The Paperboy

I don’t read the news much at all these days. It’s almost always bad, anyway. I was a paperboy in my youth. I delivered the Des Moines Register and Tribune for a year and earned a certificate as Honor Salesman.

My paperboy certificate

Let me tell you a little something about being an Honor Salesman back in those days. First of all, I had to cross some railroad tracks to pick up my papers at the drop up the street from my house. Evidently, tree swallows like to nest around railroad yards sometimes, because they dove at my head like bombers. I had to swing my paper bag at them to fend them off.

And I had to deliver my papers in a little red wagon on Sundays to get the big Sunday edition out. My paper bag wasn’t big enough to carry around my skinny neck with all those supplements, ads, and tons of news.

In the winter, it was twice as bad. If I’d had a sleigh, I could have made like Santa Claus. But I didn’t. All I had was the wagon and dragging it through a foot or more of snow did not put me in a holiday mood.

I learned a little about business. One of the lessons was that you sometimes meet some pretty strange people on a paper route.

I was embarrassed a few times when I had to collect, which was to gather payment from my customers for a paper that one guy said wasn’t worth a shit. In all fairness, he’d been drinking and had fallen on hard times—but he paid me anyway.

Another awkward moment was collecting from a young newlywed couple who always answered the door while wrapped in large bath towels. “Large” is a relative term, especially on the young lady. It left a little to the imagination, but not much.

I folded my papers, which is, of course, a lost art nowadays since everybody gets their news on their electronic devices. I didn’t pitch them on to porches though, because that was frowned on at the time by my boss. We were taught to place it carefully inside the storm door so it wouldn’t get wet or dirty.

Dogs were not as much of a problem as bumblebees, particularly at one house on my route where the guy raised fields of Hollyhocks. They were well over 6 feet tall and they covered his back and front yard, crowding around his front door which I had to open to deliver his paper. The air was always alive with the drone of bees, some of them as big as golf balls (well, it seemed that way). The place scared me to death—but I had to do my job.

I didn’t really develop a head for business but it was good training for life in general.

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