We all have unsung heroes, and it’s often those who are underappreciated but essential to the way we live. Many of us relied on delivery riders to bring us food from our favorite restaurants through the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Bangkok. But not everyone has thought about what it’s like for delivery riders during the pandemic, or how they view the work they do. We got in touch with Darisa “Sai” Thammasathin, a larger-than-life delivery rider who remains unfazed when life presents her with an obstacle, to get insight on her work in the saddle.  


What made you want become a delivery rider?

I used to work at a department store selling beauty products. I also worked in a spa, and I was a makeup artist. But there was a turning point where I felt that I was getting older, so I felt like I needed a change to the way I live my life. I was deciding between a high-paying job, but [with] less personal time, or a lesser-paying job but [with] more personal time, mostly to spend with my parents. In the end, I took the high-paying job, with lots of commission, and great OT. But the thing is, for a year and a half, I had to work in a mall, so I had to follow their closing hours, which meant that I got off work quite late. It started to become a tiring routine, and my health deteriorated. Sometimes, I would go partying after work, but it was only a short-term solution to cure my tiredness. It was then that I realized that getting a huge paycheck wasn’t everything. I wasn’t happy, and I started to get sick more often. So after that, I was looking to find a job that would give me more freedom, with pay that would get me through the month comfortably enough. Back when I started with GET, they were only doing trial [runs] to see if having delivery riders would work. So I signed up, despite the uncertainties. In the end, uncertain things always happen in life anyway.   


What are the best things about being a delivery rider?

The best thing about it is that the jobs are short. You pick up, you deliver, and your job is done. If you want to earn more for the day, you do more deliveries. If you are hungry, or you need a break, you just take a pause, so it’s not that tiring physically because I can take more jobs whenever I want. Also, I’m in better health. Nowadays, I cycle a lot since I have to deliver food to people... I guess it’s hard to find a job that pays you to exercise. However, discipline is needed in these types of jobs if you want to earn as much as someone who’s working full-time. Of course, you’re stressed and tired, as with every job, but the upside of being a delivery rider is that you’re only stressed for a short time. When you’re done with the delivery, you just go home. 


What are the most difficult things about being a delivery rider?

There’s a reason why you pay other people to deliver food for you. I guess you have to understand them [the clients], no matter what reasons they may have. They might not want to wait for long. They might still want to be at the office and eat without having to physically go out because it’s inconvenient for them. This is where we [the delivery riders] step in and do the dirty work for them. It’s like when you were younger and your parents sent you to run an errand. It’s the same deal!


Have you encountered any difficult customers? 

In every service-related job, you’ll experience and encounter all sorts of customers. However, going back to the previous point, you have to understand their expectations and why they are coming to you. I guess you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes and try not to take things too personally. I also think that communication is key. Sometimes, we want other people to understand us, but we never really make the effort of trying to understand others. If the [kitchen] is slow or you’ve encountered some sort of accident along the way, you have to let the customers know what’s happening. If we don’t tell them what’s happening, it can be a problem. You also have to be conscientious, too. If problems arise, you can’t just panic. There’s always a way out of everything.  

How is your usual day? What’s the routine like?

I’m the type of person that relies on my feelings, and I work whenever I want [laughs]. Sometimes, I might wake up at 5am and get out of my house before 6am. Other times, I get out a bit before or after midday if I’m too tired. Without the curfew, I can work until whenever I want because it’s a 24-hour thing. Sometimes, you can still make deliveries around 2am.  


What’s your record for the most deliveries in a day? 

To date, the most rounds of deliveries I have sent in one day is 31. On that particular day, I was quite free, so I woke up at 5am, rode my bike around all day without any rush. It wasn’t till midnight when I realized that it’s already late and I had to go home. It was fun for me, though! I didn’t feel tired at all, either. I knew once I set foot on my bike that I would earn something that day. 


How long do you see yourself being a delivery rider?

For me, it’s less about the money now. I still love this job. I think that it’s not every day when you get paid to exercise. Some people are satisfied with running on a treadmill in a gym, but personally, I think it’s boring. You can also look at it this way: if you’re a delivery rider, it’s like quests when you play games. There are short and long quests, and you get real rewards in real life when you complete the deliveries and you get paid.


How has the experience been during the pandemic?

There were a lot more short deliveries [during the lockdown]. Since people couldn’t go out during peak Covid, they had to rely on us to deliver goods for them. Believe it or not, I have been making new friends with fellow delivery riders, too, so the community of the delivery riders in Bangkok is growing as a result. I happen to know one person who used to work in a hotel before and was unemployed because of the pandemic. He’s now doing this full-time. Some people have never done these kinds of jobs before, and some of them don’t have a motorbike, so we, as a community, exchange ideas, knowledge, and experiences together to help each other survive during these torrid times. So instead of the pandemic having a negative impact, things have looked up unexpectedly. 

What message do you have for people who want to get into this job?

I think that in every job, there are people who are successful and those who aren’t. There are also people who work just to get through the day with no passion. I guess it all comes down to your outlook and perspective in life. It’s true that you’re not fit for every job there is, but if you’re optimistic, and try to enjoy whatever you do, I think you’ll be fine and you can still enjoy life. Some people like to use the past and the future tense with me, but for me, I just feel tired having to think of the past. Questions like, “What’s gonna happen in the future?” or, “What if I had done this in the past?” don’t really help me make the best of today. But it doesn’t mean that you should completely disregard the future. You should still make plans, but also be prepared for things to not go according to them, too. 

That means you’re not too troubled right now, are you?

Well, I do have quite a lot of responsibilities to take care of, but I like to see them as a challenge. I believe that if you live without any problems to solve or challenges to take care of, you’ll just [skate by] without having anything to look forward to. It would be a lie to say that I don’t have any problems in my life at all. I believe that these challenges and obstacles happen for a reason. And if you have a pessimistic mindset, you’re only magnifying problems into something bigger and much worse than they should be. If you zoom out and look at the bigger picture instead of sinking in your own sorrows, you’ll find ways to combat and overcome whatever problems you’re facing in life.