delivering papers

As the care quietly drives down the street, a tightly wrapped package is thrown at our driveway. In the still, uncluttered hours before dawn as we sleep, our paper carrier works.
I know what the job is like. A decade ago, my husband moonlighted as a newspaper carrier. His first month, I went along and folded papers for a couple hundred customers as we drove under the star-lit sky. It looked peaceful but at 4 a.m. charming tree-lined lanes of the day became rutted, nauseating nightmares. Carefully color coordinated houses turned shades of gray and disappeared into the shadows. Yard lights, reflectors, curves and bends in the road or mailboxes were the only landmarks.
To help my husband learn the route, the former carrier had driven the route with a tape recorder, “Throw two at the drive on the right. Hit the next two drives, skip one, drive across the road and throw the drive by the white mailbox post. Go through the bottom and make a sharp left turn and throw one to the drive on the left.”
Miss one sentence and we were totally lost.
That first night, we missed a lot of sentences. We rewound the tape, retraced our deliveries and tried again. It took six or seven hours to do a route that usually took three. The phones at the circulation desk of the newspaper office lit up with complaints of late deliveries.
One customer described his place as “the only set of double gates on this highway.”
I went there in the afternoon. The double gates, set back from the road, were very obvious. But in the dark of the night, with no yard light, the gates faded so that al we saw was a wide patch of asphalt beside the highway.
Eventually the reflectors, twists, turns and correct “two drives on the left: Became familiar. The tape went into the glove compartment, I excused myself and my husband went solo.
He learned the dangerous art of driving while folding and throwing newspapers. He came in as the children were heading off to school, cleaned up and left for his primary job. After wok he at an early supper so he could go to bed and tiptoe past the bedrooms of sleepers in the middle of the night. We missed him.
The beginning of the end came the night he was taking a sharp curve while folding a paper. He hooked into the wrong part of the curve on a steeply tilted road and turned the car over on its top. He crawled out, knocked on a customer’s door and phoned for me to bring he other car to continue the route
After a couple of close calls he promised, “If anything else happens, I will quit.” The November morning he reported that the lights in the car blinked out on a curve and came back in time to light up a tree, I made him keep his promise.
It took a couple of weeks to find and train a replacement, but by Thanksgiving he was only working his day job. We actually had time for a conversation again.
So the rare times that our carrier misses us, we understand. We’ve been there.