Well that sucked..

Today I earned the extraordinary amount of ~12.50UKP.

Now, don’t be confused, that’s not ‘12.50 per hour’, it’s 12.50 for the entire fscking day!

9am-6pm, 9 hours, 12.50quid! This doesn’t even pay for tyres, tubes and brake pads let alone rent and, heaven forbid, health cover!

What pisses me off is that it’s not even the fact that I’m slow that sees my income reach such lows – I just didn’t get given any jobs. That’s not entirely true. I was given five jobs, all of which I completed ‘relatively’ quickly (in my mind). I’m starting to learn my way around which speeds things up a great deal. But five jobs! How the fsck am I supposed to live on 12.50/day? Thank your Mum’s purple undies I’m not currently paying rent otherwise I’d be in the poo big time!

Highlights for today include:

Reading half of a Terry Pratchet novel. If I didn’t take a book to read I think I would’ve gone (more) insane.

Not puncturing on the way to work.

Some other funny sh1t that I can’t remember now.

I had a total prick of a ride home, getting lost, smacking some dudes rear-view mirror (it was ok), getting cained by commuters who actually have energy, thinking about how much time I wasted and how little money I made. I was in a foul mood.

On the flip-side, today was an awesome day weather wise (blue skies and ~20degC all day I guess) and it could be argued that spending most of today outside reading a book is better than most people have it. But, only making 12.50 for the day – that bites. I perhaps should’ve stayed at home and tried harder to get IT work. I did get a couple of calls about IT but had to put them off because I was ‘on the job’, so to speak.

I treated myself to a bottle of Powerade (having only consumed half a bidon of water and some sandwiches for the whole day) and a 4-pack of Carlsberg Export Lager cans to temper the hippyrage. At least the checkout chick at Safeway was nice. On the street the only attention I get is from guys.. wtf?! Look, I’m not ghey, women can just fsck right off at the moment is all.

I didn’t phone in my signatures today because if they are gonna pay me 12.50/day, they can friggin’ chase up the signatures – I’m not wasting my phone money verifying deliveries just to be paid. They either call me for the sigs or I’ll drop the sheet in to the office on my way home (when I’m in a better mood). I need to work out the sign-off procedure too. They keep switching channels on me and I don’t know which is the correct one to use. Meh.. stupid procedures.

Just to add balance to the force.. yesterday was frickin cool!! (that’s frickin’ cool with two exclamation marks so it must’ve been good!) I had heaps of fun and managed 10 deliveries. This is still rubbish compared to what the average is (~20 apparently) but if they don’t give me jobs, I can’t do them, can I? That’s why I brought a book today – so I’d have something to do in the idle time. But yesterday was much cooler than day 1, even with a puncture which made me a bit late getting to Marble Arch. Because I now know which maps to use and which direction to head to get to certain areas, everything happens much faster. Quick learner or dumb starter?

Whatever.. I could get to liking this job..

The Carlsbergs are going down well.. if only I could find a dirty courier-lovin’ chick to do the same..

hippy the courier: I might've sucked, but I lived!

7:00: Put on the Courier Systems jersey for that ‘company pride’ feeling (read: I lose my bonus if I don’t wear their uniform)

8:00: Leave Ealing, heading into slightly damp weather that fines up beautifully during the day.

8:30: Try radio to “log in” at Marble Arch

9:00: Move position so my radio is actually received by controller and sign on

9:30: First job

How it works..

My number is called over the radio by Tom, the controller.

I respond by radioing my number back.

The controller then tells me to pickup from Address A.

I reply with “Roger” when I understand all the details.

The Controller also sends an SMS to my phone (actually Mei-Ling’s phone because my 25quid repair job didn’t “hold” and the screen is now unreadable) with rough pickup and delivery details, ie. street names and postcodes but no street numbers. The extra detail is found on the package being delivered, funnily enough.

Getting the package involves a frantic search through the London A-Z to find the pickup location. Followed by frantic riding. Then, frantic searching. Frantic riding. Frantic searching. Repeat ad naseum.

Once I finally make it to Address A I get the package. But.. not before: locking up out the front, turning off my radio, going inside and being told the postroom is out the back, walking around the back, passing through all manner of security checks, signing in with my callsign, etc., telling the postroom dude what the delivery address is and then making my way back to the bike with the package. Luckily, they aren’t all like that and once I know where the mailroom is I don’t go to the front door first.

With the package on board I radio my callsign, Controller replies with my callsign and then I say “POB” and perhaps the location of the pickup. POB stands for Package On Board. If another job has come up nearby, the Controller might tell me to go get the second package rather than dropping the first item straight away. For example, I left one place and was around the corner when I was called back to the same place for another package. The security guy was nice and let me up the elevator without having to sign-in a second time.

Some packages are “Priority” which need to be done before any others. “Priorities” attract a bonus and with the rates I’m on and my cluelessness with London navigation and riding I need all the help I can get!

Repeat the stressful scouring of the A-Z maps and then hopefully end up at the correct destination in a reasonable timeframe. I can say without fear that none of my deliveries were within reasonable timeframe!

Hand over the package (again, finding the courier entrance, if it exists) and collect a signature and printed name. These are important – without a signature and name I don’t get paid for the delivery.

At this time I also complete the other details on the job sheet – Source Company/Address, Destination Company/Address, Delivery Time, Number of items.

There could be multiple items leaving one address and they might all go to a single delivery address or they might go all over London.

The pushbike crew work mostly in W2, W1, EC1, EC2, EC4 and SE1.

I managed a whopping (not) 8 jobs for the day. Now I know why you should “know” London before starting this caper – more time is wasted with slow navigation than riding.

I met another guy from the same company and we chatted for a bit. He was from Italy and I ended up following him to get to “18 Hatfields”, my delivery address – thanks for that man!

You may now call me a total hypocrit.

For years I’ve defended legal riding practises – stopping at red lights, etc.

I think I broke every law in the book!

I was so frickin’ slow with directions that I’d try anything to deliver quicker. This involved running reds, riding on footpaths, riding the wrong way down one-way streets and so on. The stupid thing is, commuters here do it all the time. At first I was all legal but with the pressure to deliver I caved and turned into one of those urban cowboy types that couriers tend to be viewed as.

My only accident for the day wasn’t even my fault! It was a straight road with a high gutter and a fence on my left. A bus passed me and then moved left.. INTO ME! “Fuuuckkkkinnnnngggg hhhheeeelllllll!!!!” I was thinking (shouting?) as my handlebars were ground into the side of the bus. I couldn’t go anywhere else! Even if I could’ve bunnyhopped the curb (doubt it) there was a fence! Thankfully I didn’t stack but it was a bit nerve-wracking ya know? (So were the other 8hrs, 59min, 50sec!)

Around lunchtime I was thinking “this is really sh1t! I wanna go home now”. I mean, I earned about 20quid but it took all day! I could get an admin job that paid triple that amount and be nice and safe and warm. There is quite a bit of idle time and when there is a job it’s high stress trying to find the names in the stupid A-Z and then deal with the fscking ridiculous one-way streets to get anywhere. By the end of the day though, I got more jobs and didn’t have time to think about how crap it was. I think I even started to enjoy myself – it’s a rush diving between bus and taxi, looking out for the motorbike that wants to do the same thing and then at the last second veering around some jaywalking pedestrian. Adrenalin junkies would love it! I need skinnier handlebars!

In the afternoon I met another courier, from a different company, delivering to the same place. Called Andy (I think), he was talkative and friendly, watching my bike, telling me about the courier hangouts and how they all help each other if something goes down or they have a mechanical. Maybe it was a “first day” bonus but I didn’t receive any of the attitude that I’d read about newbies copping in ‘primarily US’ messenger articles/books.

6:00pm: After the pbike channel was swapped to the mbike channel I got confused so rang in and said “What’s the go with signing off??”

“You can go home now. See you tomorrow?”

Oh, right, tomorrow, um.. do I have to? :S

The speed at which I rode home made it obvious that most of my time wasn’t spent riding. There was also a substantial amount of adrenalin flowing which helped my commuter clobbering.

Made it home with about 75k on the clock for the day. I was stuffed!

I’d eaten 1 banana, 1 Snickers and 1 Starbucks caramel slice (only because I needed to use their toilets and felt bad about doing so without buying something – the chick looked right at me! Damn, guess I’m NOT shame-free!).

For the whole day I’d put down 1.5 bidons of water.. no wucking funder I was dehydrated when I got home!! I can’t drink because I can’t pee so I get badly blurred vision and headaches. I’m going to suss out the Maccas and pubs that don’t kick up a stink if I use their toilets without buying anything. This will mean I can drink! I’m also going to sort out some kind of food so I don’t have to rely on overpriced city food.

Oh yeah, I said “Yep, see you tomorrow”..

I just got offered the bike courier job!

It’s the first job interview I’ve done sweaty and dressed in lycra!! 😀

Courier Systems bike crew operate mostly within central London (W1 and W2). Almost all runs will be under 4miles. For a single package run of less than 4mi, I’ll be paid 2.50UKP. If it is longer than 4mi (very unlikely according to Greg) then there’s an extra 70p per mile. If I work 9-6 for the whole 5 days I get a 10% bonus. Yippee! 😛

I was told the average number of runs in a day is 20. So that’s 50UKP/day.. BUT.. that’s the average for the riders that actually know the streets and know what they are doing!

On top of that, the bad news is that I have to pay 100UKP before I start as an “equipment deposit”.

The further bad news is that I also have to pay 25UKP per week for 4 weeks (to 100UKP total) as an equipment deposit.

The further bad news is that I have to pay another 300UKP, at 10UKP per week, as… you guessed it.. an equipment deposit! Sheesh! This gear they hand out is expensive!!!

Basically this is going to totally suck because I’ll end up in the red for the first few weeks (or more) paying off the equipment! That’s if they don’t fire me first for being so slow..

They use some kind of PDA device to track packages and I assume radios, to track the riders. We (there was another guy there for a van driving job) were shown inside the control room. Seems like quite a big company. I was told the bike fleet was around 30 riders.

Not exactly the role I had in mind when I arrived here, but what the hell! It will give me something to do during the day while I wait for some I.T. company to start paying me 300UKP/day. I’m thinking the only reason they offered it to me was because we are heading into winter and not many people want to ride 9am-6pm in the wet, the dark and possibly the snow? I’m not even sure I want to do it! I blame “daniel s” 😛

Anyway, after hearing the terms and thinking about it I wasn’t sure it was worth the hassle of starting out, especially if I continue to apply for I.T. work in the meantime, but they called me in the afternoon to say I could start next week. Fuggit – I said “yes”. On Monday I’ll go in for some training and then start proper on Tuesday.

Of course, just after I accept, I receive my first call from an agency about a database job in Essex..

Job interview for…. bike couriering?

“Push Bike Riders required. Busy circuit. excellent rates and bonus.”

So I called them.


“Do you know inner city London well?”

“Um.. yeah”

“How long have you lived in London?”

“Ahh.. four months”

I have an interview tomorrow morning at 10am.

I’m so dead! I don’t know a fscking thing about London streets!!

I guess it’s lucky I’m out on the piss tonight – the interview humiliation will be dulled by a hangover! Fsck it, it’s all practise. People keep telling me you need to bend the truth here to get work.

Name that 80's UK bike courier show…

A recent discussion on aus.bicycle reminded me of a television show that used to screen in Australia in the 80’s. It was aimed at teenagers (I think) and was set in a courier company operating in the UK somewhere.

The cast were early 20’s(?) and I think the first episode showed the cycle couriers racing a motorbike courier (could have been two cycles though) through town.

I think during the series the couriers got mixed up with some “bad people” and had to deal with them before everything ended happily ever after..?

I know this is totally vague, but it was a long time ago.

I’d love to know the name of the show…