It’s no secret that I come from a family of Newspaper Delivery Specialists. Some might call it a dynasty, and those people would be right.
The dynasty was made up of my sister, my brother, and myself and we ruled the scene for years back in the 90’s. Secrets of the trade were passed down from one sibling to the next and included such tips as:
1. Watch out for the Doberman at the end of Robbins Lane. He does not take kindly to strangers and he appears to thrive off of the screams of children, so lock it up.
2. Be aware of your delivery technique – too much wrist action will result in an upside down paper that will spill its contents when your customer opens the door to retrieve it, and that can bite you in the rear come tip time.
3. Be friendly to your customers but don’t encourage chit chat. If you take everyone up on their offers of stale Cheeze-It’s and small talk, you set a precedent that is tough to undo.
Survival tips weren’t the only things that were passed from one sibling to the next; there was also what was perhaps the most useful piece of equipment in a Newspaper Delivery Specialist’s arsenal other than a bike (or your mother in her car, if she was feeling generous): a basket.
The model that we used was a sweet white wire number that hooked onto the front of your bike and could hold all of your weekday papers and half of your gigantic Saturday papers. This was crucial because it meant that you didn’t have to interrupt your groove to head back to the house to grab more papers like you did if you used a bag and were weak like I was (ahem, like I am).
Plus, the bags were provided by the paper company and – believe it or not – weren’t custom made, so they had to fit man and child alike. Since it is probably easier for a child to use an adult’s bag than it is for an adult to use a child’s bag, they were a little on the large side. As a result, the bag would always hit the back of my knees if I was walking or get caught up in the back wheel if I was cruising around on the ol’ hog. Not ideal.
So having a basket was huge. I used the basket for a few glorious months before disaster struck.
I had finished my route and was coasting down the big hill towards my house when I ran over a pretty good sized rock. The front of my bike caught some air and when it hit the ground, the basket bounced right off of the handlebars and flew into the road. Time seemed to slow down as it soared by, but all I could do was watch in awe and horror as a car drove by and ran over the basket. It wasn’t the quick, merciful end that the basket deserved, though – it got lodged beneath the car’s undercarriage and was then dragged along as it scraped the ground and threw off a pretty impressive shower of sparks.
For reasons unknown, my knee-jerk reaction was to abandon my bike and pursue the car on foot. Damned if I was going to let that road menace get away with my basket and damned if I was going to let my bike slow me down!
I should point out that I’ve never been much of a sprinter, which makes it all the more bizarre that I would choose running as my method of chase. That aside, I was off before my bike hit the ground. I wish I could find the woman in that car and apologize for the heart attack that must have ensued when she looked in her rear view mirror and saw an arc of sparks flying from the back of her car and the preteen running through them, arms waving wildly.
The woman pulled over with a panicked look in her eye and still seemed a little confused once I told her that she had run over my basket. After all, I didn’t appear to have a bike with me, so what was I doing with a basket? Carrying it? Regardless, she wasn’t moving with the appropriate amount of intensity given the gravity of the situation so I took matters into my own hands. I shimmied underneath the car, feet first, and got to work trying to kick the basket loose.
I would chalk it up to bad luck that it was at that moment that my mom drove by. It is certainly understandable that she would be surprised – and even a little worried – upon coming across a car pulled haphazardly to the side of the road with her daughter stuck underneath. She screeched over to the side of the road too and wasn’t even out of the car before I yelled “Mom! The basket! It got run over!” Props to her for reigning in her relief rage; she just gave an incredulous shake of the head and then stayed with me until I had kicked the basket out. We bid that poor frazzled lady adieu and hit the road.
I’m happy to report that the basket, looking even more BA than before now that it had all sorts of battle scars, still got the job done. Good thing, too, because I was not going back to that bag.