Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Paper Route: Urbandale 1974

I never had a paper route as a kid. I had a paper route for a couple of months at the age of thirty while in Missoula, Montana--a second job, more or less, to make money for a trip to Mexico. But that's not what I'm thinking about. My friend at the time, Mark Neil, he had a paper route and I subbed for him at times.

It's early morning, still dark, the cold and wetness of October now overtaking what is left of summer. That's today. Right now. And I was up--as usual--and went outside to put the trash and recycling out and for whatever reason, the look and smell and feel of that small moment made me think of Mark and his paper route, or more specifically, of my subbing for his route.

It was a morning route. It was in a part of Urbandale I was not really familiar with at that time--from Prairie Street to Douglas Avenue, across to Oliver Smith Drive and then down to 86th Street (as best I can recall). I really hadn't quite adapted to being in Iowa--well, I hadn't really quite adapted to adolescence or high school or wha-thave-you--and any experience out of my norm heightened my senses (and I was a sensitive person) . . . Anyway, it was a morning route. It was the dead of winter. Mark walked me through the route once, maybe twice, before I took over. I was not a morning person, had never really worked before, was not used to being out on my own at that time of day. Or should I say night? because it was dark. Streets were empty. It was quiet. Snow was banked along the road, buildings, sidewalks.

There was certainly some fear on my part--fear of the unknown, fear perhaps of entering adult activities (work, responsibility, being alone, the making of money) but it was not an acknowledged fear, really and it was also the novelty of being up and in the dark with a duty to execute, it was the newness of the experience. That's what I'm thinking of and how that experience--even this morning, even a good forty years after the fact--still sticks with me. Or resurrects itself within me given the right conditions. That's all I'm really thinking of here--at least I think that's all I'm thinking of.

Yes, there were some events on that week or two I subbed for him and upon consequent ones when I did it--maybe only three times at the most. mark and I were decent friends early on in school, not so much later, and then not at all by the time high school was gratefully over with. I have no idea what happened to him other than his younger sister--who I eventually saw a few times at the University of Iowa--told me he'd gone into the military or was ROTC or some such. (I knew his mother half-way well and would see her now and then, or a few times, at the Merle hay Mall where I had a reoccurring job at Yonkers for many years.) Okay. I'm losing my thread here or making a longer one than intended . . . Events. Paper route. Dark cold mornings. Let's see: I messed up his route; delivered papers to the wrong person for a while, not delivering to the right. Mark had never made a mistake and I blew his perfect record. (Sorry, Mark!). I was once cornered by a barking dog (I had a fear of dogs at that time) and knocked on a customer's door and a man came out in his t-shirt and threatened the dog with his fist and the dog shrank away and I felt very and rightfully foolish and there were a few other things. The route started with an apartment building and I always felt strange in its eerie hallways with its too-bright lights. I don't know. I was a weird kid.

So, that's it. Another small memory of no real importance, except that it is what it was, was what it was, as best I can recall.