Three years

I’ve spent hundreds of hours the past three months delivering for Amazon.

A good friend messaged me recently about the job.

“I’m still surprised you’re OK with going to strangers’ houses,” he wrote.

I thought about his point for a moment. Amazon’s routes have taken me to all parts of Baltimore and its suburbs. I have delivered to McMansions in Lutherville and the Somerset Homes projects.

I also have delivered on South Bouldin Street, the street of my last address in the city. I have delivered to Foster Avenue, the street where I was attacked three years ago today. Once in a while I have a delivery that takes me past the very spot where I was hit over the head with paving stones. Today brought one of those routes — the kind of coincidence that inspires only silence.

During my deliveries there, the thought of my history with that neighborhood certainly has crossed my mind; it always does. But it does not linger for long. I had a job to do, after all.

One of the beautiful things about this delivery gig is that it has gotten me away from the television and computer screen, and allowed me to see parts of the city I’d never seen in my dozen years around the area. It has enabled me to interact, for a few fleeting seconds, with people I’d never otherwise have met.

Working as a deliveryman has reinforced my belief in people. The only times I’ve felt in real danger have been during interactions with drivers who believe that having a steering wheel in their hands gives them free rein to act like, as my high school English teacher Mr. McNulty used to say, knuckle-dragging neocretins.

Shift to shift, door to door, I see that people are not all that different. We are strangers only because we choose to be.

After all, it was a couple I’d never met who opened their doors to me in the middle of the night three years ago. Their names are Steve and Ania, and they graciously cared for me until an ambulance arrived.

You never know when you will need help, or can help someone else, and in that moment the connection between all of us is never more obvious.

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