My unexpected newspaper route two weekends ago was a fine example of the old saying, “When life hands you a lemon, make some lemonade.”
The lemon was no weekend edition of the paper at my house on Saturday. I figured the post office had used a substitute carrier who just missed the delivery.
But before I went into the office that afternoon, planning to do some catchup work, I had received three phone calls from other people who also didn’t get their paper.
I was going take about 10 papers home in anticipation of more calls. But while looking for extras in the building, I found the problem. It wasn’t the post office: Three tubs of papers had been left behind. The post office can’t deliver what it doesn’t receive.
Let me stop here to say a couple of things. As the one-year anniversary of our conversion to mail delivery nears, I believe things have gone pretty well. Customers say they like the new system, and the office gets a lot fewer calls about missed papers.
Also, all three of the former carriers who take papers to 15 post offices each night — Curtis Barnes, Raymond King and Bobby Parker — have showed up for every single delivery for nearly a year. I hope I’m not jinxing their perfect attendance, but being able to count on them means there’s one less thing to worry about.
Anyway, back to that Saturday afternoon. Mistakes happen, so there’s no reason to holler. Instead, I decided to deliver the papers myself. It turned out to be a more time-consuming assignment than I thought, and I should have called for extra hands. Lesson learned.
I put a note on our Facebook page, estimating that about 150 papers were involved but they were on the way. The actual number had to be close to 300.
The most fun was when my kids John and Audrey joined in to help. They had come home from Houston for the weekend and agreed to ride with me once I got to Westview Circle.
Audrey rode shotgun and helped me knock on doors to deliver papers. John was in the back with the newspapers, using his phone to locate houses.
He flatly refused to get out of the car and knock on doors. I insisted on delivering that way as a matter of customer service. We missed the mail, so it was right to speak to any customers who were home. Plus, I thought it would be fun, and it was.
John and Audrey now live in a big city, where people can be pretty anonymous. Our route that Saturday reminded them of the benefits of living in a small town.
We pulled into one driveway and John read the mailing label: Steve Warren.
“John, this one is yours,” I insisted. “This is Lou Warren, your math teacher. She was in the office a few weeks ago and asked about you.”
So John knocked on the front door — and got invited inside. This was not helping the delivery schedule, but a couple of minutes later he came out to the car with both Warrens.
Steve wanted to say hello to Audrey, because one summer night about 20 years ago, when she was 4, she fell off the top of a Dixie Youth Baseball pressbox set of stairs, and Steve was among those who got to her first. (She was gasping for breath for a few minutes but was unhurt.)
A little while later, Audrey took a paper to a home on Park Drive. Before getting out of the car, she admired some decorative flamingos near the front door.
Armed with an Ole Miss marketing degree and the gift of gab, Audrey started chatting with the lady who opened the door. By their gestures John and I could tell they were talking about her garden.
Then the lady stepped inside, returning with a pair of cutters as John and I cracked up. She cut several blue hydrangeas for Audrey and also gave her some chocolate mint plant growing out near the road.
It took three hours to deliver the first tub of papers — a lot longer than I expected. I had to stop at 6:30 since we had company coming over for dinner, but delivered a second tub on my own Sunday afternoon. The papers in the third tub went back to the office for postal delivery on Tuesday.
The lemonade was the value of the personal touch. Most of the people I met appreciated the extra effort. As long as we keep that up, I’m certain there will always be a market for the Enterprise-Journal to provide local news.