To earn money during a rough patch as a freelancer, Sam Riches worked as a bike courier, delivering food in Toronto during a six-month period. While the job lacked in pay, it offered one intriguing benefit: a crash course in human nature.
When you’re broke, your body becomes your last resort, a mostly reliable means to make money that also comes with great precarity. If you get injured in a low-wage job with no employment insurance, there’s nothing to fall back on. You pay with your health.
I feel this job in my body. My neck cracks, my shoulders pop, my ankles creak. Some nights, I ride until my legs turn numb and the wind whips tears in my eyes and the world becomes fuzzy at the edges. Then I have a choice. I can keep riding or I can stop and wait until my path becomes clear again.
You learn about human nature when you ride a bike through the arteries of the city. You see couples arguing in parked cars. Elderly ladies collecting beer bottles. Street performers whose routines become familiar. Guys on dates trying too hard. Guys on dates not trying hard enough. Old men falling over drunk. Good dogs. There are so many good dogs.
People are mostly good. That’s another thing you learn on this job. I deliver to downtown offices and suburban schools, to addiction-withdrawal centres and auditoriums, to pregnant mothers and hungover teens and elderly folks who are genuinely amazed they are able to summon bread pudding to their door.