Updated: Apr 2
Having had a non-delivery flower business for a couple of years, when we opened our bricks and mortar shop I remember the elation I had that I was going to go and deliver, myself, our first bouquet! This was stuff that dreams were made of. It was like I was ticking off something from a professional bucket list. I envisioned myself as a modern-day flower warrior armed with a bouquet of happiness, though driving my Nissan Qashqai instead of a chariot.
This was my moment.
Unlike grab and go customers, when flowers are ordered you usually get a card to write out with the delivery. This gives insight as to what the flowers are for and sometimes an indication on what to expect on delivery. If it’s addressed to someone for an older birthday, you know to give a bit more time for them to get to the door. It it’s a house warming gesture you know it tends to be for a younger, more mobile recipient.
If it’s valentine’s day, don’t let anyone under the age of 18 write the cards! Promises of what the sender will be doing to the recipient that evening is hard to write out and even harder to ‘un-see’ when you greet one of them at their door when handing over the red roses…. (to the girl leaning out the window in nothing but a sheet on valentine’s morning, with the guy exiting your house and me coming in with 2 dozen red roses – you’ve become my dinner party story over the last 7 years….)
This first delivery though – this was my virginal experience of being ’Mother Santa’. This was my moment to shine, to bring the gift of flowers to the houses of many; to make the all the locals smile, to be the delivery channel of love and friendship between people….ah…. the vision. Give me a moment to straighten my halo.
Anyhow, as I carefully navigated up to the address, admiring the tree lined street, I looked for a legal place to park. Lifting the flowers carefully out of my car I headed up to the door. In front of me was a large, impressive house, with a double front door and the path to that door went through a perfectly manicured garden. I recited the recipient’s name a few times in my head. Ding dong!! went the bell.
Within a milli-second, the door swung open. A woman was standing in front of me, on her phone. I recited the name on the card through my big, mile-wide smile waiting for confirmation that I was at the correct place. She nodded her head, while carrying on her phone conversation and pointed to the table in the grand foyer, gesturing for me to put the flowers down on it. I shuffled the 3 steps and laid the flowers down. She turned away and carried about her business, leaving me to exit the house and find my way back to the car. Not a word exchanged other than me questioning the recipient name with her nod concluding the conversation. It was… it was…. Totally anticlimactic. The flower warrior was no more.
None-the-less for years to follow, I probably personally delivered more than a few thousand bouquets, the majority being local. My worry of legal parking subsided and my expectation of being greeted like a celebrity no longer existed. It became more about the task at hand and a ‘ODG I hope they are home as I can’t bear driving back here 3, 4, 5 times until they are’…I rarely call ahead as I didn’t like to ruin the surprise although you then run the risk of no one being there to accept them. Flowers not accepted within the day usually need to be re-done and this is time and money.
People have invited me in, thinking the flowers were from me. (who are these people that get flowers from random people?!?) There are recipients who are absolutely DELIGHTED and at times, I’ve nearly cried myself, watching their reaction. There are people who stand perplexed because they are receiving a traditional funeral tribute for a birthday, as the sender is from overseas and most likely doesn’t know our floral funeral culture. Either that or it’s a bad joke. I’ve seen it all.
Over the years I’ve gotten to know Richmond’s Roads probably better than most taxi drivers. I have managed to find houses that I swore I would NEVER buy (even if I had the money) purely because I can’t imagine anyone else ever being able to find them. Classics are:
1. Houses which face one road, but the main door is on another. 123 Main Street but please enter on 345 Side Street.
2. Houses which go by name instead of number. These are THE WORST – I know, I know, if I had a house like that I’d also want to call it something pretentious and tell people that I live at XXXX Cottage or XXXX House but seriously people, do you EVER order pizza?!?!!? Or maybe I should ask, have you ever received a pizza that you have ordered or wasn’t stone cold by time they found you!!!???)
3. Flats with buzzers and no name or letter or number or anything to give any indication as to who could be living where… just blank buttons wanting you to press them all.
4. Buildings where the door bell(s) are in a foyer area, but you cannot access the foyer because the door is locked. Dreadful.
I now look at Postal Workers in a completely different light. Heroes they are.
While I could write a book on deliveries alone, the best of the best deliveries was one that I will never forget. The card gave away that it was a birthday for a 96-year-old. My mother was visiting from the US and she had come out with me to do the deliveries that day. Having a companion is always good when doing deliveries. If anything, when you leave the car momentarily parked in a ‘perhaps not so compliant’ manner, someone is there to beg the traffic warden for three more minutes while you desperately try to find the right flat bell to ring.
It was winter. A very cold day, but also very sunny. I rocked up outside the house, grabbed the bouquet and sauntered up to the front door. Knock knock knock! I could vaguely see someone through the frosted glass window panes in the door. There was also some other movement happening in the distance. The door opened ever so slightly, and a very sweet looking elderly lady smiled while talking on a land line phone. I imagined her to be the wife. She seemed perplexed as if she didn’t know if she should put the phone down or talk to me.
I did my usual name announcement and at that moment, this man, a hunched over little chap, peered his head around the door. The woman on the phone tried to gently swat him away. I say ‘gently’ purely because she couldn’t quite reach him as she was now twisted up in the cord from the land-line phone. Probably for the best as I think she’d otherwise have tried to tackle him to the floor!
Then, before I knew it, the door flew wide open and in all his glory, right in front of me stood a man dressed only in the skin that his mother gave him! Oh. Dear. God!!! I took the flowers and quickly shoved them in front as a barrier between me and him in a futile effort to try to both cover his modesty and my embarrassment! I could see a chest full of grey wispy hairs jutting about and I honestly didn’t know where to look. Skin… skin was just….EVERYWHERE!
He grabbed the flowers, grinned a half toothy smile and said, ‘Don’t mind me luv, I was just out in the back garden trying to catch some sun!’ I did an about-face so quick that any self-respecting drill sergeant would have been proud. I then scurried back to the car trying my best to act normal and not embarrass anyone any further. I am sure you could see the red of my ears through my hat and scarf.
When I slid inside, my mother said, ‘All good?’ Once I could finally get sounds to come out of my already wide-open mouth, I replied ‘Well, I hope that if I am lucky enough to reach my 96th birthday, I can have the same kind of party that man is having!’
Doing flower deliveries may not be the glamourous and heroic activity that I dreamed up in my head when The Petal Pusher was just a figment of my imagination. Having said that, when it does goes well, the satisfaction of handing over a beautiful bunch of flowers to an admiring and appreciative recipient really does make it all worth it. That immediate feedback of appreciation is priceless and is a hugely rewarding part of our business.