Home delivery

That satisfactory thud

Anthony is on vacation (though he promises to return soon!), so we’re rerunning a column of his from 2007.

I used to deliver newspapers in Minneapolis. It was a lousy way to make a buck, but the task itself wasn’t always unpleasant, although cold precipitation could make it so. I got to the route before dawn, my favorite time, and at least it was always quiet and peaceful, except after a blizzard when the plows were out.

I got 19 cents for every copy of the Star Tribune I delivered. It didn’t matter whether I stood outside the fence and flipped it onto a big, wide porch or had to struggle up your dark, icy, broken steps and put it in the door. It was 19 cents to me.

I liked the throwing. At home I wanted my paper close enough to the front door for me to get it without going outside. In Minnesota there are a lot of days when going outside is to be avoided.

Monday and Tuesday meant a light paper that was difficult to throw accurately. They were like Whiffle balls—I never knew where they’d end up. They could catch the slightest breeze and float off into the bushes. I had to walk farther up the walk when the paper was light.

Thursday and Friday editions were heavy. I couldn’t carry many at a time, but they went where I wanted them to go and hit the step with a satisfying thud. A Friday paper hitting against a cheap storm door was amazingly loud, but it ended up where I wanted it.

In an assisted-living building, the hallways had seasonal decorations—Valentine hearts taped to doors, plastic Easter eggs hanging from light fixtures—and, year-round, crocheted crosses and little American flags. A television was always on behind one door, probably 24 hours a day, like my mother’s was near the end.

And everywhere there were signs:

Please put the paper under the door. Please put the paper in the bag, not on the floor. Please knock loudly. I do not have my hearing aids turned on. No smoking—oxygen in use. He is risen. God bless you. Think spring!

As far as I know, I’m the only person to have subscribed to, written for, and delivered the Star Tribune. I once delivered an edition with one of my book reviews, quite a sensation, as I recall.

Once a woman whose house I was cleaning recognized my name on a play review in the Sunday paper while I was there. Another odd sensation. It was the first time I’d cleaned her house, and it was a mess. I told her I made more money cleaning her house than I did writing theater criticism. She never called me back.