A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I have been enjoying the experience of reading a print version of the newspaper again, as a more relaxing way to enjoy the news.
But each time I start reading one, I cannot help but remember some of the less-than-relaxing mishaps I have encountered over the years while trying to get a copy of the daily paper.
I was a subscriber for many years and home delivery was so punctual you could set your VCR to it. There may have been the rare production issue, vehicle issue or weather issue when the newspaper might not show up exactly on time. Things like that sometimes happened and we understood.
Just the same, I wouldn’t have wanted to be the person at the telephone switchboard. I’m sure some people would get pretty huffy about a postponed periodical or a tardy tabloid especially in the pre-Internet age.
I mean today, we lose our… ahem… we lose our marbles when the news page takes longer than 6 seconds to fully download. I think patience was in greater supply back then.
In my first apartment, there were days when I’d open my front door to find that my newspaper wasn’t there. A gentle call to the newspaper confirmed that it wasn’t due to a production issue, a weather issue nor a delivery issue in my area. It was likely a neighbour, especially when the disappearing newspaper trick would happen in cycles.
To this day, I still don’t know who it was, but don’t we all have that one neighbour who seemingly defies all unwritten (and written) rules of common courtesy? But when we say “picking up a newspaper on the way to work”, who knew that there were a couple of different interpretations?
Shortly after buying the house, I also remember calling the switchboard when the paper was left out in the rain, in the snow, or scattered across my suburban lawn on a breezy day. I never understood why the carrier didn’t take those extra four steps to place the newspaper in the rack attached to the mailbox, where the newspaper would have been sheltered from the elements, and therefore (using air quotes) “dry” when I chose to read it.
Maybe the carrier’s pedometer had already reached their daily 10,000 step quota and they didn’t want to overexert themselves. But after repeat offences, the patient person at the newspaper’s switchboard (whom I started to know on a first name basis) suggested I may want to have a word with the carrier since the reminders through the supervisor didn’t seem to sink in.
The thing is that I was paying my subscription directly to the newspaper, which meant I had virtually no interaction with my newspaper carrier. And let’s just say that negotiating a peace treaty does not come naturally before my morning coffee has fully taken effect.
Before I had a chance to muster up the courage and sufficient caffeine intake to have an early-bird word with the carrier, the newspaper had magically started appearing in the rack under the mailbox. Apparently someone else took over the route. Huge sigh of relief!
A new problem emerged when I changed my work schedule which meant leaving earlier, before the newspaper’s target delivery time. I decided to cancel home delivery and to buy it on my way to work instead. If I didn’t, the newspaper would be the “oldspaper” by the time I got home.
Buying it from a store was indeed convenient and pretty timely. The added bonus was that there was no need to tip the store clerk (as I was doing for the carrier of the home delivered version) so I was probably saving a little money too.
But when a store wasn’t on my path, I started using those vending machines at bus stops and street corners to get my news. I am certain that some onlookers would have exceeded their quota of daily chuckles watching my showdown with the boxes that gobbled my quarters.
Let’s just take a step back for a moment to reaffirm that confrontation is not my thing at any time, and that caffeine does give me a few milligrams of courage, patience and the verbal skills to make more articulate and compelling cases. But caffeine doesn’t help when trying to reason with an uncooperative inanimate object.
Other than pushing the coin return button 12 times and pulling on the door 17 times (in case it suddenly changed its mind), there is not much one can do when the newspaper vending machine has made the executive decision that I was definitely not getting a newspaper.
Which always led to the next excruciating question, “Do I put another quarter in and hope the next one works?” as I wondered if this was newspaper vending machine or a slot machine?
When I ran out of quarters, I headed to the office to call the newspaper to report the defective vending machine and my net loss. I would have thought that the switchboard operator would have been impressed by my persistence and the number of quarters lost, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
In the years that followed, I regret that my newspaper consumption went down. It was nothing personal toward the newspapers or the vending machines, it was just that the time and energy devoted to building a career didn’t leave a lot of room for the simple pleasure of savouring every word of a newspaper. Instead I got my news from television, radio or speed reading through online sources (when the pages downloaded in less than 6 seconds).
But today, with a little more free time and a yearning for more simple pleasures, picking up a print version newspaper (while running errands) and savouring the experience has become the icing on the cake of a weekend well-spent.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,