I Just Want My $2, LadyErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Every kid had that quintessential kid job they did for some extra cash. I mowed lawns, shoveled driveways, and delivered papers. I hated delivering papers.
I wasn't one of those kids who worked hard all summer to pay for my school clothes and books (but if my kids ever ask you, I was). Rather, I would wait until I needed some money to pay for something important, like baseball cards or a record, and then work until I earned enough money.
My best friend, Doug, was a paperboy, when I was 10 and he was 11. He delivered the Muncie Evening Press, a later afternoon paper. I sometimes rode with him, so I was his first choice for a sub when he went on vacation for 10 days. That doesn't mean I was the best choice though.
My problem was that I didn't pay attention to things that are going on around me, unless I thought they were important, and I had a vested interest in knowing it. Someone paying me to throw rolled up pieces of paper at different houses counted, so Doug spent his last day giving me a route refresher.
"This guy gets a paper, this one doesn't. The next two get one, those two don't. This one likes the paper on her porch, and don't throw the paper at this lady's house. She'll yell at you."
Had either of us been a little smarter, I would have written this all down. But we were 10 and 11, and could barely be bothered thinking about 10 minutes into the future, let alone what happens when a kid has to deliver 60 newspapers every day with 24 hours notice. Then Doug said something that made me realize I was in over my head: "On Thursday, you need to collect the subscriptions from everyone."
Oh crap. I was going to be responsible for collecting and handling money from all these people, and I wasn't even sure I was going to get them all right. I was a little reassured when Doug handed me his collection book, and each card had the customer's address on it.
"Just go to each house, and tell them you need two dollars for the week. "
All in all, I was going to get nearly $20 for nine days work. In 1977, that was a lot of money to a little kid, but I still wasn't sure about this whole collecting thing. While I wasn't shy, asking people for money was going to be hard.
I mean, I couldn't be that little psycho kid from "Better Off Dead" – Two dollars! I want my two dollars! – mostly because the movie wouldn't be released for eight more years. But still, to ask for money from someone I didn't know was intimidating.
On the first day, I got the first few houses just fine, avoiding flowers, not thumping them on porches. Then I hit a snag: oh crap, I don't know if I deliver to this house or not.
I tossed the paper at it and continued on. As I went, I realized I didn't remember a lot of the houses that got papers. I delivered to homes that probably didn't get papers and skipped houses that probably did. I didn't do too badly though, because I ran out of papers when I got to the end of the route. I took that as a good sign, and promised myself to bring the collection book the next day to use as a guide.
Except I forgot it that day. And the next day. And the day after that. I just kept delivering to the houses I had been, and hoped things would be all right when I collected on Thursday.
I found that I had missed several houses. I stopped at each of them and explained my problem. They weren't too happy they hadn't gotten their papers. For the past six nights. When I stammered out an excuse that I was just a sub, and the other kid who had the route was on vacation, and I was just a sub, and gosh ma'am I'm really sorry I'm only a sub, they accepted my apology. And most importantly, I got paid. I was even able to sort out the right houses for the last few days.
And best of all, I learned a very important lesson: when you're up against a bad situation, there's nothing a hangdog look and a little fake crying won't get you out of.
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