Arts and Culture

How to get my job: bike messenger

There are thousands of blue-collar jobs in the world, but few have the cultural appeal of the bike messenger. As Denver has become more bike-centric over the years and more people have been saddling up, the bike messenger's job has taken on a glamorous appeal. But their heavy bags filled with thousands of dollars worth of goods, not to mention slick, cold weather and upset motorists, could drive anyone crazy. So what is it actually like on the streets? We asked Marcus Garcia, aka "Big Marcus," a man who's been on the saddle for 23 years, to clear things up.

Westword: Tell us a little about your history as a bike messenger. Marcus Garcia: I started as a messenger in the summer of '87 here in Denver and have worked as one ever since, 23 years.

WW: Why did you decide to start working as a messenger, and when did you know it was what you wanted to do? MG: It actually kind of picked me. I grew up in the city riding a bike constantly, and my good friend hooked me up with a job where I got paid to do just that. It was, and still is, awesome. I knew it was for me pretty early on because there's nothing else like it.

WW: How would you recommend someone get him or herself started as a messenger? MG: I don't know if I would recommend it as a career choice to someone, but if they're really down, I'd suggest they make friends with a current or past messenger. Like a lot of jobs, you have to know someone in the industry.

WW: Can you describe an average day? MG: First thing I'll do is turn on my radio and check in with my dispatcher. Soon after, I'll start receiving runs (deliveries). From there I'll go from building to building, dropping off and delivering packages. The runs come through a Nextel phone, similar to how you'd get a text message on your cell. That's the job, which has the delivery and pickup addresses and the due time. It pretty much just repeats like that until the day is done.

WW: What's the best part about your job? MG: The best part is easily getting paid to ride my bike, but the wonderful people I've met in my travels, being in the outdoors, never seeing my boss, free beer, summer fashions, the love and respect my employment has given me all count for something too. I've been lucky to have my bike life.

WW: What's the worst part? MG: The winter can be fucking terrible, especially when people ask "how's the weather out there?" when there's two feet of snow. The industry kills itself a little too. Most of us are contract labor, meaning we're not paid hourly -- and a lot places won't offer insurance. I'm currently working for three different companies at the same time, which can be very brutal, but I love it. Also, the commuters that want to race to and from work when I'm just trying to take it easy on my way home can drive me nuts.

WW: How about the biggest misconception? MG: People think we make tons of money for some reason. They also think we're all angry and that anyone could do my job. It's a hard job, so some days I'll be a little pissed, but not usually. People will sometimes think there's nothing else to me, just bikes and being a messenger, and that's just wrong.

WW: Anything you're particularly proud or embarrassed of? MG:I'm proud of the incredible life being a messenger has allowed me to enjoy and all the wonderful people and experiences I've had from a saddle. I'm proud to see small companies run by friends, like Track Shack and Cheetah Couriers, working too. After 23 years, you don't get embarrassed of much.

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Thorin Klosowski
Contact: Thorin Klosowski