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Book of Jobs Part 1

PAPER ROUTE

by Chris Auman

I guess my first job where the source of income came from outside the family was when I delivered newspapers for the Telegraph Herald published in Dubuque, Iowa. It was a job I truly hated—a good primer for the future. I was thirteen. I had subbed for friends’ routes before. It's a pretty easy gig if you’re only doing it for a day or two, a week at the most, but when you are responsible for getting people their papers every day, rain or shine, on time or they get all grumpy and bent out of shape, that’s a different route altogether. And on Sunday too! Who knew it was possible to get out of bed before the sun was up?

paperboy

The weekday edition of the TH was published in the afternoon, so I did the deliveries after school. The papers had to be delivered by 5 PM which was usually no problem until I got cast as Tom Sawyer in a school musical. Rehearsals started at four o'clock. School let out at three o'clock. I had Route 8, which was not terribly long and was basically restricted to just one street, Dewey Avenue, but it was a long way from Galena Middle School. I really had to haul ass on my bike to get to the TH drop-off point, complete my route, then pedal (all uphill) back to school in time for rehearsals, for which I would arrive sweaty and exhausted, but ready to suffer for my art. The real Tom Sawyer would have found someone else to do that route for him. I tried to find someone to cover for me, but after my sub didn’t show up one day, I learned that I couldn’t count on my fellow paper carriers to help me out in a jam. That incident earned me a complaint letter from a disgruntled customer.

paperboy

The problem with the newspaper delivery game was that you were essentially an independent contractor. You were in business for your tween-aged self. Each carrier was billed for their bundles every week and it was up to them to collect payment from their customers. The TH got paid either way. I was not very diligent about collecting, and my customers were even less diligent about paying. When I did collect though, I usually had a big zippered vinyl envelope full of quarters, and even though my route was not close to home, it was close to Maggie’s Pool Hall and the video games that beckoned from within. I think it’s fair to say that my ‘take home pay’ was reduced to my ‘get home pay.’ Ha!

I wasn't a Paper Boy for long. Just a few months really. As summer approached, I couldn't imagine taking time out of my busy schedule at the swimming pool to deliver papers for no money. I quit that gig gladly and left the route for some other enterprising young sucker. It would not be the last time I delivered papers though.

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Originally published in RW#22, 2014

RW #22

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