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“When she opened the door, her bathrobe fell open”

“When she opened the door, her bathrobe fell open”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

(Wo)man at work: Grocery delivery man at Albert Heijn

Maarten Thissen/31/master’s student of Dutch Private Law/works 16 to 18 hours per week/earns €13.27 gross per hour

31 years old? Did he start university late or fall behind in his studies? The latter, says Thissen in his delivery van after picking up the reporter at the Faculty of Economics around 3:45 p.m. Why? Long story short: a period of illness, student life in Amsterdam, a new university and trouble with his former thesis supervisor.

Thissen left Urmond, Limburg, half an hour earlier with about a thousand kilos worth of groceries. He doesn’t have to gather the groceries himself: the orders he delivers are prepared at the Home Shop Centre in Eindhoven. A lorry then takes them to Urmond, where Thissen puts them into the racks lining the insides of his van.

There are 23 addresses on his list today. Our first stop, in the neighbourhood Villapark, is a beautiful flat on the Papenweg. The van navigation system shows us where to go. “The customer knows we’re on our way”, says Thissen. “They receive an automatic text message when we’re twenty minutes away.” We temporarily park the van on the pavement. “This actually isn’t allowed, but I’m never gone for long: we officially have two minutes to make the delivery. If I get a fine, I have to pay it myself. Unless I let the Centre know in advance that I really couldn’t find a parking space.”

Thissen goes into the van and gathers all items with the number 1 on them. He puts them on a hand truck and checks his device – “the zebra” – to make sure he’s got everything: two crates, two coolers and a paper bag with bread. It’s all there.

The flat is on the first floor. “In Maastricht, this isn’t too much of a problem”, says Thissen. “There’s usually a lift. Back when I worked in Amsterdam, I was exhausted at the end of the day. Most people there don’t live on the ground floor, there often aren’t any lifts and we deliver ‘right into the kitchen’, so I had to lug these crates upstairs one or two at a time.”

“Ten years ago, I moved into a new house with two student friends and there was no supermarket nearby. We decided to order our groceries. It was ideal. I applied for a job.” He estimates he has delivered to over 35,000 addresses by now. “You run into all kinds of things, from the finest villas to flats with no or plastic garden furniture.” He started delivering in South Limburg 2.5 years ago. “I’m in Maastricht today, but my routes also often take me through the beautiful hilly landscape of Limburg – fantastic!”

Back in the delivery van, Thissen touches the navigation system to start the route to the next address. He stops the van in the Lenculenstraat, behind the Faculty of Law. The address is on Verwerhoek, but cars are banned there. After checking the order with the zebra, Thissen carefully navigates the overloaded hand truck down the uneven pavement. A woman opens the door, accompanied by an apprehensive dachshund. “Don’t worry, he’s a total wuss”, she says. Thissen crouches down to greet the dog before bringing the groceries inside. The woman pays by card. Thissen takes the deposit containers back with him.

“This dog was fine”, he says later, back in the van. “But another dog once bit my bum when I put down the groceries.” Does he have any other strange or funny stories? He laughs. “Now I’ll have to be careful what I say, of course. I once delivered to a flat where I could smell the cats before I even got to the front door. I said I couldn’t go inside because I’m allergic to cats. It was insane. And I once delivered to a house where a beautiful woman lived. When she opened the door, her bathrobe fell open. I pretended not to see it.”

Next stop: Polvertorenplein.

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