[Marxism] What Our Reporter Learned Delivering Burritos to New Yorkers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jul 27 13:16:45 MDT 2019

NY Times, July 21, 2019
What Our Reporter Learned Delivering Burritos to New Yorkers
By Andy Newman

At 12:22 p.m. on a chilly Friday in April, I did something I had never 
done for a story.

I delivered a burrito. A Chipotle chicken, black bean and brown rice 
burrito with tomatillo red chili salsa, tomatillo green chili salsa, and 
roasted chili corn salsa, to be precise.

“DoorDash, here you go,” I said to a woman in a bathrobe who opened the 
door of a building in Brooklyn. I handed her a bag and pedaled off into 
the drizzle. I could now officially call myself a rider for the 
food-delivery apps that have transformed the very act of eating in New 
York and elsewhere.

I chose riders for the food apps (like DoorDash and Seamless and Uber 
Eats) for my first subject because they’re omnipresent but largely 
ignored, because they’re on the front lines of the gig economy and 
because, as one researcher told me, they may be “the most vulnerable 
workers in digital labor.” And because as a practical matter, anyone can 
do the job, with minimal or no training, as long as an app is accepting 
new riders.

I figured delivery would be a grind. I did not know it would be mentally 
demanding, at least the way many riders do it, working for multiple apps 
simultaneously and making split-second decisions about whether to accept 
this order or that one in the middle of the city’s crazy traffic.

Over the course of six days delivering mostly lunches in Manhattan and 
Brooklyn, I developed a specialty in rookie errors. I had orders taken 
away and assigned to other couriers because I had greedily accepted more 
work than I could deliver on time. I got lost in the maze of the 
financial district despite the directions on my phone. I accepted orders 
without bothering to check where they were going and found myself biking 
across Brooklyn to Kings County Hospital.

The job was hard in other ways, too. In college, many decades ago, I 
delivered pizza on campus. That was a fun job. My customer-classmates 
greeted me warmly, often tipped generously and offered the occasional 
slice or beer or bong hit (not that I ever accepted).

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