I started delivering pizza when I was in college circa 2008. I had heard it was good money, and I thought it would be a fun job since I enjoyed driving. I got to drive around all day listening to NPR, going on short little adventures and making hella tips. It suited my introversion as I got lots of alone time on runs and overall it is still one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had.
However, I wasn’t really prepared for how different my experience as a woman delivering pizza would be from the guys I worked with. Initially it didn’t even cross my mind that it was “odd” for a woman to be delivering pizza, but for the most part it is a male dominated work field. When I first started delivering, I immediately noticed how surprised everyone seemed to be that I was a driver, both the other male drivers and the customers.
The male drivers often underestimated me, assuming that as a woman I wouldn’t be a good driver. They would try to steal runs from me thinking I wouldn’t notice or speak up. I spent many years butting heads with male drivers who tried to walk all over me simply because I am a woman. Overall I was a pretty solid driver, fast without being unsafe, able to find most addresses without a map or GPS. I was also more reliable than most of my male counterparts, which counts for a lot in the food service industry.
I delivered pizza off and on for eight years, and it was a constant struggle to be respected by my fellow drivers. I was often labeled a bitch for simply standing up for myself or not reciprocating advances from the male drivers. I was rarely treated like an equal, despite being one of the best drivers.
While this was frustrating, the real trouble was with the customers. At first I thought all pizza drivers must be treated like clowns everywhere they went until I started asking my male counterparts if they experienced some of what I was experiencing, and for the most part they weren’t.
I delivered to a ton of hotels and every time I entered a hotel lobby men would try to mess with me. They would claim the pizza was for them and when I would approach them, they would say they were just kidding. I stopped courtesy laughing after about week two and would just turn around and head to the hotel room, which was often considered “rude” by the male heckler and I would usually get scoffed at or told to smile or called a bitch. So, I’m trying to do my job, you are interfering and wasting my time, but I don’t have a sense of humor? This happened literally every time I walked into a hotel, gas station, or any other public place. I began to dread going inside these places because I knew I would inevitably have some confrontation with a guy who thinks bothering the cute pizza girl for no reason was his god given right.
One time a group of guys tried to pull this shit in a hotel lobby and when I didn’t laugh and walked away from them, they started yelling at me to smile and “take a joke.” I left out the back entrance in hopes of avoiding them, only to find them circling my car. I literally ran to get in my car while they banged on my hood and called me a bitch and a cunt. They then had the nerve to call and complain that I was rude to them, when they hadn’t even ordered a pizza! It was both terrifying and infuriating.
What I began to realize is that this was just another form of the harassment women experience on a daily basis, but somehow me being in a pizza uniform gave them permission to fuck with me. It’s like a shortcut, an excuse to harass a random woman. I would describe these things to the male drivers and most of them shook their heads in disbelief. They just weren’t experiencing what I was. They were ignored for the most part everywhere they delivered.
I often had to deliver to a trucking company that had a huge waiting room for drivers to eat/watch TV in. I began to dread this place more than any other. I would walk into a room of 30 or so truck drivers and, without fail, they would make sounds in my general direction, openly comment on my body, stare, ask for my number etc. While these guys generally tipped well, it just wasn’t worth the harassment to me. I started trying to switch runs with the male drivers, explaining that I got harassed every time I went there. Most of them didn’t believe me and assumed I was trying to trade a shitty run that wouldn’t bring a good tip, even though they knew the truckers tipped well. Because the guys didn’t experience harassment doing their job, they couldn’t fathom that I did. They would say things like, “chill Krystal, you’re not that hot” which was degrading and frustrating. Harassment is not about how “hot” you are. It’s about power.
Most days I chose to suck it up and just get through it. It was worth it because the money was good. Sadly that is often the case for women, we put up with far more than we should have to because we need to pay the bills.
Another common problem was men insisting I “come inside.” I would always lie and say I wasn’t allowed to, which would often piss them off. They would insist they “aren’t gonna hurt me” which is about the creepiest response I can imagine. If I tell you I can’t come inside and you won’t take no for an answer, you obviously have bad intentions. One guy started yelling at me after I refused to come inside three times. He said “I’m not gonna rape you, nobody wants your ass anyway.” I literally ran to my car while he continued screaming at me.
The one time I felt safe enough to come inside, it was a big fancy house in a nice neighborhood and the guys who answered the door were very polite and well dressed so I sort of assumed I was safe. Big mistake. Once I stepped inside they shut the door behind me and started offering me shots. I explained that I was driving and needed to head back to the store. They started making gang bang and rape jokes like it was no big deal. I started backing towards the door and when they saw how terrified I was they started apologizing and saying they were just kidding. In what world is that funny? In a man’s world, where they don’t spend their life in constant fear of being attacked or raped.
Another time a group of drunk guys answered the door and just took turns saying things like “you wanna come in here and sit on my face?” While I stood there silent and awkward, waiting for payment.
Despite everything I experienced, I truly loved this job and it was the best money I had ever made. I felt powerless and stuck, and over the years the constant harassment just became par for the course. This is just one example of why women don’t speak up about harassment, especially when our job is on the line. What could I possibly do to change things? It was my job to be polite to customers despite how they treated me.
Pizza delivery is just one example of a male dominated work field in which women struggle for respect and equality. There are countless other examples of this from factory jobs to kitchen jobs, etc. While the winds of change are upon us, it’s going to take a huge shift in the culture for women to feel safe and respected in every field and in every public space.