Newspapers at Night: the Poetry and the Prose

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This week I left a second job I’ve had since the first week of February–delivering newspapers. I took the job for the extra money (duh) and because the hours didn’t conflict with my 8-5 job. As with most jobs, there is far more to it than one would think. Sunday papers are a bear–they have to be assembled by the carrier (and let’s just take a moment to think about the fact that it is cheaper to have people do this than to have a machine do it–are these people being properly compensated?). Sundays I got to work an hour earlier and stayed an hour later–there were also between 75-100 more deliveries than the rest of the week because a lot of people only get the Sunday paper. This did not stop several customers from grumbling if their paper was later than they wanted (please note–not late–just later than they wanted. Because cranky.) I learned a few things about myself and about life in general; I believe that this is always possible if only we take the time to listen and think.

Cool wind musses my hair through the open window as I accelerate down the wide, empty street. The night sky dominates my field of vision; awesomely beautiful and expansive. Orion lies on his back, his celestial sword eternally raised. Peace fills my soul drinking in the inky spectacle.  A few more deliveries and the rim of the earth allows the first vestiges of daylight, softening the black to the deepest sapphire hue.

I love the night. I love the quiet and the low-vibration of the world. Muted textures and colors of  homes and businesses allow thoughts to swirl and connect without distraction. Darkness does not frighten when  you tune in to the stillness and unearth serenity.

I found myself looking forward to hushed solitude. I prayed and meditated. I sang along with the radio. I worked through conversations–fictional and not–in my head. I worked on conquering depression. And I delivered between 300-400 newspapers a day.

It would be easy to get in the habit of tossing newspapers with no thought. Here, a carrier is on a contract and is paid per delivery. Daily paper pays at ten cents a delivery and the Sunday paper at thirty-five cents. Mistakes –a missed delivery or an incorrect delivery–are handled punitively. A first mistake with a customer costs three dollars. A second is five dollars. If it becomes an escalated issue, your job is at stake. Customers are not told this, and the customer service operators (no longer employed by the paper and outsourced overseas) are encouraged to write up complaints. This is very much a ‘shit rolls downhill and you are at the bottom of the hill’ kind of job. However, most of my customers, even the cranky ones, simply wanted their morning routine. They wanted their newspaper with their morning coffee–a completely reasonable desire. Who among us has not felt out of sorts when our morning routine was disrupted by a small but important-to-us detail? I felt it was not only my job but my privilege to help make somebody’s morning go as they wished.

All that said, I am not sad to stop getting up at 1:30 am 6 days a week and 12:30 am on the seventh day. I am not sad to stop seeing snarky comments from clients come across the daily ‘mail’ (pre-worded complaints are abrupt and actually not true–I asked one customer about it when I called to follow-up on what had been written up as a serious complaint and she had said none of the things I had been told she had. She was, in fact, upset at the wording I had been given). I am not sad to stop trying to remember if this is the driveway where the customer wants the paper on the left or the right, bagged with a rubber band, or No. Rubber. Bands. Ever. People are weird about their newspapers. I mean seriously you-need-help weird. “Paper should be in the upper left quadrant of the driveway” “Paper should be folded flat with headlines out” “Paper should never be folded, only rolled”… SERIOUSLY????

I learned that I can get up early, something I did not believe. I learned that I can get overly exhausted, something I did not want to believe.  And I learned that I still love the night. Deeply. I will seek out the company of the night more often, on my own terms.

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