HIGH LIFE : For a Muffin Girl, Night Is Short
I used to be a night owl, going out at 10, coming in at 5, and rising at 2 in the afternoon with nothing to do until late in the evening. But this summer, I rarely ventured out past 10, woke at 5, and took a nap at 2 p.m. Why? Because I was the muffin girl.
The night before I started my summer job delivering for a muffin company in Santa Ana, I stayed out with friends until 2, stumbled into bed at 3, and got up to go to work two hours later. I was completely confident that with about six cans of diet soda in my system I would be able to function the same way I do with 10 hours of sleep.
That day my boss drove the route so I could see where I would be going six days a week for the next eight weeks. While he was doing this, I was sound asleep in the passenger seat, sunglasses in place so that while he studied the road, I could inconspicuously study the inside of my eyelids.
This plan of attack didn’t work for too long because my boss drove like a madman, frequently taking huge dips in the road at high speeds. This caused me to jerk awake so many times that eventually I decided it wasn’t worth trying to sleep, and instead paid close attention to the road and directions he was giving me. It was a good thing, too, because the next day I became a solo road warrior: It was time for me to drive the route by myself.
I found my way around easily enough, though I did get lost on the first half of the route that I had slept through the previous day. I made about 10 stops at various cafes, delicatessens, and even a Newport Beach yacht club.
When I got to South Coast Plaza for a delivery to Bullock’s, I went to the shipping dock but didn’t know what to do. I had a feeling that if I tried to unload my muffins at the dock it would be wrong because there were five large trucks backed up to it, and no smaller vehicles in sight. I resolved my dilemma by asking the woman at the desk, and she suggested taking a flat cart from the dock to my van and unloading there.
Easier said than done.
When I tried to wheel the cart out of the dock area, I couldn’t maneuver it through the door, so one of the dock workers told me to pull it, not push it, down a ramp directly from the dock to the outside. He unlocked the door at the end of the ramp and left me to deal with it.
Well, I dealt with it. Sort of.
The cart was extremely heavy, but I didn’t discover this until it had gained momentum while coasting down the ramp and pinned me between it and the closed door. I finally managed to reach behind and open the door, and then the cart proceeded to roll over my foot.
Hearing me yell in pain, the same dock worker came to see if I was all right and began to laugh when he saw what I had done. He went to the van, picked up my muffin trays, unloaded them on the cart and dragged it back up the ramp. He warned me to always pull it because that was the only way to control it, and sent me on my way to the elevator.
The actual delivery was without incident, but on my way out I ran into a group of about 10 Bullock’s employees, one of them my new friend who rescued me from the cart.
“Look out! She’s a madwoman with that cart!” he said, smiling wickedly.
On my way to the next stop, I noticed that the van gasoline gauge was on empty, and as I had no cash, this was a bit worrisome. I made three more deliveries in Mission Viejo and Laguna Hills, surprisingly managing to find my way each time, and was on Culver Drive in Irvine when the van began to chug and lose momentum. I managed to pull it into the left-hand turn lane before it died completely, but a fellow motorist decided that he, too, wanted to turn left and was quite annoyed when he realized that I was stopped and not going to move anytime in the near future.
He began to honk his horn angrily, and I could see in my rear-view mirror that he was becoming furious; a large vein was bulging at his temple. I turned on my hazard lights and stuck my hand out the window to wave him around, and as he drove by he too stuck his hand out the window, but he didn’t do anything nearly as friendly as wave.
Luckily I discovered $2 in my pocket left over from the night before, and so I dodged my way through the traffic to the gas station on the corner. When I got there, the attendant in the bullet-proof booth said that there was nothing he could do because it was against the law to put motor fuel in anything but a gas can, and since he didn’t have any of those around, he couldn’t help me.
I ended up getting an attendant at another gas station across the street to put gas in an old motor oil can for me.
When I got back to the shop at 4 that afternoon, my boss was sitting outside the office with his shirt off, feet propped up on an empty delivery crate, talking animatedly on the telephone. He did a double take as I hauled myself out of the driver’s seat, my hair in my eyes, stains from muffin frosting and gasoline on my shirt, and a narrow black tire track across my right sneaker. He smiled widely as he asked me how my day was, and I looked down at myself, began to laugh, and said: “Don’t even ask.”