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Essential: Aimee Swick, Delivering Pizza In A Pandemic

Pizza Delivery Driver

As Americans spent less time eating out this year, they increasingly relied on the efforts of delivery drivers to provide hot meals to their doorsteps. 

Aimee Swick has been there to help. 

As a pizza delivery driver for Spinelli’s for the last year and a half, she’s seen a lot. She’s been stiffed on tips more times than she can count. But amid the pandemic, Swick says most customers have tipped pretty well, albeit at times, somewhat creatively. 

The other day, someone tipped her and tossed in one of those green plastic army men with the parachutes. 

“That was pretty legit,” she said. 

One time, someone offered her a cash tip and a container of magic mushrooms. But more often, she’s greeted with the inebriated affections that so often accompany the desire for late night pizza. One of those encounters resulted in her biggest pandemic tip: $35.

“Just a couple of girls having a party and they were like so, so, so drunk,” she said. “They just kept telling me that I was an angel and that I was wonderful and I was like… thanks… so that was nice,” Swick said. 

Swick makes most of her money working overnight. Some shifts she’ll deliver as many as 20 pizzas and won’t get off until 6:30 in the morning. Back in March, as the first reports of COVID-19 in Kentucky rolled in, Swick said she and her colleagues were nervous.

“I think everybody was a little bit scared. We had a lot of dine-in traffic before that, then we had to let all our servers go at that point because there was nothing for them to be doing,” Swick said. 

Swick is grateful to have her job as a driver, but felt some sense of survivor's guilt while friends and co-workers lost their restaurant jobs.

As the health guidance developed, Swick adapted her delivery style to be more distant. Now she has to ask people if they want to tip, which is always a little uncomfortable. But she delivers about a third of her pizzas without seeing anyone at all. 

Some people still refuse to wear masks, but more often people are pretty accommodating. 

“For the most part, everybody is really good about running in to get their mask or making sure they have it when they get to the door,” Swick said. 

Back in the fall, Swick got sick. It was her day off. She said it felt like an allergy attack first, but then came down with a mild fever and cough. She got tested, but it came back negative.

 Several days later after she was back at work and feeling better, she got the results of an antibody test showing she had been positive for COVID-19. 

She doesn’t know how she caught it.

“I am in contact with people all the time. Who knows?” She said. 

In some ways, that’s the burden of the “essential worker,” but Swick says she doesn’t feel any more essential than anyone else, since everyone has their part to play in all of this. She feels fortunate to be in good health and said the whole experience has been oddly reassuring.

“It’s actually been really good for my faith in my humanity to see people tipping so well and trying to remember their mask and being so polite. I actually haven’t had any issues with people being rude or being entitled or anything like that. It’s actually been really heartening,” Swick said.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.