Thursday, May 15, 2014

Today I am grateful for phone books.  What has happened to them?  They’re virtually non-existent.  I had this huge plastic bag with a tiny book the size of a Harlequin Romance on my porch.  It was the new phone book.  I had a flashback. C’mon.  Why bother? 


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Back in the day, not long after we moved to Pennsylvania from Wisconsin, I got it in my head that I should look for season jobs.  I answered a newspaper ad, then worked at a Halloween store for six weeks and had a blast.  When I saw the ad to deliver phone books I figured, hey, why not?  Should be fun.


These were not little paperbacks, these were full-out two-inch thick, yellow bricks.  The instructions said, “Phone books are not to be left in mailboxes or thrown onto porches.  You must hang them on knobs, preferably ringing the bell and chatting with customers while you hand them the new book.  These are the standards set up by the distribution company.  Failure to comply could result in termination.”  Average time to deliver the assigned books was about 8-10 hours.  One work day, maybe two.  Pay was $10.00 an hour.  Not bad for back then.  I’m all in.


Okay, now before I continue, remember that this was before cell phones and way, way before GPS.  When I was out on the road, I was alone.  No worries, I thought.  I drove my old Astro van to the distribution location and picked up enough tonnage that I had to monitor how soon I braked at a stop sign so the weight wouldn’t shift me right through the intersection.  They gave me a location and a map.  Remember I’m not from here and don’t know where anything is.  First glitch.



Like Pollyanna with a new prism, I went to the assigned town, glad and happy to be contributing to the betterment of society, not to mention putting a few bucks in my pocket.  I was so disgustingly perky I wanted to slap myself.


Couldn’t find the first street.  No problem, just like the Iowa Basic Skills test instructions, I’ll come back to it.  Or the second.  I found the third but couldn’t find a place to park so I unloaded a bunch of books on the curb, parked two blocks away and came back.  Not every house got a book.  Why?  I have no clue.  With address in hand and as many books as I could carry at a time (3-4) I started hanging them on doorknobs.  Each porch had 6 steps.  I could never be a mailman.  After one block I was exhausted.  It took me the better part of the day to deliver twenty books.  Yippee.  Only 280 to go.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day.  Channeling Scarlet O’Hara, now.


Tomorrow turned into another tomorrow and another and another.  I couldn’t find addresses, people who saw me said, “Don’t leave that crap on my door!”  I had to duck when someone pitched one at me as I walked down their steps.  Good arm, bad aim.  My little plan was turning into a nightmare.  Even Pollyanna would have smashed the prisms in the road by now!


By the fifth day I didn’t care about the bloody rules.  I wanted those books out of my van!  I wanted to survive.  Even if I just drove and tossed like the newspaper guy does, they were too heavy to get farther than the curb.  There was only one answer.  I bribed my youngest son to help.  Children & Youth could have brought me up on charges, but I sat that young, strong kid in the side of the van with the door open.  Slowly I drove up and down block after block with him hanging out the side, whipping phone books someplace near the houses.  Every house.  Neither of us cared one bit if a house wasn’t on the list.  Everyone gets a phone book because we’re all DONE.  My old blue van looked like a skeet-shooting machine only instead of clay pigeons, yellow books shot from it.  “Pull!  Pull!  Pull!”  Out they flew, block after block.


Six days.  Two tanks of gas.  Bribing an employee.  After it was all over,  I was in the hole about 20 bucks.  I figure I made about two cents an hour.  Worst job of my life.   When that teeny-tiny phone book got put on my porch yesterday I was so grateful. . .that I didn’t have to deliver it!