So, as I mentioned, I was given the opportunity Sunday night to volunteer as a Full Circle delivery driver and get a glimpse into the last part of the cycle, the boxes leaving the warehouse, loaded into Full Circle trucks and delivered to your doors. The shift started at 8pm and normally wouldn’t end until 6am.

I’ve only worked the graveyard shift once, for five months, and  it wasn’t easy. I was a baker for Tidyman’s Market and my shift ran from 11pm to 7am. I was young, and all I did was flip donuts. But, I learned that the shift itself takes discipline, and the ability to adapt. The night can be challenging, the natural cycles of the body working against you, the world turning and running along as you catch up on sleep.

Since I was just helping out – and though I say ‘I’, I mean ‘We’ as I had enlisted the help of my fiancé to be my co-pilot (you are the best!) – our Operations Manager only gave us about 50 boxes, something one of our seasoned drivers could hammer out in a couple of hours – it took the two of us about twice that long. Generally our drivers will have twice that amount, and once they get to know a route they can get pretty efficient.

Though it’s difficult driving, there’s something fun about being up when the world is asleep; about slowly driving down dark and quiet streets wet with the night’s rain, scanning for the next address. There’s a pleasure in the power of the delivery driver. The ability to use your hazard lights and stop in the middle of roads.  The hurried, yet measured hustle of the boxes waiting behind the one your grabbing, the heft of it, the glimpse of houses, porches, doorways and the occasional insomniac’s hello. It was fun, at times confusing, but generally comforting – the kind of comfort that comes with purpose and direction.

But, there are also the very narrow streets, darkened stoops and the confusion of the night. Our turn-by-turn directions would often say ‘now head east’ – when we were previously told to head west, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to turn our gigantic van around in tightly crowded streets. We’d find ourselves dropping off a box an hour later right across the street from where we had been before. And the night plays tricks on your eyes, especially mine, since my night-vision is poor and the glow of street signs are often blurred by rain and glare and headlights.

All in all we had a good time, and though we often find ourselves arguing on road trips, lost somewhere in the countryside, looking for a particular trail-head, we worked well together as a team – the Amazing Race came to mind more than once, they should do a Seattle or Northwest episode and have the couples do graveyard deliveries for us! – though I couldn’t imagine doing it alone.

In the end, what I am left with is really just respect. It is not easy bringing good food to people, and it takes many people to create a strong local food system. Full Circle drivers do an incredible and important job, and they do it amazingly well. What they do is not easy, the roads are narrow, the boxes get heavy, the weather is not always pleasant, and they don’t get a lot of thank you’s. But they are appreciated, I appreciate them now, more than ever.

So here’s to the midnight team – the headlamp and reflective-vested crew of men and women- that goes out, night after night and gets the job done.

Thank you.