I never envisioned a future where I would live in a house where pots were never dirtied, but I was certain that I would one day achieve a “paperless” newspaper. I longed for that time, when I could reduce my clutter by just a bit.
I used to love the ritual of spreading out the morning paper (The Gainesville Sun, The Tallahassee Democrat, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune) on my table next to my first cup of coffee and poring over the local and national headlines. When I lived in DC, then Chicago, there was the added bliss of being able to read the entire paper on the Metro, or CTA as I commuted into work.
In recent years the paper seemed to have become more of burden due to its ability to contribute clutter to my home. Perhaps that is a sign that I have reached curmudgeon-hood.
We moved to Grand Rapids 15 years ago. This city is roughly the size of Gainesville or Tallahassee, but one the things that made it feel small to me was that the local paper was delivered in the afternoon rather than in the morning. Much like when I was growing up and lived in towns where “The Lowell Sun” was delivered by a “paper boy” at around 4 pm. It was usually a kid that went to school with my older sister, later they were kids that went to school with me. I always knew their names.
For a time in Grand Rapids we had an actual “paper boy.” A kid about 11 that actually biked from house to house for his deliveries. And we knew his name: Cortez. I liked that feeling of knowing the paper boy, if only for the nostalgic feeling.
Over the years, we’ve had a lot of different people–kids, adults, groups of people–delivering the daily copies of The Grand Rapids Press. I am not sure if they are related to, or even acquainted with Cortez (who’s probably in his mid-20’s now), but they have always been reliable, and though we don’t see them all that often, they are always friendly.
A couple of years ago, The Press changed its model due to decline in subscriptions. It was announced that the home deliveries would be cut back to Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
An electronic edition would be available seven days a week. There was an option–with a slight discount– to forgo home delivery altogether. I was ecstatic at the idea of going paperless and the opportunity to reduce my clutter. This seemed like a no-brainer.
Then I began think about the folks who deliver the Press. They were taking a big hit from the forced reduction from seven delivery days to three.
Despite my decades-long ambition to go paperless, and all the merits of digital content (scalable, searchable and NO CLUTTER) I chose to go with the thrice-weekly deliveries on the possibility that I might help to preserve some jobs.
Now that the digital edition is available, I found that I rarely read the paper copy. The hard copies get put other uses: cleaning windows, etc. but they aren’t actually read that often.
Recently, my wife and I have been making some efforts to reduce costs. A few weeks ago we cut our cable TV service and few other recurring bills. I looked at the option of cutting out the home delivery of the Press.
Last week I was seriously considering this when I happened to walk out to my car just as the Press delivery crew pulled up to my driveway. They were in a minivan with the side door open. There was a driver and two other people, one handing bundled newspaper copies to an elderly man sitting in the back seat.
He pulled his arm back to toss it on my lawn and I yelled, “I’m open.”
This man, with a resemblance to Morgan Freeman, and a voice to match, called back “Oh, I’m going to have to get out the car for that.” He did. Then he struck a Joe Montana throwing pose and hurled the paper to me. It was a pretty accurate throw, but I contorted my body to make it look like a difficult catch.
I shouted “Yes!” and performed a celebratory touchdown dance.
He hollered “Sweet catch, boss. The Lions had better pay you some good money this year. I’ll see you Thursday.” (Don’t tell me that you’ll get that kind of customer experience with your iPad.)
“Boss?” I thought. “No, I’m merely a job creator.” And in this case happy to pay for something that I don’t really need.