Friday, September 15, 2006

Paperboy, Version 2.0

Let's begin at the end of my days as a paperboy, version 2.0. I am across the street from the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, the back of my 1996 Hyundai Elantra filled with stacks of the Brookline Tab. I am attempting to pull out onto the street, but my car is bucking and can't get out of first gear...

No, let's begin even after that, after my car has been at the Aamco Transmission Shop on the Lynnway for a week (actually, the second time my car had been there, the first time the car was out of commission for over a month, an all-around horrendous situation that even I don't think I could make seem funny) when I get the call asking me what they want me to do with the 500 copies of the Brookline Tab in the back of my car. After they dumped all the papers in their dumpster (so if you didn't get your copy of the Brookline Tab one week in the fall of 2000, I apologize) they tell me my car rose about a foot higher off the ground.

"Could carting all of those papers around screwed up my transmission?" I asked.

I am told that the Hyundai Elantra probably isn't the best vehicle to use to make frequent stops while carting around hundreds of pounds of cargo in my back seat. And thus ended my second, and to date, last hitch as a newspaper delivery boy.

But how did I end up delivering the Brookline Tab door to door on Thursday mornings in the first place? If you've read the first part of the story, I'm sure you'll figure it out - working for a newspaper, low pay, looking for a second job to make a couple of extra bucks, etc.

So at the time, I'm writing for another newspaper in the Brookline Tab chain when I inquire about the possibility of delivering newspapers to make an extra buck. Sure thing, I'm told by the head of distribution, come on down to the main office in Needham and we'll see what we've got.

So I get down to Needham at 6 a.m. on a Thursday morning and find out that I can have a route delivering about 500 tabs in Brookline. I get a map and a clipboard with the addresses of all the customers and I start loading up stacks of papers in the back seat and trunk of the aforementioned Elantra.

"There's only one problem," the distribution guy tells me. "Technically, you're not allowed to hold two jobs in the company. But are you married or do you have a girlfriend. If you just get me her social security number, we can put it under her name."

So okay, not much of a problem, but if the IRS ever mentions it, be sure to tell them that my wife delivered the Brookline Tab.

After clearing up the legal mumbo jumbo and finishing loading up my car with papers (slowing leading to the death of my transmission) I am off on my first morning of delivering the Tab. Distribution guy tells me it should take about an hour, hour-and-a-half to finish up my route.

Distribution guy is full of shit.

I get into Coolidge Corner around 6:30. Shortly before noon, I have tossed the remaining dozen papers in the general vicinity of some door steps of an elderly housing complex where the senior citizens may or may not subscribe to the Brookline Tab. After a few weeks, I am able to pare about an hour off the total delivery time. And in good weather, I don't even mind taking most of the morning to slowly cruise/stroll around Brookline.

But during crappy weather, not so much fun. From the purely technical newspaper delivery side of things, every paper has to be put in a plastic bag, further slowing down my already pathetic delivery time. On the personal side, I could get soaking wet. One Thursday morning. I get caught delivering the paper in a tropical storm. Now, I don't think I've owned a raincoat since I was seven-years-old, and trust me, I am not coordinated enough to handle a clipboard, stuff a newspaper in a plastic bag, and hold an umbrella, even if I had managed to remember to bring an umbrella with me. So I am caught in a tropical downpour, sticking newspapers in plastic bags until nearly 1 p.m., wearing jeans and a sweatshirt - jeans and a sweatshirt that were totally soaked through by 7 a.m. I start hallucinating, forgetting what street I am on. I go down one street I am convinced I have not gone down yet, and there are already Brookline Tabs on all the front porches. I call distribution guy and leave a babbling message about how someone else must be out there delivering the Tab along my route. About three hours later, I realize that I had already been down the street and that there was no phantom rival paperboy trying to take my job. I am wet and miserable and feel like I am going down on the Pequod with only the September 23 issue of the Brookline Tab with which to spear the Great White Whale.

And still, I come back the next week for more, until my car bucks, and won't go into reverse, and, well, at this point, I think you know the rest.


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