It is 0530 in the morning and my newspaper has been conveniently delivered to my driveway once again. As I stoop down to snag it from the concrete I remember when I too wore the black ink of a newspaper delivery boy upon my hands. Paper bundles were dropped on our front yard by a large and happy Mexican man named Benny in a new red truck. Benny never seemed to be alone either, his wife or a couple of his kids were usually with him laughing and talking as he covered his route. I think Benny was happy because he got to supply afternoon papers to young entrepreneurs all over town. They would smile and wave as Benny delivered the freshly printed stacks of paper, tightly bundled into stacks of 40 with occasional “inserts” to be folded in by the newspapers front line salesmen, me and other kids like me and my sister Addie.
Yes we would deliver papers between 4pm and 5 pm everyday except Sunday because Sunday was a morning paper. The morning paper was fun when it was only one day a week and it gave us something to do on Sundays. Of course this all changed in 1986 when the paper switched to a 7 day morning paper. The dynamic for the young neighborhood entrepreneurs changed too because it was impossible to deliver a morning paper and go to school too. Benny was no longer needed either because now that the papers needed to be delivered by 530 in the morning, the delivery people would pick up their papers direct from the newspaper headquarters. They were grown ups with cars and mortgages and kids to feed too.
This one decision changed so many things. Young local delivery people notice things around them and may catch the first signs of trouble in a home, spot a fire, a lost pet or just confide in a lonely soul who lives just down the street. And of course “paperboy” on the resume connotes something far more negative than it did 20 years ago.
I wonder if my newspaper delivery man would care if he received a bad review on YELP and if his prospective customers would even even give a damn. Bad reviews like: “Paper is always under the muffler of my car, or paper is always in my planter, or I like two bands on my paper so the larger ones won’t explode and blow around, or my delivery person is always late, or the best of all, I never got my paper on TUE,THUR and SUN” would be kind of funny to read but would they really empower a consumer to “Not” order the paper?
I personally don’t think my newspaper delivery person gives a damn what people say about him and for that matter I don’t think anybody says anything about him anyways. He is the guy who blasts through the neighborhood every morning hucking underhanded flop shots and Kareem Abdul over the Carolla sky hooks with no praise, applause or thanks and with ink blackened hands mind you. He delivers over 1100 local papers every day as well as my LA Times on Sundays.
I reminisce and long for ink blackened hands, fresh newspapers stacked over my shoulders and my old neighborhood,but not the 2 a.m. paper folding responsibilities or bad YELP reviews.