The folks at one of my favorite local sources of pizza, Smack Dab in Chicago, have the endearing habit of writing me thank you notes on the box in Sharpie, along with a big heart. This makes me feel special and loved. It almost makes up for more than six months of not seeing my friends and most of my family. (Okay, it doesn’t even come close, but at least I know that the people who bring me pizza are thinking kind thoughts about me. And sometimes they also bring me doughnuts.)
However, Smack Dab also has a strict no-contact delivery policy, which I respect, since it is in the owners’ best interests to protect their employees so they can continue to remain healthy and make and deliver pizza. It does mean, though, that I never get to hear those words of love in person.
But if I lived in Brooklyn, things would be different. I could order a pizza from Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Williamsburg and then, for an extra dollar, I could also add on some Comforting Words. Per Vinnie’s online menu: “For $1, our delivery driver will look you straight in the eyes and tell you, “EVERYTHING’S GONNA BE OK AND YOU’RE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN.”
Well, hey, in these times, positive reinforcement, especially delivered in person instead of over text or Zoom, is a rare and precious commodity, and so the laws of economics demand that we have to pay for it. And a dollar is kind of a bargain (except that it doesn’t cost Vinnie’s or the delivery driver anything to deliver it, but some days, as we all know, it’s hard to make an effort).
In an interview with The New York Post, owner Sean Berthiaume said that the service was also available through Vinnie’s walk-up window. It’s been on the menu for a week now—Berthiaume came up with the idea on the morning of the first presidential debate when he noticed that everyone seemed especially stressed—and so far there have been 50 takers. Some of those messages have been delivered via note or video in order to maintain social distancing, and some have been sent as gifts.
“This is making my day way better,” said one driver, Mikey Monteiro, who had been working as a carpenter until business dried up during the pandemic. “We aren’t pandering. I think in the grand scheme of things we want to bring some light in this dark time.” As an extra bonus, Monteira said he’s had some jovial interactions with customers and also been getting better tips.
As a native Midwesterner, it seems to me that Vinnie’s could just offer Comforting Words as a complimentary service, but I understand that rents are much higher in New York City and folks need to hustle and grab every buck they can.