerous village. It was just that the parking lot at the
bottom of the hill was the end of their range. The pizza shop was six miles
away from the parking lot, and six and a quarter miles away from our house.
Some marketing major at the pizza shop had decided that it made sense to
extend their delivery range two miles through sparsely populated countryside
to the entrance to our village, but not another quarter mile into our
village. So the 300 people of our village had to cool their heels in an empty
parking lot if they wanted pizza delivered near their homes (the
parking lot belonged to a defunct business and was typically empty because all
300 people in the village rarely chose to order pizza at the same time).
The result of all this was that we always went to pick up the pizza.
We figured that driving six and a quarter miles to pick up the pizza was
less aggravating than sitting around a cold, dark (but safe) parking lot
waiting for a pizza delivery person who was always running late. We knew
for a fact that the person was always late because we occasionally had
pizza delivered while visiting friends who lived within the magic six mile
Now, are we clear on who lives in a genuine rural area? Good. Perhaps
we can get on with the point of this story.
Home food delivery is a matter of extreme importance to people living in
urban and suburban areas. Even realtors have begun to recognize this
phenomenon. Remember how homes have long been listed in the classified
"for sale" ads with notations about the wonderful school district which
serves the area? These days you can find homes expected to attract childless
singles or couples listed with the number and types of home food delivery
establishments that serve the community.
Now that I live in a major urban area, there are literally dozens of
pizza delivery places competing for my business. The coupons these
outfits pay students to stick on my car windshield and the front door
of my house each year could paper all the walls in my house several
One of the major factors in the decision to purchase my current home
was the Chinese restaurant a mile away that actually delivers.
Imagine that! Not just pizza and subs, but food that actually
contains mono sodium glutamate, delivered to my door!
A couple of years ago I found out exactly how useful this kind of
thing can be. I placed a carry out order with the local Chinese
restaurant, then went to do some shopping. The plan was to pick up
the food on the way home. The trouble started when the car wouldn't.
The car wasn't going anywhere, and it was a cold winter night.
In a rare moment of inspiration, I carried my groceries one block to the
Chinese restaurant, walked in, and changed my carry out order to delivery.
If you think ordering without numbers in a Chinese restaurant is an adventure,
you should have seen this attempted conversation. It's a good thing these
people knew me as a regular customer. Actually, they took it well. They didn't
even call the police. Eventually the game of charades ended when they realized
I didn't have a car. They stuffed me in the aged, rusting econo-box they use
for deliveries. Amazingly enough, the Szechuan Lo Mein, wonton soup, my
groceries and I were delivered in good shape. I tipped the driver unusually
well that night.
Dave Bealer is a fifty-something mainframe systems programmer who
works with CICS, z/OS and all manner of nasty acronyms at one of the
largest heavy metal shops on the East Coast. He shares a waterfront
townhome in Pasadena, MD. with a cat who annoys him endlessly as he
assiduously avoids writing for and publishing Random Access Humor.
Dave can be reached via e-mail at:
I've seen the future. I can't afford it.