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Delivery services step in to bring hot food to customers on cold, snowy Thursday

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 11:03 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - With smooth jazz on the radio, cutting through a harsh February day, Jeffry Gauthier was set for a shift in a job he genuinely enjoys: driving for Chomp, a food-delivery service based in Iowa City.

“When weather like this keeps folks from being able to get out, if we can do it safely, then we kind of are that connectivity to enjoyment that they ordinarily might not have,” said Gauthier, who lives in Cedar Rapids.

Gauthier was not originally scheduled to work during Thursday’s winter storm, but he signed up for a shift after other drivers called out.

He has the type of experience needed to handle the type of icy, snowy roads that sliced through eastern Iowa on Thursday, having worked as an ambulance driver in his younger years in Michigan.

“Plenty of snow,” he said. “I got my dose of it.”

While the snow might not have stopped Gauthier from getting to his destinations, picking orders up from restaurants and bringing them to customers’ doors in Linn County, another factor thwarted him: The first restaurant where he was slated to grab food during his shift was closed because of the weather.

So Gauthier alerted another Chomp employee, using an app to communicate, and was on his way to a second restaurant — this time, one that was open.

He said it can be a challenge to get people their food quickly while traversing roads that require drivers to go slow in the snow.

“Safety has to be our first and foremost,” he said. “If we end up in a situation where we’re stuck, or heaven forbid, we’re into an accident situation, well then obviously that meal doesn’t get delivered, or it really gets delayed.”

And he never knows where he will be sent.

“There are shifts that I have that I’m putting, in a three- and four-hour shift, close to 100 miles on the car,” he said.

As Gauthier waited for food Thursday — many restaurants are requesting delivery drivers sit in their cars outside as they finish orders as a pandemic precaution — he spent his free minutes refreshing a web page, trying to sign up for a COVID vaccine appointment as someone who qualifies for vaccination in Phase 1B.

Slots were opening up during his shift, and he couldn’t afford to miss his chance.

“Very few appointments are available, so it sort of is the early bird gets the worm, and this is my second week at making an attempt to schedule myself,” he said.

Luck wasn’t on his side Thursday, either.

“I’m feeling vulnerable, given age and various comorbidities, that I need the vaccine, like so many others. I’m not alone. So I’m certainly — yeah, a little bit frustrated,” he said, before looking at the clock and realizing his next customer’s food was ready. “I need to go get the meal.”

So Gauthier headed back to the restaurant’s front door, grabbed the meal, loaded it into his car, and drove to the next stop, bringing that customer what they were craving and hoping he would get what he needed soon, too.

“I’m anxiously awaiting my opportunity,” he said. “For me, it can’t come sooner.”

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