All Things Must Pass

Paper Route Conversations

I can still walk that paper route in my mind. Yet when I had that paper route I would occasionally miss delivering a paper. Some people would call the district office and report not getting a paper. Others would never say a word. What I failed to realize when I was the CEO of my paper route, was that there were many people who’s entire day was shaped by that paper. They wanted to see the box scores of the ball games and then there were those who had to have their crossword puzzles. I learned the later only recently, having become a low level somewhat decent solver of The New York Times Crossword. Will Shortz is a clever guy.

When you are a thirteen year old mogul, you fail to realize your issues are minute compared to what will come your way later in life.

I really hated putting the newspapers into plastic bags for delivery. Reading Eagle Inc. would provide the newspapers and the plastic bags. I only put the newspapers into the plastic bags when it was raining without any consideration of it possibly raining later that day. I was introduced to that mathematical equation a year or two later in my Berks County education.

And then there were the midweek advertisement inserts. I once again learned later in life that many people live for this section of the paper. People love their coupons. People depend on their coupons. There used to be this thing known as double coupons.

There where a were a few (emphasis on few) times I didn’t put those inserts into the paper. There was an old dilapidated barn on my route in the late stage of decay. I threw the inserts into that barn. I watched as the inserts fluttered in the stale air of the barn.

Nobody ever complained about missing their coupon insert.

Back to the paper route. I had six customers who wanted their paper delivered to their door instead of their curbside mailbox. I never asked why and never really cared all that much. They usually gave me a tip and usually paid monthly. According to the doctrine of capitalism, these were my best customers. They were also some of my most ardent critics when their paper did not make up to their doorsteps. To be a little more specific, if the paper was not between the screen door between four and five in the afternoon, and the regular door they would call and complain. That is how the system worked. This was the classic 80/20 rule, spending 80 percent of my time on 20 percent of my revenue generating customers.

There was the customer who always tried to sell me life insurance. I had no idea what he was talking about.

Then there was Mike who never ever gave me a tip. When his wife answered the door she gave me a tip. One time when I was collecting (paperboy lingo for Accounts Receivable) Mike was hanging out and playing jazz. I stayed and listened for awhile, and was introduced to Miles Davis.

There was a woman on my route who was one of the cooler people I have met. She was seriously overweight and happened to later become my Prep/Chem teacher. She also played music when i was out collecting. She usually was playing the radio, either jazz or classical. This was my introduction to public radio. There were special rare occasions where she played the music of a little known artist from New Jersey.

Rosalita jump a little lighter
Senorita come sit by my fire
I just want to be your lover ain't no liar
Rosalita you're my stone desire

It was magical.

And Ms. HSomething who insisted on greeting me at the door in an ill secured robe, in the winter or a men’s dress shirt in the summer. She listened to the WRAW AM radio which I thought I liked in years past.

I was delivering papers on Sunday morning and it was just getting light. A long time customer crested the hill with a fender dragging underneath, stumbled from the car, stinking of gin, gabbed her newspaper and preceded coquettishly into her house. I have a vague collection of Bachman Turner Over drive playing as she crested the hill. I have no way of confirming this.

Mrs. Hertenstine played classical all the time. She never could find her check book when I went collecting. Good things do come to those who wait as I ended up cutting her grass for two years. I did the same for jazz loving Mike as well.

There was a cranky old lady with cranky young dog. One day her dog bit me. On another day my dog went to the bathroom on her lawn. She yelled at me for five minutes straight as I stood there with a bag of Freddy’s poop in my hand.

Our school principle lived on my route as did my chemistry teacher, history teacher and shop teacher. They didn’t say too much if I collected on a day I stayed home from school. They were regular people like my parents whom I considered highly irregular.

I had insurance as a paper route mogul. I was in the hospital for hand surgery. They paid me 88.00 to not deliver the papers for those two weeks. I splurged and bought a George Harrison album.