Why you should care

Because crime, despite the scuttlebutt, does pay. Badly.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Carmine R.
San Francisco

I needed a job. Blew one that they had for me over at Sanitation. Overslept, and so it was either get one or get out of the house, according to my father. So I walked into this pizza parlor, me and a friend, and asked for a job. It was probably not a normal pizza parlor since the first words from the one guy in there were “Get the fuck outta here.”

He was fat and angry and I was confused. “The oven’s broken!” he yelled. But as I walked out, he said, “Hey, you got a car?” As luck would have it, I did. “You want a job?” And, again, I did.

Delivering pizzas? “Ha-ha, yeah, sure, kid. Show up tomorrow at 7.”

So I show up the next day, and again, no pizza oven. I ask him about it and he tells me that he’s getting it fixed, but until then could I drive one of his girls to an appointment? Which I agreed to do.

“Wait outside for her. Don’t leave!”

“What the fuck are you standing there for? You waiting for me to thank you? That’s like me thanking you for breathing.

She shows up. Looks like a college girl. With too much makeup. I’m not stupid. I took her to a hotel and waited an hour. I knew exactly what I was doing. The johns paid the girls, the girls paid me a percentage, and the only cash I ever got out of the fat man that hired me was minimum wage. “For the books,” he said.

But beggars ain’t choosers. Like a taxi company, we had a dispatcher — the fat man — and we hung around the parlor, a parlor that never, ever served pizza, waiting for girls and calls. I’m not saying pizza wasn’t there, but we ordered it from other pizza parlors. To eat, not to sell.

The fat man’s business wasn’t just the escort business. People also came there to sell stuff. He would buy low, sell high, like any other businessman. And it all flowed together. The best earners got the best girls. The best girls made the most money. So I started pulling off my own scores. I was there about a year and a half.

I’d like to say that I quit for ethical reasons, but that wasn’t the case. I had made a big score, or so I thought. I don’t want to talk about it, but it took a lot of effort and involved lots of work. I’m not saying it was a refrigerator. Or even several refrigerators. Not only are they expensive, they’re also heavy. And I’m not that big of a guy, so it felt like a big deal to me. There was a storeroom in back of the pizza parlor where if things had been normal they would have stored cheese and shit.

That storeroom was where I was dropping my stuff off, and I stood there, maybe a little too long for the fat man.

“What the fuck are you standing there for? You waiting for me to thank you? That’s like me thanking you for breathing. Now get over to …”

What most people don’t understand is that this ain’t at all like it is in the movies. At its most fundamental, organized crime is business without rules. All of our money went not to the fat man, but to this guy who was locked up. I’m from South Philly, so you’ll have to excuse me for leaving his name out, but he was running things from prison and if this was some communist paradise we’d all have been out of business. I’m from Sicily originally and it’s not unusual to find that most of the connected guys there are, like, neofascists. Commies are bad for business.

Anyway, I quit. Just left Philly. Came out to California. I was busting my ass and making money but not enough for how much I was busting my ass. The job was getting on top of me too. One time I had a girl, a sweet girl, working a bachelor party. But it wasn’t a normal bachelor party. It was hockey players.

I could hear the screams. I thought I should check, and sure enough, things were bad and these guys were drunk and about to take some serious liberties. I kick in the door, grab her and the only way I got out of being beaten to death by 12 drunken hockey players was when I started brandishing a gun. Shooting drunks is not what I signed on for, so I got out.

Now? I’m a manager at Dave & Buster’s. Excuse me if I don’t say where. I have a team of people working for me, a corporate structure with corporate benefits, and yeah, we sell pizza. Come by some night, but call me first. We get crowded fast.

OZYTrue Story

Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising -- the human.