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April Baer: Laura, I just realized, in all of these episodes of Dough Dynasty, we’ve failed to acknowledge perhaps the most important person in the whole pizza story.

Laura Weber-Davis: What, who?

April Baer: The pizza driver!

Laura Weber-Davis: Oh, of course! How else would the hot, steamy pizza get to our doors? The most critical piece of the pie! The person who gets it to your face.

April Baer: Yes! This is a Dough Dynasty Extra Cheese. I’m April Baer.

Laura Weber-Davis: And I’m Laura Weber-Davis. Today, we’ll hear tales from the trails of delivery guys. You know the stereotype – dude with a mustache or goatee; t-shirt, jeans; probably high. The guys who makes this thing happen on your busy weeknight.

April Baer: For today’s story, we have an inside source: producer Mike Blank, the OG pizza delivery guy on this Dough Dynasty team.

Mike Blank: Yo yo!

April Baer: Mike!

Laura Weber-Davis: Mike!

April Baer: WIll you divulge which of the big Michigan pizza titans was your liege during those years?

Mike Blank: Uh, no..

Laura Weber-Davis: Okay then!

April Baer: It’s OK! It’s OK! Names will be changed to protect the innocent. Does this mean you saw a little different side of humanity while delivering pizzas?

Mike Blank: Uh yes. The best and worst of humanity, and all of your private lives as well. Unlike servers at a restaurant, we see behind your closed door, and like vampires we have to be invited in. And I’m telling you, every driver has many tales of crazy pizza delivery stories.

[Bite] You’re at the mercy of the calls coming in. The number was “173” and I finished that early morning at “175.”

[Bite] The building was packed and it was just so many people. And they were like hugging each other and crying.

[Bite] Like, I getted f*cked with plenty by people going places just because I’m brown and travel in America.

[Bite] A woman answered the door basically in lingerie, asked me to step in and then spent way too much time walking around her living room looking in all sorts of places for change.

Mike Blank: So today I’m going to deliver – heyo! – a few slices of delivery life. And these stories are some of the most tame I’ve heard or that we could at least put on the podcast. And it all starts with getting the call.

In a former life I was a pizza delivery driver in Michigan in the last years before cell phones. Today I'm going to share my story of the longest delivery ever. And I'm not talking distance, but rather how pizza delivery drivers measure distance: time.

The pizza delivery process should be easy – just a simple five step process. Step 1: You order the pizza. Step 2: Pizza is made. Step 3: Pizza is driven to your location Step 4: You pay for the pizza. Step 5: You eat the pizza

Easy smeasy. However on one mid-fall evening in 2003, a delivery to a middle school janitor required many, many more steps to complete the process.

Having taken the first three steps and arriving at the school, I hit a roadblock. No customer to be found. But I’m determined so I begin to improvise some steps.

Step 4: Check if school door is unlocked. It is!

Step 5: Start walking around empty school at night

Step 6: Start shouting “Pizza!” (echoes down hall)

This is going to take a while so let me speed things up a bit.

Step 56: Follow customer to party store so they can break a hundred to pay you. While there watch customer shop aisle-by-aisle as the store clerk informs you they can’t break a hundred because they just started their shift. Listen in to debate between clerk and your customer about breaking the hundred before clerk concedes, then watch customer go back to shopping before buying a single bag of .99 cent chips.

Step 57: Receive money for pizza but with no tip, get into staring contest with customer, break cardinal rule of service industry and direct ask for tip citing the fact it took 40 minutes to get paid since the delivery of the pizza and then receive a dollar tip while being admonished for being so inconsiderate.

April Baer: Mike, I can’t believe after all that time you got in a staring contest over a dollar tip.

Mike Blank: I know. I know. But it could have been much worse. I talked to my buddy Nick whose week was already going bad because of the passing of his beloved dog and then he took a delivery, which can only be defined as brutal.

Nick: This is probably about 16 years ago, dating a girl at the time. We had been together for maybe four years. On this particular morning, I remember it was a Saturday morning and I had taken a couple of deliveries. And I’d call on her a couple of times and she hadn't answered, which is not normal for her – like it was, like, getting to be like late morning … and she wasn't answering the phone.

So I was on a delivery in her neighborhood just a few doors down. So I figured I'd stop by and see what was going on. So, I did the delivery first, and then I went over to her place and I noticed a car, not in her driveway, but ... she had a little parking lot behind her house. Well, it was a trailer park.

And like, nobody ever parked back there. But there was a car back there. And I thought that was kind of strange. But I, like, knocked on the door and like, she didn't come to the door. So I went around to her bedroom window and the first thing I see is a naked guy, like, through the window. The blinds weren't down or anything … and she's on the other side of him. I was just, like, shocked, I…banged on the window and … she finally, like, turned her head up and looked at me and she's like, “What the f*ck are you doing?” I'm like, “Who the f*ck is that? … And I lost my temper … challenged the guy to a fight.

And I'm like, you know, “What are you doing with my…” which is so silly when I look back on it.

But yeah, anyway, I called the guy out and he came outside.

He was about the same size as me. I had been in probably four or five fights and I guess I had the confidence that I knew what I was doing enough to do this and, and I had rage behind me, too … So this guy comes out – well he had to put his pants on – and he comes outside. We square up and all I remember is like, well I tried to box with him first. I got hit. … so I tried to go for, like, a takedown and just got, like, thrown like eight feet across the yard. And this guy ended up on top of me, just lighting me up, and I'm like,” Okay, I lost this fight really fast.”

I found out later on that this guy was a MMA fighter.

My face was bleeding. I had some bumps and bruises. It was very clear that I was in a fight. I tried to go back to the store, like … yeah, he basically sent me home in the delivery car … The owner of the store at the time would, like, let drivers take the car home. … it wasn't my car, but I used it all the time. The owner called me, and he was like, “You know, Nick, you know, I think this time it was too much.”

So dog died, caught the girlfriend cheating, got beat up, got fired, lost my car. So that was a bummer.

April Baer: Ladies and gentlemen, delivery guy Nick, walking country song.

Mike Blank: Okay yeah, but let’s talk about some pizza driving cliches. What top cliches come to your guys’ mind?

Laura Weber-Davis: Like, the hot box?

Mike Blank: Close.

Laura Weber-Davis: Umm… smelly car?

Mike Blank: Closer.

April Baer: Laura.

Laura Weber-Davis: What?

April Baer: Marijauna.

Laura Weber-Davis: Oh! Right.

Mike Blank: Ding ding ding! Cannabis. I talked to a former driver who made “special deliveries” with a certain kind of “product” alongside his pizzas and you’d be surprised just how “high” up in Michigan these deliveries went.

Eric: I'm Eric. First off, this is more of a story about Bob. He was quite a character. So I ended up helping him out in his deliveries by taking deliveries not disguised as pizza deliveries, but with pizza deliveries.

At some point Bob’s like, “Hey, I'll throw you an eighth or whatever. Can you take this with the order? And here's the name.” … Doctors down to cleaning crew to security, to nurses. So Bob was everybody's friend and everybody's weed dealer on the side. … There didn’t even need to be acknowledgement of what was going on and it always went with a legitimate pizza order … and you get two boxes.

It was kind of routine and it was the same thing at the capitol – had a lot of regular customers … who were, you know, state legislators, aides, staff, security.

And then he had me take a few of the “extra boxes” to there. And one of the first ones was to the Capitol Police.

There was usually just no acknowledgment or just kind of a proverbial wink and nod and always big smiles like these, these people, tons of resources and position and connections, being really, really excited to get what in hindsight was just absolute garbage, compacted terrible ditch weed for what I know were absolutely, by today's standards, horrible prices, but always just all smiles when I'd show up.

And then the only time it got a little awkward … And in this case, it was a state senator. And I walked in and we knew each other. … But of course, I don't want to – I would never give out his name. But just for extra irony, he’s a Republican lawmaker.

Laura Weber-Davis: Well, wouldn’t be the first time a lawmaker got twisted up in that business.

April Baer: Right?

Mike Blank: You think that’s a complicated situation, I got a story for you. This one takes us to the rural winter roads of Michigan, where pizza delivery can really be challenging.

 O’Neill: So I was working for this place called Just in Time Pizza. … My name is Justin, and the owner's name … Justin. So, yeah, Just In Time Pizza … So little back story. I hadn't had a car in a while … that was one of the reasons why I didn't have a job. Because when you live out where I lived out in the Irish hills, if you don't have a car then … you don't have a job because there's nowhere within miles of where you live … so. … but this one was really special because it only cost $100 and it was a Mercury Zephyr. … You know and then once I got it, I was ready. I was like, “Okay, and I'm going to get a job, so I can have some money.” … Got a job at Justin Time pizza, delivering pizzas. I'm like, “Alright, I'm going to drive this $100 car into the ground” because that's what we did. I knew that was what I was going to do because you buy beaters and you run them into the ground. This is in the nineties, man. You know, like that's what you do. … I was delivering this pizza … the weather was really bad. It was snowing a lot … there were several inches on the ground. And my car, though a boat and weighed a lot, it was a rear wheel drive and just terrible control, you know. And also I was a young driver … and I was on a dirt road. If it’s not farm field it’s woods, you know, so I slid off the road into a ditch

And, you know, had this customer’s two large pizzas and breadsticks and whatever else they had, you know, And I was like, “Damn, you know, stupid Mercury Zephyr got me stuck in the snow.” So anyways, I was there for a while. No cell phone because again, it's the nineties and I was like, “What do I do?” You know, like, “What should I do?” And the address was not far.

Well, it didn't seem far because I saw – I saw the mailbox of the house that was not too far away from where I was. And I think it was ,like, only, like, maybe ten numbers away from the other one, you know. So I'm like, okay, I just figured that was probably, like, the next five residents down, which it was, but, you know, each residence is separated by like, I don't even know, like a quarter mile, half a mile each. I don't know.

But I got maybe two mailboxes down. And this larger vehicle, I could tell it was a truck and it had like a plow on it and I was plowing some. This guy pulls up and he looks at me and – and I'm holding these pizzas in my hand. And he's like, he's like, “One of them's a large pepperoni, and the other one's a large mushroom and green pepper and some breadsticks, right.” He's like, “For Johnson.” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah.” He's like, “Yeah. He's like, “I figured you'd probably be in a ditch somewhere after it was about an hour and you weren't coming. I figure you’re in a ditch. So I thought that I’d come, come, come get you. Get my pizza. My family's hungry.” He had a chain on his truck, and he pulled me out of the ditch and tipped me. He gave me like, like a $30 tip. So it was more than the bill. It was more than the bill of the pizza. And he pulled me out of – out of the snow. And he told me, “Have a nice night.” And he went home and fed his family with the pizza that was probably pretty cold.

April Baer: Wow Mike. Sounds like you shoulda run yourself into a ditch so you could have gotten a better tip than you did from that lady.

Mike Blank: I didn’t even think of that but you’re right. And the funny thing is my buddy O’Neil – the guy who just drove his car into the ditch – he was with me during the longest delivery ride ever. He worked with me and I was giving him a ride home. And here’s what he remembers.

O’Neill: You came back – god I forgot about that, you came back two or three times. You’re like, “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Mike Blank: I remember your reaction more than anything.I just remember you were like, “Come on man! Seriously?”

Laura Weber-Davis: Mike, here I thought delivering pizzas was just about having pizza scent baked into your seats, and free slices.

April Baer: I think this brings us to an important truth of the pizzaverse. You do not know what pizza people have done to get that cardboard box on your table. Show some humanity. Tip. And tip generously. I mean it might be you in the ditch next time.

Mike, thanks for serving these up.

Mike Blank: My pleasure

April Baer: You have been listening to this Dough Dynasty Extra Cheese in our limited run podcast series from Michigan Radio. I'm April Baer. Mushroom and pepperoni on thin crust.

Laura Weber-Davis:  And I'm Laura Webber Davis. Pineapple Detroit style deep dish delivered to my door with ranch every time.

April Baer: This episode was produced by Mike Blank, other producers on this podcast, Ronia Cabansag, Mercedes Mejia, and April Van Buren.

Laura Weber-Davis: Wait, Mike, what's your favorite pizza?

Mike Blank: I love me some pineapple and ham.

Laura Weber-Davis:Yes, Mike.

April Baer: Make my-in a Hawaiian.

Laura Weber-Davis: Our podcast editor has been, as always, Rachel Ishikawa.

April Baer: Our web team is Jodi Westrick and Paulette Parker with help from Emma Winowiecki. Special thanks to pizza consigliere Holly Eaton and to Tessa Kresch, Cate Weiser, and Olivia Moradian.

Laura Weber-Davis: Music for today's episode comes from BattleoftheBits.com. Dough Dynasty also has a newsletter where you can get exclusive pizza related content and more fun stuff. Sign up at Michiganradio.org/dough.