City messengers are on receiving end for a change
By Dave Hoekstra
In messenger radio code, 10/9 means repeat the message. This week, 10/9meant the start of Messenger Courier Appreciation Week, a time to recognizethe contributions of a group that more often than not is criticized forits traffic-dodging, stoplight-running and pedestrian-frightening ways.
Bicycle messengers are honored along with messengers who use cars, vansand trucks. Mayor Daley has acknowledged the week since 1997.
Now clients are getting the message.
"Last year, a consulting firm sent in a huge basket of fruit, candy,nuts and crackers honoring the couriers for their work day in and day out,"said Phyllis Apelbaum, president of Arrow Messenger Service, 1322 W. Walton."These are the hardest working men and women, and I'm sure after workingwith them for 40 years if I had to do what they do for a living, I'd starveto death. It's been my role in the industry to bring recognition to thecarriers."
Apelbaum has operated Arrow for the last 26 years.
Gordon Winson has been an Arrow bike messenger since 1994. The 41-year-oldWest Side resident does deliveries for a Loop law firm.
"There's things you can't avoid," Winson said. "People do not watchthe lights. You have to take your time, and getting there safe is the keypart. I keep my eye on car doors--especially cabs. I'm always looking about10 feet in front of me so I'm prepared to react."
About 150 courier companies operate in the Chicago area, according tothe Messenger Courier Association of the Americas, based in Washington.
"I suspect they had couriers in ancient Rome," said Bob DeCaprio, executivedirector of the association. "We have a member in New York [Avant Services]that is over 100 years old. They probably delivered on horseback. But whatcouriers are interested in these days are package deliveries for e-commerce."
Sharon Chandler is one of a relatively small number of female couriers.About 20 of Arrow's 200 couriers are women. Chandler drives a silver 1998Chevy van to deliver parking tickets to the city's Department of Revenuein the Loop. She has received a parking ticket while making a delivery.
"Some [police officers] know you're going to go in and out," said Chandler,a 45-year-old South Side resident. "Others will give you a ticket no matterwhat. It's OK for us to park in loading zones or docks. But there are timeswhen you have to beat a deadline, and you park where you can park. Deadlinesare important."