"Whenever I think about the past, it just brings back so many memories." --Steven Wright
Recently, DW and I were with another couple at an east Baltimore neighborhood church carnival, which was in the neighborhood where the husband grew up. Unlike that carnival masquerading as a state fair in New Jersey, this was enjoyable. There were stands with chance wheels that were giving soda, chips, and baskets of groceries as prizes; I took home a huge bag of Chex Mix that could have doubled as a pillow. Moreover, I met a Congressional candidate stumping for votes (I don't live in his district), and then later realized we were high school classmates! A very nice evening indeed.
I told you that to tell you this: Being back near my old stomping grounds (I grew up a few miles to the north), it brought back memories of many aspects of my childhood. Today, I'll focus just on one, and perhaps talk about more later.
At some point or another, us four older children had jobs involving newspaper delivery. What I did more often was collect door-to-door from subscribers. Considering all the homes in our neighborhoods were rowhomes, it wasn't too difficult. The route belonged to a subcarrier who hired us to work it, and we had to meet a quota of something like 80 - 95 homes. It would usually take from 8:30 AM to 2 - 3 PM on Saturdays.
At first, the job was fun. I met all sorts of people, mostly older folks who were almost always watching Lawrence Welk if I came by at that time. And there were other memorable people:
- The old guy who drooled on his money
- The 60-something woman who once answered the door in a bikini, which she did NOT make look good
- A young guy who almost always answered in his skivvies
- The basketball coach from my rival high school
- My parents, my best friend's parents, and my grandparents
So I served papers on Sunday mornings instead. I would wake up at 3 AM, jump in the van that picked up the other delivery guys, and head off to a garage where the papers would be dropped off. Three of us would then fold and string the papers and set them onto a conveyor belt where the fourth one would stack the papers. Stacking was crucial; if the papers weren't loaded correctly, they'd fall all over the back of the van, drowning us in newsprint. If it rained, all the papers had to go into bags.
We then would each take a half of a block at a time and stack the papers in our over-the-shoulder belts (remember, the papers are strung together already). One of my blocks involved carrying 16 Sunday papers in my belt. I would stagger all over the place, but I'd do it.
Afterward, we always went to Mister Donut for donuts and milk, usually to the tune of AC/DC's "Back in Black" album. Then I'd go home, clean the newsprint off my hands, and go get some more sleep.
Speaking of sleep, my brother says when he served papers, he would "sleepwalk" a bit when he knew he had time between houses. Of course, it took the van waking up the whole neighborhood to get him awake at 3 AM.