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A Coder in Courierland (kuro5hin.org)
83 points by hhm on Aug 6, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments



I worked as a courier for a short while, and I have good memories of that time.

It gives a certain kind of job satisfaction which is very different from what you get from being... well, anything else I've ever been. Your goals are short-term (get this package to that place by this time) and achieving each one gives you a little dose of satisfaction. If you get to the end of the day and you haven't been late, lost a package or been hit by a car, you know you've done your job as well as possible. That's in stark contrast to being, say, a theoretical physicist (or a software developer), where the doses of job satisfaction are (hopefully) much larger but are much further apart, and where you can easily go for days without feeling like you've achieved anything.


The sad irony is that I read that title and assumed it was an essay on font choices in development environments.


I had the same exact thought.

But still, a very fascinating article. I'm a bike commuter in SF, and I can related to some of the bullet points.


That's what I thought, too. Fortunately, I read your comment before looking at the article, thus saving me time. Thanks! (That's why I love HN).


The first time I read this article I was living in Austin, and was in the midst of closing up shop on my first startup. I seriously considered getting a job as a courier, to the point of researching who the best employers were and wages and such. I love cycling, the weather in Austin is great, and it seemed like a good way to work on my introversion. But, I started Virtualmin, instead...sold my car, moved to the valley, and ride for pleasure and ordinary transportation.


It always frustrates me when people equate "real" work with outdoor physical labor.

A software engineer is a life full of a surprising amount of importance. Frequently you're working on massive systems that affect the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even millions. And he trades it in for a "real" and "romantic" job of being a envelope peddler?

I mean, good for him. Do what makes you happy, but don't try to slyly say, "P.S. You have no soul and your job is meaningless."


I don't think it's as "sly" as you make it out to be. I simply understood "real" work to be physical work, nothing more, nothing less.

Growing up, our family bought a completely gutted house -- no drywall, plumbing, wiring, nothing. One crazy summer, we did enough work to make the place livable, and in the following years, we re-sided it, fenced the property, did finishing work inside, and more. In addition to this, I had jobs (since I was about 12) mowing lawns, "mucking" horse stalls, siding, roofing, stocking shelves, and more that I can't recall off the top of my head.

To me (and I assume to anyone else who has spent years doing laborious work), this is the definition of real work. A task that works your body. Not "real" as in meaningful, but "real" as in true. Work that does not leave you stressed at the end of the idea, both because heavy exercise releases endorphins and because most of the time, your work is (temporarily) done at the end of the day.

Now if the original author had said "real job" instead of "real work", then I would have agreed with you. My dad did not attend college and has had a labor job my whole life. He always told me to work hard in school and to be smart, because I didn't want a job where I had to do real work like he did. That to me is real work.


Well, I grew up on a horse ranch, and I mucked out stalls and was a groom for multiple stables and a training assistant (read: that guy who always got kicked at first shoeing). I'm well acquainted with the notion of physical labor and that oft-mentioned endorphin rush.

I get the same satisfation from a good day's work from either, and I think this notion of a "hard day's work" s exactly that: a romantic notion with no real basis in reality. If anything, it's just another example of how modern american society is anti-intellectual.

And I find it tiresome and hackneyed and often part of a post-hoc rationalization for people who couldn't hack it in a job with more responsibility. Which is not to say that's exactly what this author experienced, but it's certainly an archetype I've run into in the valley more than once.

Ultimately, people should do what makes them happy without any delusions about what is "real", what is "meaningful", and what is "productive".


Why does it frustrate you ?


Because it is a prejudice and unfairness.


Because they're wrong.


It always frustrates me when people pay more attention to word than meaning.


Biking around the city is always an adrenaline rush for me, and I ride conservatively. You almost have to ride like you are invisible. I feel bike messengers have a job that balances risk and excitement. I admire this guy for taking on a job that is as far away from the cube as you can get. If you ever get a chance to see the Cycle Messenger World Championships, go.. I like this guy's writing style.


Interesting article I wonder how many people here bike to work and how long of a bike ride is usually for them?(Miles/Minutes)


I do about 9 miles each way (124 blocks down, plus crosstown) in Manhattan. It takes about 30 minutes if I'm in a rush, 40-45 otherwise.

There are some hazards, however:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUkiyBVytRQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vW36qt1SbE&feature=relat...


Were you there? Were the NYPD picking out people at random?


It was a bad deal, the cop basically picked a guy out and assaulted him, then filed a completely false report accusing him of starting it.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0729081bike1...

Its good that no one was seriously hurt and that this fool's true color showed early before he could do any real damage. They can't all be heroes, I guess. That's what makes the ones that are special. This joker was probably hiding in the broom closet on 9-11.


I was, even got a ticket to prove it. I'm just a random participant, so I guess they are picking random people.

According to veterans of this event, the cops have been holding a grudge since 2004. Several of them lost their jobs due to committing perjury in the aftermath of the Republican Convention ("he was resisting arrest!"), and they aren't happy about that.


I don't bike to work (it wouldn't make sense to bike from my bedroom to my home office), but I sold my car when I moved to the valley, and so bike everywhere else. I bike about 5 miles from the train station to Golden Gate park for the twice a month startup kickball games (50 minutes to get there, as it's all uphill, and 20 minutes to get back--hills in San Francisco make a huge difference in transit time), and 4 miles over to Google for dinner once a week or so (10-15 minutes), and about 4 miles for all shopping excursions (10-15 minutes).

It's been a great experience, and I almost never miss my 350Z.


Really? Never? What's wrong with you?


Some of us bike to our desks. ;)


I do, as do several coworkers. It's only about a mile for me, at the moment, but I've done ten each way before. (I often take the long way home, now. A mile is nothing. Living right by downtown is nice, though.)

Biking to work (or going to a gym, etc., etc.) regularly hits many of the same points the author addresses: You will be generally happier and have more energy (both physical and mental) if you get exercise regularly. Fact. (Also, it works better if you pick fun exercise, because you'll actually do it.)

It isn't practical in some cities / for some people, but if you can, give it a try.


I bike to work, and have for most of my past jobs too. My current job is 7.5km/15-20 minutes away.

Reading this article makes me want to become a bike messenger myself (I'm not far from Toronto, actually), and maybe do freelance coding on weekends.


I just started biking to the commuter train station (it's just the beginning of a 90 min one-way). It's 3.25 miles and I do it in about 16-18 minutes (exact minutes matter when you're catching a train). The train ride gives me a chance to air out before work, so the summer weather hasn't been too bad. Chicago winter should be fun :).


Currently my commute is 6 miles each way. I do it year 'round. I've been bike commuting for the last 8 years.

My max commute, by the way, was nearly 20 miles each way, thanks to an unexpected office move. That lasted about two months...


I forgot there was still good stuff on Kuro5hin as recently as 2005. Internet years seem so much longer.


Here's a soundtrack to accompany the article: http://radio3.cbc.ca/play/band/Abdominal/Pedal-Pusher/


I have heard that the bicycle couriers often end up with destroyed knees. Makes me avoid the job.


Funny that you mention that, my brother had actually worked for a month as a bicycle courier and indeed he reached the point when he had to quit this job because of hurting knees.




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