Sunday, February 11, 2007

8 Paper Route Driver: The Semi-spiritual Journey of a Not Very Religious Man

People get really ticked off if they do not get their newspaper. In fact, they get really ticked off if they do not get their newspaper by 6 AM. Newspaper delivery timeliness is some sort of entitlement subscribers allow themselves. They've paid a whole 28 cents for this paper, they'd better get it by 6 AM. That's part of the 28 cents.

Forget about the fact that paper they read at 6 AM didn't even exist 6 hours prior and now it's sitting in their house keeping them from being ignorant of the world around them (and informed of the great sale at Best Buy). No, they do not care what it takes to gather the news, do the layout, print the paper, bundle it up, get the bundles to the warehouse, distribute the papers to the drivers, and get their news to them before 6 AM. They just do not know or care. Just so long as it is there when they want it.

It doesn't matter if it's Christmas, if the newspaper isn't there by 6 AM the paper route driver (and him alone) is a jackass - end of story. Never mind that the driver has a family of his own and would probably rather be home and enjoying a warm coffee next to the fire reading the paper himself, getting ready for the kids to come and rip open the Christmas presents that Santa delivered.

Nope, doesn't matter, the paper route driver is not a person, he is a function. He is a cog that at best can come out even steven. People can say, "my paper rote driver sucks," and get away with it. But no one ever says, "You know, my paper deliverer is a really terrific guy." No way. At best, he goes unnoticed.

And I think that was the story that identified my father. For most of his life the very best he was recognized for was his ability to be even steven. His best efforts elevated him to neutral. And then on his bad days, oh boy, he was given all the credit he deserved for those days.

Looking back I regret never cutting the man some slack when I was younger. How much weight can a man bear when the best he could do was recognized as average? How long can a man last, even in his most heroic efforts, when his efforts are met with a collective shrug from the world? When he did his best, took risks, put himself out there and "gave it Hell," all he got was this yawn or a "yeah, but" followed by one of his weaknesses.

He never asked for credit for the good he did. Why should anyone have to? At the same time, he had some credit coming that never came. But I wonder what his life would have been like if he had been given credit. I wonder if he would have livened up some, been more optimistic, been less guarded and hidden, been more engaged and connected. I wonder if he might still be alive today had he been given credit for being good.

I have this idea that when everyone around you doesn't accept you for who you are, you don't get to live as long as people who who do get that acceptance. Each of those disapproving looks, punishing blows, demeaning statements, dominating interactions, intentional exclusions, public humiliations, ruthless manipulations, and degrading assumptions peel years off of the end of a person's life like crazy. I'm guess it peeled off about 20 years from the end of my dad's life. People will tell you that it was his poor health, his weight, his lack of self-control that did him in. Well, the sad testimony to the world is that food treated him better than people did. When you have to choose between a bunch of people who really don't give a rip about you as a person and pizza, you go for the pizza. He wasn't good enough for people, but he was good enough for the pizza.

From the day he was born, he wasn't good enough. The best he could have ever done growing up was not to be noticed. That started a life pattern that never quit. You see, his painful childhood was training for him to become the best damn paper route driver in the state of Minnesota - a tragic success of which I am just now beginning to find the depths.


Anonymous said...

He also raised a good son.

Fajita said...


jb said...

And some have fathers who made it to the top in the eyes of millions, but deep down, still never really felt good enough.

TCS said...

wow. That's pretty profound Chris.

jb said...

And some have fathers who made it to the top in the eyes of millions, but deep down, still never really felt good enough.