Sunday, December 27, 2009

Not My Fault

Of course our snow is melting. It won't stay on the ground as long as it did during my childhood when days seemed like months and months like years. We dug tunnels in snowbanks and burrowed our way toward China, where men pedaled rickshaws under pointed hats. We knew these things because Dad had grown up there, he and his pet dragon who responded to an ultrasonic whistle. Off they'd fly to churn mango ice cream in the tropics.

During our search for 3-speed bicycles, we discovered Charlie's Bike Shop. Charlie noticed an orange tinge to Dad's skin, which sent them into a long discussion about China, during which I bought a dark-green Raleigh. My brother, Tom, splurged, then or later, on a 10-speed Carleton, the envy of us all in those days before eight sprockets and endless changes.

My Raleigh with its high-tech hand-twist gear changer was not a paper-route bike. For that, I used a Schwinn with balloon tires and a giant basket in front. Papers lay open so I couldn't resist reading while driving until the time I smacked into the front of a Chevrolet. Body quivering, I happily realized the car wasn't moving. It had been parked on the wrong side of the street. The car wasn't hurt, nor was I, but my front fender made an awful noise until I straightened it.

My favorite customer was Mrs. Hahn, a grandmother to Fred, one of my future brothers-in-law. On a good day I could complete my deliveries in 45 minutes or less. I often stayed longer than that with Mrs. Hahn and her collection of vintage postcards. Where are they now, Fred?

My least favorite customer was the family I rarely found home. Sometimes I had a feeling they hid when I came to collect. Can you imagine refusing to pay 67 cents to an 11-year old paperboy? A month later, they would complain when I finally caught them and said they owed two dollars and 68 cents.

That was a lot of money to a junior high kid and still is to some people around the world. To me it seemed like pure profit since I'd already paid for their papers, kind of like a borrower who begins making payments on a charged-off loan, something I learned about later. Delinquency, default or bankruptcy carried a stigma that seems to have faded over the years. Now we can always find someone else to blame.

"That McDonald's coffee spill," says Virginia, "let's us off the hook. When you can get into court for spilling hot coffee on yourself, responsibility has become a relic of the past."

1 comment:

  1. You'll have to tell me the name of the cheap family. Can't remember who that was, or maybe I never knew. I'm going to share this with Fred's family. They'll enjoy the reference to their grandma.