Saturday, July 09, 2005

Kids and Paper Routes

I was having dinner with a friend, catching up on life and finding that we’d both had paper routes when we were growing up. I once heard a business seminar introduction where the speaker had everyone who’d ever had a paper route to raise their hands. It was interesting how many solid citizens and successful business people got their introduction to the capitalistic system via the paper route.

I was ten or eleven when I had my first route. I delivered for Newsday in Levittown, Long Island. It was a small route that I got to take care of, building with new solicitations and subscriptions, something which required meeting new people and convincing them that my product and services would be of benefit. In return I would make a little more; better still, I would earn points toward prizes like a transistor radio and a free trip to the local Saturday Matinee. I learned basic bookkeeping and collections along with the human condition of avoiding the paperboy; all important aspects of the system.

I had my handle bars on my bike turned upwards to hold the canvass sack and was able to manage the extra weight even in my youth. That canvass sack was useful for all sorts of things, not just paper delivery.

I played Little League baseball and one afternoon the umpires didn’t show up. A couple of the dad’s volunteered to serve in their stead. My dad decided that without any proper protective gear that he’d call the balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s mound rather than risk standing behind the catcher. He stuck the extra baseballs in his back pocket and the first time he bent down to follow the path of a pitched ball the back end of his trousers split wide open.

“Hey Dick, you’re showing a little cheek!”, Mrs. Zapontiac yelled from the stands. Izadore was our short stop and his mother was never one to miss a chance to rattle the umpire, even if it was my dad. I ran over to my bike and brought dad the Newsday delivery sack to wear the rest of the game.

Some time later in the season during a practice, a very boring practice session, Izadore and I decided to pass the time by tossing rocks back and forth from my position at first base to him at short. We’d catch the rocks with our gloves while waiting for the coaches to remember that we were there to practice baseball; not listen to lectures. Izadore miscalculated one of the rocks and it knocked out his front teeth. He went to the dentist and I went home to explain how I busted out his teeth throwing rocks. It wasn’t my fault that Izadore missed the rock; all the same I knew I was in big trouble.

Mom and I drove the short distance to the Zapontiac home. I waited for the dark clouds to form prior to being struck by a lightning bolt as mom knocked on the front door. Mrs. Zapontiac opened the door, Izadore holding an ice pack to his mouth close behind.

“That’s some arm your kid has. You must be really proud of him.” I wasn’t sure I was in trouble or being patted on the back. There was no hint of a law suit, no anger at all; just kids being kids and “that sort of thing happens”. I’m sure my folks paid or at least offered to pay for the dentist’s bill. Can you imagine that happening in this day of litigation and zero tolerance. I’d have been hauled off to some “alternative school” for young terrorists, my family house sold to cover the lawyer fees and Little League baseball would never have permitted me within a hundred yards of their field.

I hope I spelled Izador’s name correctly, I hope his memory of our tossing rocks back and forth to each other is the same as mine and I hope his mother is still heckling the umpires and making fun of folks when the back end blows out.

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