My second job was delivering newspapers. My friend Sharleen and I (we were 13 in Grade 9) decided we needed money - more money than we could make babysitting. We heard of a route coming open; a boy in Grade 8 was moving on to bigger and better things, so we decided to split the route and split the money.
It was a large route covering a lot of ground. The boy, Ian, walked with us the first day showing us each house and explaining where people wanted their papers dropped off. Once a month we were expected to knock on each customer's door and collect the monthly fees. We were also supposed to try to get new subscribers, if we could. Ian had always carried all the newspapers himself, but Sharleen and I each found our half-load quite heavy. Ugh. 'What did I get myself into?', I thought.
Once the route was ours we had to decide how two girls should do the work of one boy. If we'd been smart, we would have split up and walked through half the route each, but we were not smart - we were gabby - so we walked the whole route together and alternated delivering papers. Idiots!
We lived in a small town. In the 70s not many people locked their doors at night, and certainly none did in the day time. Most people wanted the paper on the front porch, some in the mailbox, and some through the mail slot in the front door. One lady, however, wanted her paper delivered to her dishwasher!
Ian showed us where to open the back door, take two steps inside the kitchen, and place the newspaper on top of the portable dishwasher (one of those affairs on wheels with a faux wooden top). We were incredulous! We don't knock? We walk right in?
'Yup', said Ian.
Nearly every day the lady of that house was home, in her kitchen, and she would nod and smile as I tiptoed in and put the newspaper down. Then I backed out, pulling the door closed as I went.
Once a month, as I said, we had to collect money. I was glad we were together for this part, since I was still a gawky-shy-nerd, despite ascension to junior high school. We also tried knocking on doors to get other people to subscribe, but the most success we had was to get one man to commit to taking the paper every second day, if we could find someone else to alternate with him. We never did.
One day while collecting, I was bitten by, of all dogs, a dachshund. I had stepped into the front hallway of one house, invited in by the lady while she went to get her money. I was just standing there and her little dog leaped up and bit the meaty part of my hand at the base of my thumb. I was much too shy to say anything, so I hid my bleeding hand from the lady and reached with my left hand to take the money. When I got home later that day my mom was furious, and called the lady to ask if the dog's rabies shots were up to date.
I was mortified. Of course the lady didn't know what had happened and thought my mom was crazy. Explanations were given and the next day that lady demanded to see my hand, and then apologized when it was clear that I'd been bitten. "Why didn't you say anything?", she said, exasperated. I couldn't explain; I was too embarrassed.
Another day while collecting, we saw a boy from school. This boy, Ray, had red hair, pale eyelashes that fluttered a lot, and a lisp. I knew he was an outcast at school, and that people called him names. I didn't really know what 'fag' meant; someone said that Ray 'liked' boys, whatever that meant. Did he want to kiss boys? (I honestly could not imagine what else was possible - those were innocent times.)
I do remember being surprised when he opened the door, and then thinking that of course he had to live somewhere, and then I wondered about his family and if they knew that their son was called names at school. He asked us what we wanted and then rolled his eyes and went off somewhere in the house to get the money. I heard him saying in that TONE with that LISP, that the newspaper girls were here for their money. I also remember thinking that if he didn't lisp, and roll his eyes and be so, so, WHATEVER, then people might not make fun of him.
What did I know? Did I think he wanted to be different? That he enjoyed being called names, being shoved in the hallway, having no friends?
I thought about Ray as I walked home. We didn't discuss it, but I remember thinking that if he was that way in his own home, then maybe he couldn't be any other way. He was that way everywhere at all times. He couldn't help but be who he was, even if it meant being an outcast at school.
Now THAT was a bit of a revelation.
(I, on the other hand, was learning to be all sorts of different people - whatever got me the most approval in any given situation.)
I don't remember how long I lasted at that job. I know at some point the $36.00 per month, split between us, wasn't enough to keep me interested in slogging through the route 6 days a week, and that when I decided to quit, Sharleen (who had asthma, but a lot more determination than I had) decided to do the route herself.
My second job, paying $18.00 per month, taught me to budget my money, taught me to knock on stranger's doors and even go inside, taught me that dachshunds were not to be trusted, and taught me that people are what they are. Even if it hurts.
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