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 to be 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.
So out on my route my bull’s-eye was a spot beneath the front door opposite the hinges. I was usually satisfied with the top step, but I wanted that spot.
Monday and Tuesday meant light papers that were 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 apartment building for seniors, 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 of her life.
And everywhere in the building 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 at the same time. I once delivered an edition with one of my reviews, quite a sensation, as I recall.
Once a woman whose house I was cleaning recognized my name on a 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 for the newspaper. She never called me back.