In Wisconsin when the first feel of Spring hits, my immediate response is to get my car windows down. It may only be 50 degrees, but I can’t wait to get that fresh crisp air across my face—I want the aromatherapy of the thawing, damp, greenish-brown grass that exhales from beneath the accumulated salt and sand on the ground.
With Winter and my windows winding down, I’m always brought back to one of my fondest memories: I was seventeen and basking in the freedom of my first job. I was driving around my small hometown, blasting music, chasing girls and earning my pizza scratch all while delivering sandwiches for Jimmy Johns.
Though I didn’t deliver pizzas during that time (I always preferred to be on the opposite side of that transaction), recently it was a pizza delivery driver that evoked those same youthful feelings as he dropped off my Friday night fix.
A rat-a-tat-tat on the door signaled that my AJ’s pizza had arrived.
My delivery driver couldn’t have been more than 16 years old—pimple faced, mop-headed and timid—blaring music echoed from the cracked windows of his car on the street. Suddenly, I was in his shoes and I couldn’t help but imagine the excitement his night held.
Dashing around from door to door with his adrenaline pumping—the pulsing sound of whatever punk teenagers listen to these days charting his course from house to house. All the while not knowing what each knock or doorbell ring would bring.
It was Friday night, the busiest night of the week, so he’d be autonomous—quick in and out of the pizza shop re-upping on deliveries and then back out on the road. He’d be making some quick cash and then in few short hours off with his buddies to do all the fun things punk teenagers do these days. No responsibility and his whole life ahead of him. I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous.
AJ’s Pizza in Verona
I always cross my fingers when I order AJ’s Pizza in Verona because I don’t think I’m technically in their delivery area, but somehow they keep coming to me.
I imagine it’s because no one that works there is over 18—from the person answering the phone to that shaggy kid who comes to the door—it’s like the lost boys opened up a pizza shop in downtown Verona and could care less about who orders from where. They’ll take the business and chance to get out on the road.
I appreciate their disregard for delivery zones.
AJ’s is one of the few places in my vicinity that delivers the kind of hole-in-the-wall pizza I crave all the time. The pizza is thin and typically comes piled with extra cheese without even requesting it (I once ordered extra, and I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but it was overboard).
They cut the pies in triangles, I usually request squares to get it a little closer to my beloved mid-western tavern style. Also, I swear the larger the pizza you order the thinner the crust is, so I always go for at least a large even if my appetite calls for medium.
They also have killer cheesy breadsticks and their ranch is extra tangy and on the thin side; reminiscent of Rosa’s in Whitewater (extra nostalgia points).
Wanting what I can’t have.
The emerging Springtime and the youthfulness of that AJ’s delivery driver gave me feelings of my youth that were fun to romanticize and for a fleeting moment made me want to go back to my beloved first job, but would I want to be that AJ’s driver working on a Friday night?
Heck no, I want sweatpants, a couch, HBO and to be eating the pizza not delivering it. It was a classic case of the grass is always greener, the old proverb in which we feel the circumstances and conditions of others are better than your own, even when that’s not the case.
What pizza taught me:
It’s tempting to be envious of other people and other pizzas, but it’s more fulfilling when we can learn to appreciate what we have. I always joke that when I retire I’m going to go back to my favorite job of delivery driving, but I think I’ll stick with the memories.
What I’m eating: AJ’s Pizzeria large pepperoni-cut in squares, small cheese sticks.
What I’m reading: Jack Kornfield The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace