Speed. Agility. Driven. Tight on time. Magically appearing in 30 min or less. Yes, I am talking about those lovely messengers of wonderment, who bring you brown bags wafting with calorie laden aromas. In NYC just as common as the yellow taxi cabs, you can find a delivery worker pedaling through the endless traffic weaving in and out rushing to make their delivery window, bags of piping hot food cradled in a basket, on their back, or strewn over handle bars.
One evening as I walked down 3rd Ave, a delivery man whizzed by. It was cold and I was walk-running or as I Iike to call “Meisha-speed walking” to visit a friend when I noticed something peculiar on the bike handle bars. Plastic bags! They were wrapped around the handlebars to create hand covers.
Delivery workers have aIways perplexed me. They consistently look underdressed. If I had to have the cold wind on me for the majority of my day I would look like a giant ball of wool, windbreakers and Uniqlo HeatTech - definitely not a baseball-capped promenader.
Now however, I feel like I have discovered the secret to their superpower! I have opened the door to a whole new world!
The riders have gloves on but slip their hands inside the bags when holding the handlebars. This is to provide protection against the chilling February wind as they ride between the different drop off spots.
After the initial discovery, which we will now dub, “The Day of Emergence” I made it my mission to pay attention to my surroundings more than ever and try not to get too lost in my podcasts (This American Life. Don’t even ask. Just go and download it. You’ll thank me).
In a single evening, I noticed four riders and each had their own design of fashioned hand guards (the official technical term which I have just officiated). The next day they seemed to be everywhere. It was as if I had acquired access to a 4th dimension filled with delivery inventions.
There seem to be two main designs and therefore two societies: The Plastics and The Nylons. There must be a group which shares this trick with other delivery people - a group of delivery senseis who give powerpoint presentations teaching the laws of the land at hand guard HQ.
I have noticed that some delivery people don’t deploy the trick. Perhaps they are invincible super-humans who don’t feel the cold or maybe, they weren't lucky enough to attend the introduction meeting. They missed it and now must struggle through the cold without plush cushions around their hands.
I began to pity these outsiders, these riders who weren’t in the know. How would they possibly survive the winter?!
These have the advantage of presenting individuality. All are fashioned out of delivery plastic bags, like the kind you get from a Chinese take-out with the smiley face or the repeating Thank you's. They also provide their own custom musical accompaniment as they flap in the wind. The Plastics members tend to be older, ranging from mid to late 30s and above.
Black, material, smooth. These lack the creativity of the plastics. Gone are the individuality and faded smiley faces. Instead, the kitsch is replaced with sternness and mass-produced protection, with the most popular brand being 45nrth. The clientele tend to trend towards the younger side.
Rugged and built to last the messengers in possession of these titans, I predict, will fair well through winter. However, the Plastics still pose a threat with their souls aflutter with ingenuity.
Spring is approaching and the impending warm weather will soon force these beloved hand mitts into hibernation. I am looking forward to seeing what will be on the streets next season. Be on the lookout for new innovations. You never know where you may find them.
It’s a tough job out there but the rewards are great. All of the chair-strapped New Yorkers thank you brave Delivery Workers. May your hand warmers protect you.