Detox | An ode to the delivery worker

We thought long and hard about this issue, as it coincides with the final weekend in what has been a crazy year, to say the least. We’ve spent so much time at home this year that our bookcases have been thoroughly excavated, we’ve burned through our to-watch lists on streaming platforms and discovered endless Spotify playlists and been to places on the internet we never knew existed — all in search of some respite from the boredom of isolation. And so, while working on this issue, we tried to stay away from end-of-year lists and such (and, to be honest, summarizing 2020 doesn’t seem like such a great idea if our aim is to help you unwind). Instead, we decided to pick a person of the year, and make this issue a tribute to them.

Our person of the year, dear reader, is the delivery worker. We think we speak for everyone when we say that his unwavering presence has made our lives just a little bit easier this year. As everything changed, we could still count on him. While more and more people worked and studied at home, he continued to speed through the streets on his motorcycle, delivering orders here and there: for him, there was no virtual alternative. His gear grew heavier: in addition to his helmet, the delivery worker armed himself with a mask and gloves, and it is safe to say that if it weren’t for his courage, we wouldn’t have made it through. 

On curfew nights, only the roar of delivery motorcycles and the barking of dogs pierced the eerie silence of the city. And during the long, lonely days at home, sometimes a call from the delivery worker announcing that your order is on its way was cause for excitement. He asks for your location and even though you don’t really know this person you send it to him without hesitation. It’s the delivery worker, you tell yourself; for some reason, it’s safe. If you go through your contacts perhaps you’ll find that sometimes you saved the delivery worker’s number under the name of the item he was bringing you: there’s one you named “cat food” or “books,” another “red jacket” and yet another “ceramic bowl,” perhaps. You search for them on Whatsapp so you can send them your location on the map, and their display picture pops up: a man holding a baby, a boy studying his reflection in the mirror as he poses for his selfie, or the word “Allah” in ornate calligraphy. Somehow you’ve ended up with a slice of this stranger’s life on your phone; this man to whom you owe the highlight of your sad day in self-isolation. 

Yet most delivery workers wouldn’t need you to send the location, for they know the city like the back of their hand: the infinite expansions to the east and west, the unpaved shortcuts, the most obscure side streets. If you’re ever lost in a neighborhood and your GPS fails you, chances are the delivery worker zooming past on his motorcycle won’t be. Their marks are clearly visible on the city’s worn-out sidewalks: most delivery workers won’t wait for a U-turn — they prefer to make their way like an arrow, no twists and turns — and so the wheels of their bikes carve a pathway of their own on the pavement. Many such pathways are scattered across the city, testament to the delivery worker’s resourcefulness. And because they’ve claimed the sidewalks, the sight of a delivery worker atop his motorcycle amidst passersby waiting on foot for the right moment to cross the street is not uncommon. 

As lockdown measures eased, however, the delivery worker gradually disappeared back into the crowd. The sound of his motorcycle no longer rings alone through the night; it is once again swallowed by the regular cacophony of life in the city. But we remember the essential role he has played, and today — as we feel ourselves edging closer to another possible lockdown — we salute the delivery worker, and thank him for helping us get through 2020 in one piece. 

May 2021 bring lighter days. 

Until next year, dear readers. Stay safe.


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