Mess Media




Couriers work together, but individually

by Pamela Bryant,

Golden Gate [X]Press, May 22, 2008
The Financial District in San Francisco has a long history of nine-to-fivers, who spend the majority of their shift outdoors, rain or shine.
Bike messengers, otherwise known as couriers, make up this work force, where a wardrobe of a suit and tie is optional.
With over 40 different courier companies located in San Francisco, according to, these cyclists have an unparalleled occupation, which often times takes them outside the employment norm.
"It's a really unique profession," said Becky Balon, 23, a bike messenger and co-owner of Cricket Courier.
"When I see someone on a bike, there are good chances that I know them and that's a sense of community that is really hard to get in other professions. You feel surrounded by a community all the time," she said.
Balon graduated with a bachelor's in English literature and Gender Studies from New College of Florida. With thoughts of attending graduate school, she decided to take some time off and became a courier instead.
"I think that absolutely anybody can be a bike messenger. It's not that hard," she said while laughing. " I don't think there needs to be all this mystic around it. Everybody starts somewhere."
Aaron Schurer, 22, has been a messenger since 2005 and works for First Legal Services. He got his start like others, due to his love for cycling.
"It's just kind of something I've had the desire to do because I enjoy riding my bike," he said. "I ride a KHS Aero fixed gear track bike, which is a typical San Francisco bike now."
Doing legal work has a different tone than regular couriering. It involves trips to the courthouse to do filings or research for clients (lawyers), and even goes as far as delivering serves to people.
"Sometimes that can be kind of weird," said Patrick Piccolo, 27, who also works for First Legal. "I haven't had any problems here in the city but definitely have served people that didn't want to be in Sacramento."
Piccolo and his fiancé Jennifer recently relocated from Sacramento, where he first started working as a legal courier.
"I think it's great that he's able to work and workout at the same time, but it's a little worrisome sometimes," Jennifer said.
"It's not sedentary, so your situation will change on a daily basis," Piccolo said, regarding the outdoor elements. "Honestly, I don't notice too much of a difference, as far as the work is concerned."
One of the aspects Piccolo enjoys is the level of freedom being a courier allows.
"I think that is one of the biggest appeals really, is that you can have a job, be a functioning member of society, and still be an individual, which is great," he said.
As with any unconventional group working amidst a corporate environment, stereotypes are bound to develop.
"There's some truth behind any stereotype," Piccolo said. "There's definitely an element of any group that's willing to risk their security at their job and will drink and do drugs while they're working, and not be as in control as the majority of the couriers out there. [But] for instance, I don't drink or do drugs at all on work time or my own time."
Piccolo acknowledged that most couriers are pretty professional when it comes to their jobs, because they like their jobs and want to keep them.
"I think the persona of the scumbag messenger is pretty false, not that there aren't some out there," he laughed.
Marvic Paulo, 27, a cinematography major at Academy of Art and part time courier, agrees with Piccolo.
"There is a tendency for stereotypes to be more negative than they are positive about messengers," he said. "I definitely make a conscious effort to be extra nice and go out of my way sometimes to be polite and just be courteous on a daily basis especially to people who I get the impression they are putting me in a box immediately just based on my appearance."
Paulo left his retail job in search of more independent employment when he came across being a courier. It incorporated his love for cycling and being outdoors into one paid occupation.
"I had a really good experience thus far, so it's been really awesome," he said. "Messengers are really amazing people with really genuine passions outside of work, outside of even cycling."
Bike messengers, given their atypical occupation, work all day outdoors, all day on bikes, and all day with friends; and what better stereotype than that.