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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Lessons from a College Job

I didn’t sign up for dodging flaming tennis balls or pudding balloons

Like many, I worked to help pay for college, and for a good portion of that time, I worked at a not-so-trendy fast food place called Burger Boy. Just off the north side of the Texas A&M campus, it featured the usual fast food grub that college kids need, such as tater tots, deep-fried chicken things, and, of course, hamburgers. Your hero in this little story was hired to deliver said delicacies to hungry people on and off campus. Not so bad, you say! Here’s the rub: I had to deliver this “food” on a 1950s 1950s-style bicycle with a milk basket strapped to the front to hold the bags of fried goods. 

At first, it wasn’t so bad. I would go to work at around 4:00 in the afternoon and deliver until the store closed at midnight. At times, I probably rode over 20 miles a night due to the size of the A&M campus. Still, there were other benefits besides the exercise: not only could I now get rejected for dates while I was working, but I could “liberate” a tater tot or four on my way to making deliveries. Hey, a bicycle delivery boy needs his carbs to complete his rounds.

Everything was going just fine until my friends realized that I had to ride by our dorm on the vast majority of my deliveries. At first, they would assemble on the balcony and hurl insults at me, but that quickly graduated to hurling projectiles in the following order:

  • Various bric-a-brac (crumpled paper, pens, pencils, etc.)

  • Teddy Grahams

  • Empty beer cans

  • Tennis balls

  • Tennis balls sprayed with Lysol and set on fire before launch

  • Water balloons

  • Pudding (yes, pudding) balloons - chocolate was the favorite for obvious reasons

I can remember several times when an object hit my shoulder, and I turned to look only to see the warming blue flame of Lysol on my bright yellow delivery shirt. But I was young and needed the money so I could deal with a few of my fellow dorm buddies tossing flaming projectiles in my direction.

Looking back on my time working at Burger Boy, I learned some life lessons that would later serve me in my career:

  1. No Excuses – When delivering hamburgers to hungry students, they don’t care if the store is busy, the weather is terrible, or if the bike has a flat tire. All they care about is getting their food on time. Promotional products clients are no different as they don’t want to hear about inventory issues, delivery challenges, or errors due to internal operations. All they want is for their merchandise to be decorated and delivered as promised. Should something go wrong, the buck needs to stop with you. 

  2. Attitude for Gratitude – No one wants food delivered by a grumpy person with pudding stains on his shirt. I found the more positive and happy I was when delivering meals, the better tips I received. In business, attitude plays an enormous part in success or failure. When I have a negative attitude, I generally get negative results. Conversely, good things tend to happen when I exude happiness and positivity.

  3. Time is Money – I learned early on that the faster I delivered hamburgers and tots, the more money I made. Time is the greatest asset any of us truly possess, which makes it a crime to waste. By focusing on the task at hand – whether delivering food or developing presentations – efficiencies are created that allow far more productivity in a given amount of time.

Sadly, my burger delivery career was tragically cut short due to injury. I was delivering a chicken fried steak sandwich to the south side of campus when a remote-controlled car ran in front of my bike tire. I attempted to hit my brakes and swerve out of the way, but my front tire hit the mini-car squarely, stopping the bike in its tracks. Unfortunately – and predictably – I didn’t stop along with my bike as I was launched (along with the previously mentioned chicken fried steak sandwich, tater tots, and sweet tea) about 15 feet, landing on the sidewalk. Besides the ruined food, the accident resulted in a deep bone bruise on my kneecap and a grade 1 MCL sprain.

By the time my knee healed enough to resume my delivery career, I had graduated from college and moved on to the real world. However, I took many lessons from my time delivering hamburgers on a bike that continue to give me pause to think – including that it’s better to find a delivery route that doesn’t consistently pass your dorm.

*an earlier version of this blog originally appeared on

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