Last Thursday I did something I don’t think I’ve done in 20 years: I delivered papers for the Rhino Times.
I have taken papers to stops that were missed over the years, but I really don’t think I’ve done a full route since I had my one delivery driver quit about 1993. Instead of quitting on Wednesday or even Thursday morning, he quit after having picked up the papers; and he carried the full print run, about 5,000 papers, upstairs to our second floor office and stacked them in the hall outside my office. He was really mad about something but I don’t remember what.
I do remember hiring a new delivery guy on the spot, but with a late start, and hampered by the fact that we had to carry all the papers downstairs, I delivered half the papers that day.
Even before that, John Rudy – then the owner of the Rhinoceros Club on Greene Street for which the paper is named – delivered papers for the first three months we were in business. We printed 1,000 copies. Rudy delivered 500 and I delivered 500 and we’d meet back at the Rhino Club for a beer and to compare notes. Rudy would always be on his second or maybe third beer by the time I arrived. He approached newspaper delivery in a business like manner. I tended to dawdle and chat with people.
So on Thursday I was a little rusty in the newspaper delivery department, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. My route started on the A&T campus and included east Greensboro, McLeansville, Gibsonville and Brown Summit.
I apologize to the people in the Dowdy building at A&T for not getting their papers to them. I looked for your building and asked several people, including a bus driver, and I got a lot of help, but I still have no idea where the Dowdy building is. I finally had to admit defeat and move on. I’m sure I drove past it. I just don’t know which building it was I drove past. I promise to look it up on campus map before I get out there and deliver that route again.
Actually, it was a good way for me to start out because, like most men, I don’t like to ask for directions. In this case, after my first trip through the campus I knew I had no chance of finding the building without help, so I started asking people and everyone was so helpful that it made the rest of my day easier. It doesn’t make any sense not to ask directions, and it’s not a bad way to start a conversation.
Another big help to me was the security guard at Lorillard. There is no way I could have navigated those gates and buildings without help, but she gave me clear directions on exactly what to do. She also asked me why I parked “way over there” in the parking lot. I said it was because of all the “No Parking Anytime” signs. She reminded me that I was delivery driver and I wasn’t really parking, I was just stopping for a moment. I took her advice for the rest of the day and didn’t bother to even attempt to park legally, which helped out a lot. I hadn’t been thinking like a delivery driver.
For the rest of the day I asked directions a lot. I know Greensboro (although I don’t know where the Dowdy building is or how to navigate the Lorillard complex), so while I was delivering in Greensboro I was fine. However, once I got out in McLeansville and Gibsonville I had no idea where the next stop was.
In one barbershop in McLeansville everyone started giving me directions at the same time and I was listening for one point, which I never heard. All I really needed to know was whether to turn left or right when I got back out on the street. The third try, I finally got it, but it wasn’t left or right, it was go back over the bridge, which to me meant turn left and to the guys in the barbershop it meant go straight.
I did break down and use my phone when I was really lost, but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth and I’m not sure my phone knew where we were either. It seemed to me that the only difference between us was I was wiling to admit I was lost and my phone wouldn’t. I think the directions from my phone were taking me around in circles until it found a road it knew, but who knows maybe, that was the quickest route.
I think it takes the regular driver about four hours to drive the route; it took me from 10 in the morning to 5:30 in the afternoon with no breaks, other than to buy gas. And I hope I don’t get fired for this, but I skipped the last stop, because I do have a regular job and had to be somewhere at 6. I didn’t figure I would be very welcomed with my hands and the front of my pants black from newsprint.
All in all it was a good day. I plan to try it again, but I don’t think I’ll wait 20 years because I’m not sure at 82 I will enjoy it quite as much. But who knows, maybe I would.