As shared in a previous column, I was bitten by the nostalgia bug of the newspaper route of my youth. A bite made worse when two ideas came together as one like the old chocolate and peanut butter collision commercials of the 1980s. In this case, my eldest child needed a little spending money, and the newspaper needed carriers.
Now, being the type of person to go big or go home, I immediately set my eyes on a route of some 600 customers. Only slightly larger than my childhood route of about 100, I assured the eldest while my right eye began to twitch.
We made it to distribution the night before delivery to collect our 25 stacks of 25 papers for 625 in total. It was about this time that reality began to sink in along with the car. I chuckled the whole way home, hoping the shocks were still good. The eldest said nothing, her face stoic, but I knew thoughts were brewing, possibly on how quickly she could emancipate from the family.
Once home, we began the task of carrying in one stack after another for the bundling process. The cats loved it. The dog was understandably confused. Before long, the dining room was a collection of blue-bagged newspaper hills. Fond memories enveloped me while the youngest child, corralled into the process, gave me the look. You know the look only a teenager can perfect during their silent debate on how quickly they can bury the body.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought the process through on many levels, including how to get 600 newspapers back to the car. The hub suggested oversized trash bags, which had to be quite the sight. We haven’t an attached garage but park in a drive, so we carried one enormous load after another, chucked over one shoulder, in the middle of the night. I’m sure the neighbors thought that was completely normal.
It was around 10 p.m., paper folding complete, that I climbed into the driver’s seat, the eldest in the passenger and the hub in the backseat. He was crammed amongst the bodies, I mean the plastic trash bags full of newspapers with an excel spreadsheet and a pen in hand. Ever the nerd, I had made a spreadsheet listing each house and business on the route, in order, along with any pertinent information. For example, if a location received more than one paper, none at all, or a paper needed to be in a particular location. The idea was for the hub to check off each location while I drove, and the eldest chucked papers out the window.
Our route that night began with the businesses of Wagner, and this is where I failed to further take into account reality. We started at CVS and then behind Papa Johns and other businesses on Main. We cut across the latter to the gas station, out onto Wagner for the chiropractor, and so it went, weaving in and out with relatively little to no traffic. It was a moment best served with background music such ELO’s All Over the World or better yet, Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round. Because as we passed Russ Road, the hub, his pale face aiding lost ships in a foggy harbor from the backseat, announced the obvious — he was getting car sick.
Fortunately, we managed to deliver to all the businesses before the hub decorated the car and the witching hour set upon us. Still, the eldest and yours truly continued into the night, debating the logistics of her tackling such a large route on her own, as was the initial plan.
“Maybe we bit off more than we could chew?” I purposed.
“We?” said the eldest daughter’s silence, along with “No, mom, you did the biting.”
Isn’t that how nostalgia is in reality? Time has a way of smoothing the sharp corners of life, making challenging moments far more innocent, maybe even more endearing then reality warrants. For me, the newspaper route of my youth is a reminder of my maternal grandparents as selfless and endearing, without a single complaint. Never mind, it was more than likely my mother, who volunteered them into the trappings of my first childhood job. At least I get it honestly. Now my children will have something similar to look back upon when I am older or dust — a fond memory of when that woman volunteered them into delivering 600 newspapers.
Is it too early to claim senility?
On a side note, our second attempt at 625, the following week, was a near well-oiled machine that included some fairly hilarious moments, but that’s another story for another day.
Bethany J. Royer-DeLong is a reporter for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird and a life-long resident of Darke County, Ohio. She holds a bachelor’s degree in work psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership because she’s a sucker for all things jobs. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.