Thursday, January 11, 2007

5 Paper Route Driver: The Semi-Spiritual Journey of a Not Very Religious Man

Read Paper Route From the Beginning

For the paper route driver, the world is his urinal. Since 98% of rural paper route drivers were men, the generalization works here. While driving 200 miles of dirt roads, there can be cause to stop and get some relief without the convenience of an official place to stop. For the paper route driver, there is never the insecruity some people feel while driving long distances - "will I make it to the next gas station?" When the urge to go arrives, all that is required is to be out of sight from the nearest farm house - which happens most of the time.

Now, this rule only applies while actually driving the paper route. When my father was not driving the route, he would stop at gas stations like everyone else when traveling long distances. A paper route driver, the good ones anyway, knows when he is and is not on the route. The paper route code of conduct only applies while on the paper route.

Beside the world being his urinal rule, there is an entire different code of behavior for the paper route driver when he drives his paper route. Another rule involves painted road markers and road signs. In the few places on the route that my father did drive on a paved road, the yellow and white solid or broken lines did not apply. The entire road was a single lane - a one way street in whatever direction he was traveling. The paper route driver likes the freedom of wide lanes, so the arbitrary markings were invisible to him. Stop signs, speed limit signs, do not pass signs, yield signs, chevron signs, and so forth were much more friendly suggestions than anything else. They were signs that applied to ther people. Paper route drivers were like mail deliveres; that had special rules. Only mail deliverers were wimps.

Paper route drivers were entitled to divine meetings. My father would go through a solid week and not see another vehicle on the paper route. There were those times in the icy Minnesota winter when he would slide of into the ditch or get stuck in a huge snow drift. This was a much bigger problem in the age before enVs, Razors, and iPhones. He couldn't just call someone or knock in the door of the nearest house. He was in the middle of no where with no one nearby. Now, a paper route driver knows how to rock a truck from a snow drift, use 4 wheel driver, shovel snow from behind the tires, throw kitty litter in the right spot for traction and all of that. Usually he dug himself out and away he went.

And yet, there were those times when he had gotten himself so deep into it that he was truly stuck. Lo and behold, within 15 minutes of being stick in a snow drift or sliding into the ditch, not only would someone drive by, it was invariably someone driving a huge truck with a winch or a farmer, for some unknown reason, diving his tractor at 3 in the morning. He got pulled out of the ditch every time. Of course he offered money every time he was pulled out, but no one ever took him up on it. Accepting money for a kind deed to a person in need meant you didn't really care about the person you just helped. In Minnesota, you offer the money to let the person know that it meant a lot to you, but the helper refuses the money because he really meant to be kind. No money is ever exchanged, but it has to part of the equation in order to show respect.

Another rule is that paper route drivers are entitled to seeing things in nature most people never see. The summer sunrise comes very early in Minnesota, and my father saw every one of them. He saw every critter of the forest, every mysterious sunrise mist, every color of the morning, every forboding cloud formation before a morning storm, every beauty of nature that runs away from humans in their busy lives was not lost on my father. He saw it all.

Paper route drivers, the rural ones anyway, have a sort of religion that is deep into nature. They are the few welcomed into the holy of holies of creation. And with this invitation, they form a kind of respect for creation that most people are just fine missing out on. For my father, many of his days on the paper route were more like church and taking a leak into the ditch off a dirt road in the middle of no where wasn't gross - it was worship. He was one of many creatures in the forests and fields that did the very same thing every single day. To do anything different would be to insult the world God created.

Go to Paper Route Driver 6

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