Wednesday, November 18, 2015
I started this story on Monday. If you weren't here then, you can go there now. After that, go to yesterday. When you're all caught up, come back here!
After the totally innocent (yet possibly salacious) story from yesterday, a totally different sort of encounter with a customer happened when I put a newspaper through the glass on his front door.
I had been doing the route for close to a year and I was now very good at being able to judge the speed and distance I’d need on a toss while I was riding by on my bike. I could usually land the paper within a foot or so of my target. I very rarely had to stop pedaling even once on the entire route, other than for traffic.
I was in the home stretch, on Maple Street, and feeling really good about myself. I had been hitting my targets with precision all the way along the route. As I came up on the Andrews house, I was whistling. I readied their paper in my right hand as I steered with the left.
It should have been the other way around. Their house was on my left. I was feeling so cocky about my aim, though, that I decided to try to hit their porch with a hook shot as I rode by. Bad idea. I let loose the paper and I knew as soon as I let it go that it was too strong a throw.
Well, I was disappointed in losing my perfect string of throws, but other than that, I didn’t expect it to be truly troubling. I started to put on my brakes. I figured to get off the bike, pick up the paper and place it on the porch. Except…
I heard it, but I didn’t want to see it.
I turned around anyway. Where there had been a storm door with two lovely panes of glass, there was now a storm door with one lovely pane of glass in the upper section, but no glass at all in the lower section. The paper wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
I immediately understood that the paper was inside the door, along with most of the glass. I was terrified. I had no idea how much it would cost to replace the glass. I had visions of myself delivering papers for the next ten years in order to pay for it.
“Hey, Sully, who are you taking to the senior prom?”
“Nobody. I’ve got to do my collections that night.”
I don’t know what possessed me to do so, but instead of going back and knocking on the door and taking my medicine, I got back on my bike and finished the route. Then I went home.
There was no way in the world I couldn’t be blamed for what happened, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go up to the door, ring the bell, and face the immediate wrath of Mr. Andrews. Somehow, it seemed better to go home, eat, go to school, and see if a miracle would occur to get me out of it.
There was no miracle. I got home from school and as soon as I walked in the door, I saw my Dad. He did not look happy.
He said, “Mr. Buckley called. He said a Mr. Andrews from your route called HIM. Do you want to tell me what happened?”
I told him. What else was there to do? When I had finished, my Dad told me what we were going to do.
“We’re going to take a ride over to Mr. Andrews’s house. You’re going to knock on the door and talk to him. I’ll be there with you, but I’ll wait in the car. You’ll apologize and offer to pay for the window.”
I again pictured myself penniless for the next decade or so.
“If he says that, yes, he wants you to pay for the window, I’ll help you pay for it. Mistakes happen.”
He must have seen the smile of relief on my face. Hell, how could he miss it? He had just given me a last-minute reprieve from the chair. Anyway, he wanted to make sure I knew that I wasn’t getting off scott free.
“I said I’ll HELP you pay for it. You’ll still pay half. How could you possibly think that you could do something like that, just ride away, and not get caught? What the HELL were you thinking? Come on, let’s get it over with.”
We rode over to Mr. Andrews’s house in my Dad's car. When we got there, there was already a new pane of glass in the door. Mr. Andrews wasn’t one to wait, I guess.
I got out of the car, walked up, opened the storm door, and knocked. Mr. Andrews came to the door. My stomach was doing somersaults. He just stood there, waiting for me to speak.
“Hi, Mr. Andrews. Um, I’m really sorry about your window. I don’t know why I didn’t knock on your door this morning when it happened. I just panicked, I guess. Anyway, I’m really, really sorry and I’ll pay for the window.”
Sometimes miracles just take a little while to kick in. As I stood there, waiting for the axe to fall, Mr. Andrews said, “No, these things happen. Don’t worry about the cost of the window. I had a spare pane in the garage. But I needed to hear you say what you did. If you had knocked on my door this morning, I would have been mad, no doubt, but not as mad as I was when I saw the glass and the newspaper and then realized you had done this and then gone on your way without even telling me.”
For a guy who had just received a miracle, I felt pretty lousy.
“The next time you get yourself into trouble, remember that it’s always better to face it than to let it face you. Is that your Dad in the car?”
“What did HE tell you?”
“Pretty much the same as you just did, Mr. Andrews.”
“Good. I’d like to talk to him for a minute. Come on.”
We both walked over to the car. I got in the passenger side and Mr. Andrews went over to the driver’s side to talk to my Dad. The conversation started about me, but it basically turned into a mutual admiration society by the end. They shook hands, and then we drove off.
From that day onward, I always stopped at Mr. Andrews’s house, got off my bike, and put his paper inside the storm door – without putting it through the window first.
Well, I certainly have another couple of stories concerning the paper route, but nothing that beats these. How could I top Crime & Punishment and a (sort of, maybe, could have been, but I’m not quite sure) May/December romance?
I quit the route when I became tired of the hours. One Saturday, I didn’t make my deliveries until about 11am. I didn’t feel like making them at all, but I knew I couldn’t just blow it off altogether. But I was sick of it. I wanted to sleep later before school and not worry about slogging papers through rain or snow. I was meeting girls – girls my own age, that is - and I was thinking of all sorts of wonderful things I’d like to do with them, so I really didn’t want to have to cut a date short because I had to get up in the morning to deliver papers. And I was really sick of that dopey collie on Oak Street trying to take a bite out of my leg. When Buckley came by to collect, I turned in my resignation. I was an ex-paperboy.
I was about to become the youngest professional blackjack dealer in the history of the world, but that story will have to wait until next time. See you then! That is to say...
Soon, with more better stuff.