Kastriot Stefo sums up his job at Al's Bottled Liquors in South Boston in a word: crazy. Nights when there's bad weather — "It's crazy." When there's traffic — "Crazy." If there's a big sports game, it's "very crazy." When he returns from a run, it's common for one of the owners to be waiting with 12 cases of beer ready to be delivered.
But Stefo is slow to anger, quick to be forgiving. On a recent Friday night, he delivered a case of Coors Light to a man in a gray triple-decker. The man thanked him with two cases of empty bottles. "See, not everybody has money," Stefo said.
He will wait, patiently parked outside the Old Colony projects, as he calls a customer two, three times. He does not go into the projects. Customers must come outside to claim their rum and cigarettes. On the fourth call, he drives away.
Like a bartender, he knows his regulars. Regulars are less likely to be angry if he's delayed. He worries about them when they become too regular, like the man who took two minutes to answer the door when Stefo arrived with a bottle of Tanqueray one Friday night. "I think he may be dead," Stefo said a few weeks later, after not having heard from the man since. "I'm not gonna tell you exactly, I don't know for sure, but you could see his face — he looked bad. Very bad."
Stefo came to America from Albania in 1996, where he worked as an automotive electrician. His wife has a degree in finance. He has been driving for the family-run Al's for 10 years. He favors fleeces and track pants.
Just one thing infuriates him unconditionally. "I have my kids — they're 26 and 22," he said. "I'd be very upset if I see a teenager drunk. I don't need the $5 tip from someone if they don't have an ID. If they said they'd pay me $100 for beer, I'm not going to give it to them!" He's been vilified as a "fucking immigrant" by a customer who failed to get away with a fake ID.
Giving a dollar tip to haul two cases of beer to a door is a gross expression of disrespect, said Stefo. He respects his customers, so he expects the same.
"You know what's funny? Drunk people. When they're drinking, sometimes they give a good tip! Then the next day they wonder, 'How much did I give him?' I'll take your $3, and you keep the rest. I know tomorrow you'll say, 'Where's my money?' It's crazy!"