About

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

So are you one of those ‘cycle couriers’ then?

Er, yes. Yes I am.

How many miles do you do per day?

I’ve never worked it out, but apparently the average is around 60. Sometimes I think it’s probably less than that. Sometimes it feels like much more.

You must be incredibly fit…?

Yes, I am. There’s no way you could do this job and not be incredibly fit, at least by normal people’s standards. But usually when people ask me this I wave my hand dismissively, and say “no, I’m just permanently knackered”. Both are kind of true.

Isn’t it dangerous?

Not if you know what you’re doing, no.

What do you do when it rains?

I get wet, and complain a lot more.

So do you ride one of those fixie bikes then?

Yes I do.

I also have a road bike, but it’s nowhere near as much fun to ride in town.

Do you wear a helmet?

No. Last time I had a head-on collision, the car came off worse. My head is clearly the hardest thing on the road.

You must know London like the back of your hand, right?

Well, yes, in a way. As well as anyone ever can know London.

So what kind of things do you courier?

Oh, you know…

envelopes of various sizes
legal files of various weights
large sheaves of internal mail for companies with multiple premises
big heavy model portfolios
greetings cards
tenders for big contracts, usually right up against the deadline
essays, coursework and dissertations, ditto
planning applications
CDs, USBs and hard drives
camera equipment
passports and visa applications
train, plane and bus tickets
stationery and other office equipment
bottles of wine and champagne
occasional cakes
prints and proofs and plans rolled up into tubes
more money than I’ll ever earn myself
shoes, usually between shops, magazines and press offices
clothes and jewellery
contact lenses for people who don’t have time to pick them up themselves
my controller’s forgotten lunch, from his wife’s office in EC4
mobiles left in meeting rooms
housekeys
cartons of milk, for some reason
tapes of what you’ll be watching on TV this evening

…that sort of thing.

How do I get to Piccadilly Circus?

It’s over there.

Can I borrow your lighter?

Sorry mate, I don’t smoke.

Do you have a boyfriend?

No. Do you?

_________________________________

LESS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are the main annoyances of the job?

Complicated loading bay regulations. (See here, here and here.)
Aggressive cabbies.
Regular low-key sexism (rarely from other couriers, but often from almost everyone else I encounter).
Having to spend obscene amounts of money when things go wrong with my bike.
Traffic.
Traffic.
Traffic.

Why do couriers smell so bad?

For lots of reasons.

Aren’t couriers just dangerous hooligans who jump red lights?

No, they’re not. Not all of them, anyway.

Why do you stick with it when it’s so badly paid, and there’s no job security, insurance, annual leave, sick pay or guaranteed minimum wage?

Good question. Which is just another way of saying ‘I don’t know’. When you put it that way, it does sound like an unremittingly crap job, and I often ask myself this very question, particularly when I’ve been sitting on the same park bench for 90 minutes, not earning any money.

Because I love it, I suppose. Though that doesn’t sound like a good enough answer. Surely just loving the job isn’t enough to justify putting up with all the crap it throws at me? As 24tee points out, that sounds an awful lot like an abusive relationship. And maybe it is.

Nonetheless, that’s the best answer I have. Despite everything, being a courier somehow still makes me happy.

How has couriering changed your life?

Completely. In ways I could never have imagined. I came to this job fresh from a master’s degree. I’d always wanted to try being a cycle courier, but I never suspected that it would suit me any more than any of the other jobs I’d tried. I thought I’d maybe stick it out for about six months. Three years later, I’m still here.

Unexpectedly, in couriering I’ve discovered the perfect symbiosis between the physical, the social, the intellectual and the practical. I loved academia, but somehow I never quite managed to justify (to myself or anyone else) why someone should give me money to sequester myself in a library and study life as it appears in books. On the bike I’m involved in the world in so many ways. I’m part of the process. I see life as it happens. And I see more of it than most other people are ever privileged to.

I thought that doing a purely physical job would sound the death knell for my intellectual life. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Over the past couple of years I’ve been more creative – and had more to say – than ever before. And I’ve discovered the thrill of speed, and muscles, and endorphins, and adrenaline. I feel fulfilled. And I’ve become a very different person from what I always expected.

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16 Responses to “About”

  1. Michael Loehr (tiramizoo) Says:

    Hi!

    Was great chatting with you today in London! Would love to stay in touch and learn a bit more about your view on the messenger industry and where we (tiramizoo.com) could have the biggest impact.

    Be well,

    Michael

  2. Marcus Says:

    Keep on blogging. PLEASE KEEP IT UP!!!
    I just finished reading all your previous blogs and I loved every minute of it. More blogs per month would be nice.
    from a former wannabe courier in Sydney, Australia…

  3. David Says:

    Enjoy your blog very much! In fact I think it is so good that you should make a book out of it! I tried to read “The Immortal Class” about the courier life and got fed up with the turgid prose. Your blog is very entertaining, insightful, and gives a wonderful window into the world of a courier. Cheers and thanks!

  4. Bill Says:

    Love bikes.
    Love the blog!

    Sign me up, Scottie!

  5. Barry Says:

    Morning,

    A courier yesterday told me you was planning a cycle trip round the world, good job. I’m planning to cycle London – Singapore via Mother Russia, Mongolia, China and South East Asia.

    I’ve cycled accross USA and a few years back did a London-Capetown trip.

    I was the courier with a mowhawk the last 2 years working for citysprint but alas am now sans hawk, if you spot me round London and fancy a chat about touring then by all means stop me and do.

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Aha – I spotted you just the other day, and thought ‘he looks familiar…’, then realized you were the chap with the mohawk, but didn’t have a mohawk any more, which is what confused me.

      And I will definitely stop you if I ever see you again – or just try and corner you for a beer or something. I need all the help and good advice I can get!

  6. Curtis Says:

    Hello,

    Love your blog and have been a reader over the last year. I’m currently looking to start couriering but struggling to find a company to take me on with my lack of experience. I was just wondering if you had any advice for someone just starting out?

    Thanks

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Oh – sorry it’s taken me a while to get to this!

      My advice for newbies is always just to give it a go. Phone round all the courier companies (or better still, visit them in person) and eventually you’ll find someone to take you on. Chances are it’ll be one of the crap companies, but you have to start somewhere. Then, if you survive the first few weeks, you can start looking for a better one.

      You could always try lying about your experience – pretend you’ve done the job in another city or something. They’re unlikely to check up on you, and once you’ve got a foot in the door you’ll learn the ropes very quickly.

  7. Rob Creighton Garrison Says:

    Hi,

    I just discovered your blog this morning and have enjoyed it a lot. I’m a fan of a reality show called “Triple Rush” aired in the US , and it got me thinking that surely there were courier blogs that offered additional insight of the job and the culture. It’s a bonus that I find one that offers that AND a look into work-a-day English society as well. Your writing is engaging and thoughtful. Count me as a new fan.

  8. joschz Says:

    hey,
    when you get to mexico, let me know if you need a place to stay or anything for your bike and stuff. i run a bikehostel kinda thing in chiapas. and also:
    http://bicimensajeros.wordpress.com
    tailwinds! jo.aquin

  9. Sash Says:

    Iran Visa Info

    Lo,

    You can get a ticket from 50 Kensington Court around 7.30am. Then come back at 12.30am on the date specified on the ticket to make your application. Today’s ticket is for the 30th of May, so there’s quite a long delay.
    If you let me know in advance, I can ask one of my colleagues to pick up a ticket in the morning.

    Another option is to turn up at 12.30am and ask/wait around for any vacant slots.

    /sash

  10. Loving the Bike Says:

    Hi,

    With only a couple days to go in our 2011 Crank Honors, you are currently in the lead for votes in the Women’s Category. Should you remain on top and win that division, I’d like to have a copy of your logo (or a picture we can use) to promote you as the winner. Please send me what you can to darryl@lovingthebike.com.

    Keep up the great work.

    Darryl

  11. PreciousJA Says:

    Hey there,

    I’ve just found your blog and in the last 2 days have read yuor life from Oct 2009 – Feb 2010 and I’ll tell you what – you’re one hell of a writer! I’ll let you know when I’ve done but thank you so much for your blog! I’ve always been fascinated by bike couriers so it’s a great insight.

    Precious x

  12. Tory Says:

    Hi – long shot but are you still a courier? I’m a journalist looking for case-studies, and you seem perfect!

  13. Charlotte Knowles Says:

    Hello! I was wondering whether you are still messengering now in London? I’m a student from the London College of Fashion and i’m currently working on a competition set by i-D magazine. I’m looking for a female bike messenger to inspire my project, would you be interested? I would be designing a look inspired by you and your lifestyle. At the end of the project, there will be a spread in i-D magazine based the look i design – you would have to be photographed – is that something you would mind? if you’re interested my email address is Charlie555421@hotmail.co.uk – please let me know!

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