The summer after sophomore year my friend Scott got us all jobs at the advertising company responsible for the weekly ads supplement in the Omaha World Herald. Our tasking was simple: Once a week, deliver the ad to everyone that doesn’t have a newspaper subscription. In other words, deliver a publication that 98% of the receivers couldn’t give less of a shit about. It was the ultimate dream job for young high schoolers. We worked for 2 days out of the week and played the rest.
I formed a partnership with my friend Jeremy and we tackled the routes as a team. This made the work go faster and significantly more fun. My ’89 Plymouth Voyager minivan was our mobile office. We’d pick up the papers and go to a nearby park to roll and bag them. If it rained, we moved operations indoors–to the back of the van.
Then we’d hit the route with Jeremy in the back with the sliding door open handling the right side of the street and ensuring I had a supply of papers up front as I drove and handled the left side. Using this method, it only took a few hours to deliver a few hundred papers and earn $150 to split between us. It seems like chump change now, but it was more than enough for a couple 16 year olds. Once we were done, we’d go ride dirt jumps for the rest of the day.
The technique was easy enough to master:
- Grip rolled paper at one end and fling kind of like a Frisbee.
- Ensure you grip the end with the bag opening when you throw lest the paper fly out and blow down the street in 50 pieces while you chase it down.
- Ensure the standard transmission minivan has the parking break applied when you run for loose papers. (Just kidding, that step was never neglected)
- Ensure the window is rolled down prior to throwing the paper.
- Extra points if you nail the mailbox.
Jeremy tired of the paper route after that summer, but I kept with it doing a couple of the routes solo. At some point Mike and Kyle also got routes and the following summer we’d all meet at Seymour Smith Park, aptly nicknamed the “Hairy Cock” due to the Harry A. Koch shooting range in the park.
For many, the goal in life is to find a job that doesn’t feel like work. When I reminisce about that paper route, that wasn’t work. Over time, I’m sure my memory has glossed over the extreme heat, the extreme cold, people constantly honking at you for going too slow, people complaining for not getting their ads, people complaining for getting their ads. What I remember most fondly is friends, teamwork, and discipline. More importantly, when the work was done, we left it until the next week and played hard in between.
Alas, a paper route doesn’t quite fund a mortgage. Or perhaps when a job becomes a means of a particular lifestyle rather than just fun money, it becomes a more serious matter. Rather than the job itself, I think it is the carefree summer that I miss. The year is no longer comprised of 2 semesters and a summer and winter break. It is strange to not get a “clean slate” every 13 weeks. Further, the path through life is no longer clearly defined. What is the ultimate goal? How do I graduate life? Forget graduation for now–I need to get back on this 2 days/week work schedule again…