Northern Wilds Magazine
Joe Shead had to shove aside a gas can and lay the elegant floral arrangements on a bed of last fall’s leaves, but when you’re a Valentine’s Day delivery driver, the more bouquets you can take, the more cash you can make. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore

A Valentine’s Day delivery disaster

Valentine’s Day is supposed to take your breath away. It’s a storybook kind of day, filled with chocolates, dinner and romance with your soul mate. But unfortunately, some of us have disastrous Valentine’s Day memories. Maybe we were alone when everyone else was on a date. Maybe we spilled at the table and our face turned as blush as the wine. Or maybe the romantic evening we’d hoped for was a complete dud.

I was single on my most disastrous Valentine’s Day. I was looking for a little extra cash and responded to an ad to be a floral delivery driver just for the holiday. It was going to be a great gig! I’d make a bunch of people happy as I walked into their workplace with a pretty bouquet and at the end of the day, I’d have some cash in my pocket.

But when I showed up at the flower shop, I learned there were several other drivers as well. We were getting paid per delivery, so the more flowers we could take, the more money we could make. Well, unlike the other chumps, I had a pickup. So, I crammed armfuls of beautiful floral arrangements into the grimy bed of my truck. The flowers were nestled in between the bags of sand I keep back there in winter for extra traction and were plopped on top of spilled buckets of road salt, stray leaves from fall raking and probably still some deer hairs from last deer season.

An intelligent person would have planned a systematic route, grouping deliveries by region. My style was to grab the closest bouquet, get an address and go for it. I kind of felt stupid when I drove all the way to one end of town, went to the opposite end and then ended up nearly back where I made the first delivery, but like I said, intelligence isn’t my strong suit.

Of course, neither is direction. This was years ago, before I had a smartphone. I did have the foresight to bring along a local phonebook with a city map to find those streets I wasn’t familiar with, but a couple times I had to pull out my old antenna-style flip phone, call a friend and ask him to go on his computer for directions.

I have to admit, I did actually make a lot of people happy that day. I felt good every time I entered the building, asked for the unsuspecting recipient and then watched her smile and blush as her coworkers applauded. That part was actually pretty cool.

But none of them knew the hell those flowers had been through. Imagine trying to navigate without the luxury of turn-by-turn directions being spoken to you by your car. It might be conceivable, then, that you might occasionally have to slam on the brakes as you look up from the map in your lap and see a stop sign. Or maybe, perhaps, you might take a corner a little too fast. All I know for sure is that several top-heavy vases tipped over. I’d find them literally rolling around on the truck bed, cached in dirt. So I’d just wipe off the vase with my sleeve. Sometimes a flower or two would be damaged, so I’d just pluck it out. You know, honestly, 11 roses look a lot like a dozen roses unless you’re really studying the contents. And if anyone would have questioned me, I’d have thrown my hands in the air and pleaded, “Hey, don’t blame the messenger!” But thankfully nobody did.

One particular vase had a plastic bag lining the inside that wrapped around the flowers. Of course, that spilled, so I poked a hole in the bag with my key, drained the water into a fast-food cup, then threw away the bag and poured the water back in the vase. Shh!

By the end of the day, I’d put on 100 miles (I was living out of town at the time) and made a whopping 100 bucks.

That night, after a lucky lady stopped swooning and the stars disappeared from her eyes, I imagined her looking lovingly at the bouquet her thoughtful husband had bought for her one last time before turning in for the night. In my mind’s eye, I can see her face droop from smiling to confusion as she studies the arrangement and asks quizzically, “Honey, is there … motor oil on the flowers you bought me?”

 I just hope that during my stint as Cupid, all my arrows hit the heart and not anyone’s posterior region.

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