Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Paper Route

It’s more than a bit embarrassing to admit but all this fall I’ve had a bit of a paper route. And I love it.

Let me explain.

My kids have long been seduced by ads promising lots of cash -- $40 a month! – in return for delivering flyers a few days a week. This fall, my middle child, who is 11, decided he really wanted to buy himself an iPod and that a paper route would be a good means to do so. We talked with the liaison at the paper, found out the details, arranged direct deposit into his bank account and waited for flyer-filled plastic bags to be deposited on our driveway.

The first day, he nearly gave up. He tried to pull stacks of papers on a go-cart, tried carrying sacks of papers on his shoulders, tried making return trips home. There were only 60-some papers to deliver but they were widely spread out on the streets around us. Two hours later, he begged for help.

I climbed on my bike and delivered the last fifteen or so.

Eventually, he figured out a strategy – he also used his bike and a backpack filled with flyers. But some days each flyer stack was about 3 inches thick and it took a long time to deliver.

I offered to help do fifteen or so.

It became part of my regular routine, a couple of days a week, and it dawned on me that, far from resenting this bailout, it was something I looked forward to.

I like the waning light of late fall afternoons, the trees silhouetted against the orange sky. I like twenty or thirty minutes of quiet as I bike around the neighbourhood, tucking newspapers into mailboxes and milkboxes. I feel sheepish if I see adults – I have a Masters degree and yet I deliver papers. One day I needed a break from editing and the day was unseasonably warm and luscious, so I delivered my papers in the middle of the day. Sometimes I wear my own iPod and listen to music – on the day the miners were freed in Chile, I listened to two of their rebirths on the radio while delivering my own load. Often I listen to the quiet and just think.

I delivered newspapers as a kid myself for a while. I don’t remember how long. I don’t remember whether I loved it or hated it. I wonder, as I walk up to a darkened house whose occupants are not yet home from their Real Jobs, whether I like this activity because it harkens back to a simpler time in my own life, when my financial goals were immediate and achievable, when I had loads of time to walk from house to house. Maybe.

What I think it speaks more to is a sense of purpose: these fifteen houses need flyers before 6:00 p.m. After thirteen years of freelancing, I am tiring of being a self-starter. I want some same old –same old, I tell someone and she laughs, but it’s kind of true. I meet deadlines and I’m productive and efficient, but I’m longing for the routine of a job and the accountability of my work each day. I’m not sick of what I do and it is a sweet deal, so what I do next has to be even better – no small order – but I’m looking ahead and making a few plans for the next step.

My son bought his iPod a few weeks ago. We’ve talked about the near-impossible logistics of transporting thick packets through deep snow. After a family meeting where we couldn’t come up with other ways to make this work, he emailed his liaison last week to give his two-weeks' notice.

I’ll miss my paper route.

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