Jobs, Part 1: Paperboy, The Buffalo News

Paperboy, The Buffalo News: Back in the 1980s, The Buffalo News ran an afternoon/evening edition, which with the advent of the internet has probably been eliminated, though I didn’t really check to make sure. Just a hunch.

My route consisted of my street, Belvoir Road. Along my driveway a blue wooden box, slightly bigger than a trunk for luggage, sat waiting for truck to drop off the paper each day. I lived close enough to school to ride my bike each day, so usually by the time I got home, the papers were reading and waiting. Lucky for me, our house was dead center on my route, so I was able to take half my papers in my bag, walk the street and then reload for the second half. Sometimes I’d pick up additional routes when other kids (it was mostly kids then) got sick or went on vacation. Lugging forty or so papers in a huge cloth bag wasn’t easy for a 90lb. middle-schooler, but that was hardly the worse thing I had to do.

The first bad thing was collecting the money. Maybe this was the cause of my dislike for interacting with people on a business level, but I truly dreaded walking up to some strangers, albeit possibly a neighbor I knew, and asking them for money. Luckily, some people mailed their payments in. I thank those people. But, if I recall, I would get a monthly or every-other-month statement from the paper listing the houses I would need to collect from and the amounts. Some of these houses had angry, barking dogs. Some had creepy furniture or knick-knacks. You see, we’re talking Buffalo winters, so during the cold months, I would usually get a “you want wait inside” from the collectee, step into the front hall, or if your fancy, foyer, and wait while a wallet or purse was grabbed and money dolled out. Maybe “stranger danger” was drilled into my head a little too hard, but I immediately got very nervous. Sometimes, I would even get offers of a cup of hot chocolate or water while I waited. No thanks, even as a 12-year old I knew there was a good chance that thing was spike with some sort of sedative I’d end up in a bathtub full of ice with my liver cut out.

Older than my wagon, but you get the idea.

The second bad thing was weekend delivery, or more specifically, the Sunday Paper. You’re probably familiar with the Sunday Paper. It’s three times the size of the daily thanks to extra news sections and the giant coupons and comics sections. Those things have drastically reduced in size over the years, but they still hover around three or four pounds a piece. There was no way to haul these things in a bag, so most sane people purchased a wagon of some sort to haul them. Some just used the tried and true little red wagon, but others (like me) purchased a rolling Buffalo News Paper Box with wheels and lid.

I would wake up early, like 4 or 5 am after the newspaper truck dropped off the morning paper (coupon inserts arrived separately on Saturday), put everything in the cart and make my way up and down the street, combining the news and coupon sections as I delivered to each door. In the Summer, it was a breeze, and I usually made it home when the sun was just starting to come up. The winter, however, was a different story.

The neighborhood had a sidewalk, but it was older, suffering from the random cracks caused by growing tree roots, and many of the sidewalks got ignored during winter shoveling. In other words, it was hard to navigate. That meant I was dragging the cart, well over a 100lbs, up and down the street. By myself. At 5am. At age 13. What could go wrong?

I only did it for a few years, and I socked away a pretty decent amount of cash for a pre-teen. Enough to open a kid’s saving account. Yes, I was that kid. In my defense, I ended up using the money to by my first car, the very kick-ass 1968 Oldmobile Cutlass Supreme, when we moved to Ohio.

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