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The Harried Life of Route Salesmen
What a Way to Make a Living
I spent about 6 years of my life delivering and selling products as a route salesman. I sold bread, cakes, pastries and dairy products at one time or another. They were jobs I hated with a passion.
A 12 hour day was a short day for me. Normally I would put in about 16 hours. My day would start around 3 AM and I would rarely return home before 7 in the evening.
I worked for 2 major bread companies. At zero dark 30 I would start loading up the order I had made a week earlier. After counting each item to make sure I had everything I had ordered, it would have to be loaded, last stop to first.
There was no time to waste. The van would have to be ready to go in an hour. First stops on the list would be those having to be delivered before business doors opened. These were usually schools, daycare centers and nursing homes. My route had 9 schools...which had to be serviced before 7:30 AM, daily. Not only did orders have to be delivered but orders for the next week taken.
Like a Cross Country Race
The route sales game can be compared to that of a cross country runner. The starting gun was fired and off I went as fast as my short legs would take me. I'm 5'4".
One customer told my supervisor I was doing a good job. "Yep" the proprietor quipped. "John comes in here with those short little legs going just as fast as they can...but he ain't getting nowheres fast!"
But I really did get around quickly. I had to if I was going to get the job done on time. Figure on a 12 hour day divided by 62 stops. That comes to about 15 minutes per store. Now, include driving time between those stops. Boggles the mind doesn't it?
And this doesn't include taking out older products and pricing the new. No, it can't be done prior. Each store charges different prices and those are constantly changing.
Forget breaks...no such thing. Lunch was ordered while working a store and wolfed down while driving to the next. I became adept at holding a sausage dog, cup of coffee and a cigarette while steering with my feet.
During the summer a step van gets mighty hot inside. Sweat would roll off my brow and arms soaking all my paper work. Sure made it difficult to write tickets without tearing the paper. And don't mention fresh bread to me.
As hot as it was in those vans, I was delivering toast and hot pastries.
Working with dairy products was no easier. However, in the summer the cold refrigerator truck became a welcome cool haven.
But on the other hand, rainy, winter weather would find you with the front of your uniform frozen to your stomach if you happened to be working with ice cream.
The only real plus with milk and juice products was you didn't have to worry about dying of thirst.
To this day I still shudder at the sight of a bread or milk truck. Route salesmen...ya gotta love 'em.