AT RANDOM: Paper boy blues

Graeme Corbett reflects on delivering the newspaper as a youth

I used to have a paper route as a kid. Actually, it was my brother’s but he conned me into taking a couple shifts as it was a daily – Victoria Times Colonist – and he wanted to sleep in once in a while.

He couldn’t have been more than 13 at the time, which would have made me 10.

What was I thinking? Well, once I had agreed to do it (albeit reluctantly), my parents held me to it and would not let me back out no matter how much I whined and begged. They said it was something to do with instilling responsibility in me, or some such nonsense.

The only saving grace was my brother didn’t make me go out to collect for subscriptions. Whenever I did it, it always seemed like people were conveniently never home, or had some lame excuse for not paying.

But the paper delivery was difficult enough, especially in winter. I remember one time we had a big snowstorm the night before I went out on my route, and trying to take a shortcut, I fell into a snowbank up to my waist and got supremely stuck.

My mom’s intuition must have been working double-time that day because it wasn’t long before she came trudging along, donning a winter jacket over her housecoat, to bail me out.

Yup, summer was much better, mainly because I could bust out my red and yellow BMX bike and get my route done in half the time it normally took.

Of course, I probably weighed 60 pounds soaking wet at that time, which presented its own challenges. With a carrier bag jammed with what seemed like 500 pounds of newsprint, I was more than a little off-kilter whenever I began my route.

Once I got about half way, I was cruising, but before that it was pretty much 50/50 whether I would crash at least once.

The other great thing about morning paper routes in summer is that nobody was awake, unless I slept in, which may or may not have happened a bunch of times.

To think of it, my inability to wake up on time is probably what finally got me off the hook.

My brother apparently also liked his beauty sleep, and developed a unique way of shirking his paper delivery duties.

You can’t deliver something that’s not there, right? Well, on the days he couldn’t be bothered to make the rounds, my genius brother figured he could simply make his bundle “disappear” by stuffing the papers in a hedge and claiming they never arrived off the delivery truck.

Surprisingly, the scheme actually worked for a while, likely because he only attempted it a couple times.

It wasn’t until the owner of the hedge went to trim it one day that things came unglued. I guess my brother must have put the delivery invoice with his name on it in the hedge as well. In a small town, it didn’t take long for that little oversight to come back to haunt him.

But like I said earlier, the best part about my paper route was, once I overcame the yearning for my bed, I had the town to myself. In a way, I can also thank it for my love of growing vegetables.

I don’t condone what I’m about to say, but there was this one house along my route with the most fantastic vegetable garden I had ever seen. I couldn’t help but yank a couple of carrots, or pluck a handful of peas or cherry tomatoes, basically whatever was in season, and munch them back as I completed my route.

I am happy to say I have been rehabilitated from my wicked ways, and I now gleefully raid my own garden. My plot is coming along quite nicely, but it’s a far cry from that one I visited as a kid.

As far as newspapers go, I can say with confidence that I would much rather deal with deadlines in The Morning Star newsroom than the ones faced by our carriers, who do a far superior job than I ever did.


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