The Pizzas They Carried

by Sam Forstner | 4/2/15 7:27pm

ebas-web
Source: Elizabeth McNally, The Dartmouth Senior Staff

It’s midnight on a Tuesday — chicken sandwich night at Everything But Anchovies. Deep in the belly of the institution that almost single-handedly satiates every late-night craving on campus, tensions are running high. Employees bark commands — greeted with expletive-filled mumblings — as they scramble throughout the kitchen. A dish breaks. The culprit pauses only briefly to scream in frustration before exiting the swinging doors to wait patiently and pleasantly on the restaurant’s loyal patrons.

Amidst the chaos and confusion of a crowded kitchen, a beacon of calm shines through, filling plastic cups of ranch and blue cheese with expert precision. He never appears to be in a rush.

This is delivery driver Davey Holtorf.

A 24-year-old from Ascutney, Vermont — a village with an estimated population of just over 500 people just 25 miles or so from this campus — Holtorf began working for EBAs four years ago. You can find him in the restaurant four days a week, unless he’s on a delivery. He clocks in at 5 p.m. each day, often not leaving until 4 a.m. the next morning.

Despite the heavy workload and frequent long nights of driving pizzas across campus, he said it’s an interesting job that he enjoys.

“If it’s busy on a Friday or Saturday night, you can walk out with a couple hundred bucks of cash in your pocket,” he said. “It’s a pretty good deal for just driving around and listening to music.”

There are often four drivers on duty — sometimes five or six on the weekends — so Holtorf waits until it is his turn in the rotation to take an order. The schedule for drivers means Holtorf has to fill the time between deliveries, during which he completes his “side works,” filling the sauce cups and making the occasional salad, and he tries to carve out time to eat dinner. While Holtorf is often floating between various tasks throughout the night, he said that he appreciates having a job that doesn’t require him to just sit in one place all day by himself.

“I like when there’s a bunch of dogs, and you can bring dog biscuits to the door,” he said.

Holtorf takes care to maximize his time throughout the day, always getting gas before work and “never dilly-dallying.” It’s an economic rationale more than anything else — more deliveries means more money in hand at the end of the night. Of course, cash doesn’t always change hands as smoothly as expected, and Holtorf says that customers will sometimes refuse to pay the bill. Some who place orders are even more difficult, and Haldorf said there have even been occasions when they outright refused to come to the door to get their food. Not to mention the fact that as the night wears on, it is no secret that more and more of his interactions will be with less-than-sober individuals.

“I’ve seen people wildly belligerent, throwing punches while other guys try to control them,” Holtorf said. “Meanwhile I’m just trying to do my credit card slips.”

In addition to gaining insider access to the kitchen, I had the pleasure of going on several “ride-alongs” with Holtorf as he delivered food around campus. As soon as it was his turn to go out, we walked out back and got into his car, parked right under a black metal fire escape where employees seemed to congregate during breaks. We made it to Cutter-Shabazz Hall in what seemed to me to be record time — he never speeds, but Holtorf also never wastes a movement or squanders a second on the course of his work. After making several calls before finally reaching the student who had ordered, we moved down Webster Avenue to Bones Gate fraternity, where the delivery took two minutes at most.

Holtorf knows his craft — he took shortcuts I never knew existed — and he seemed to already have the customer’s number dialed by the time the wheels on his Subaru Forester rolled to a stop. The whole trip was done in 10, 15 minutes at most, then he was back in the kitchen, ready to work.

You might think the job would be full of outlandish encounters, but Holtorf says he hasn’t encountered anything he considers “too wild.”

His coworkers were quick to recall their war stories. They’ve been hit on and received flirtatious text messages. Some said they’d been attacked by aggressive fraternity dogs. One of his fellow drivers recounted an incident where a student in a senior society answered the door wearing a Gumby mask over his head. An older worker who’s been retired from driving for years knew the names of all the fraternity dogs. He said he always knew which ones to pet and which to avoid.

EBAs manager Edward Bogosian discussed the restaurant’s reliance on late-night orders from College students.

“At this point in time, one is nothing without the other,” Bogosian said.

Not everyone is cut out for driving, Bogosian noted.

“It’s fruitful, but it’s hard work. You’re always going, it’s not an easy job,” he said. “Some people think they can do it and within two hours they’ve lost their minds and quit.”

The job is not without its dangers, either. In October 2003, drivers from C&As Pizza, Domino’s Pizza and EBAs were all robbed at gunpoint, either on campus or in Lebanon.

Holtorf, fortunately, has never run into any sort of trouble.

His favorite pizza is pepperoni and bacon, but for special occasions he goes for buffalo chicken. The chicken sandwich is “a classic,” he said, and he likes the soup from time to time.

“If it’s chicken noodle I’m all about it, but none of that broccoli cheddar or tomato nonsense,” he said. “I don’t need none of that.”

He plans to continue at EBAs for the foreseeable future — he’s hoping to save enough money to move out of his dad’s house and buy his own place in the area. He’s actively looking for places closer to Hanover, but he expressed frustration with the “ridiculous prices,” and said he may just decide to build his own small home.

Holtorf works 11-hour days, delivering pizza to college students and filling thousands of plastic cups with salad dressing, all with a smile on his face. He doesn’t need much to keep that smile on his face.

“I like talking to people — they’re real nice most of the time,” he said. “Everyone’s just really cool.”