The Naked Phone Book
I have worked a few jobs going door to door doing surveys, once as a census taker, another time as an energy auditor. Now I have a job going door to door delivering telephone books. I think of the surveys as a service to the community, which help and inform us all. Most people are nice to you. Even when irritated, they are still polite... usually. But now, because of my experience delivering telephone books, I am having second thoughts about jobs going door to door.
Going door to door can be fun and a way to obtain a variety of experiences, such as seeing how and where people live up close. It's not because I'm nosy, it's just that I came from a very small town in the country and decided I wanted to 'see the world'. It is a special challenge to find your way around in a new city or part of town you have never been to before. But with a map collection like mine, I can find almost any place. To me, going to peoples' homes is like visiting with your average John and Mary Citizen and family. It feels like an adventure to be able to knock on their door and say "Hi, I'm here to... and.... and what about you?"
I heard that delivering phone books was a good way to make a few dollars if you have a pickup truck or station wagon, which I have. So I applied for and got a job delivering phone books. This is what happened.
Somewhat naively, I start out with lots of energy; my little red pickup loaded with phone books and my map. I am to drop the books off at each address. I've got to say that I feel a certain sense of dedication over and above the money I earn. That is because I believe in communication which telephones and telephone books help to facilitate. So I'm feeling like I am part of the network and helping to make it happen.
My job is to see that each household or business on my list gets their telephone book delivered. But there are a few extras I did not count on, such as inserting a 'recycling' flyer in each book and putting each book in a plastic bag before delivering them. A little extra time and several paper cuts on my hands later, the books are ready. My back aches from lifting the 14 book packages, ripping them open, putting in the inserts and bagging them. I'm anxious to get to the addresses, if I can find them.
Urban mailboxes are easy to find; they just stand there beside the road like the windmills of Don Quixote. In the city the owner's home is usually nearby. (Rural mailboxes tend to hang out in herds like cattle next to the road, not the house.)
I drive to the closest street and find the numbers I want. At last I can begin my networking campaign! I find my first home and look up to the doorway. Up the stairs I climb and carefully place the book next to the hinge side of the door so no one can trip over it.
Several houses and staircases later, my legs begin to weary. I begin to look for places to hang my precious books near the mailboxes. My desire to go to Mr. John and Mrs. Mary Citizen's doorway begins to dwindle. But my resolve to carry on is still strong. I am determined to find those mailboxes and get the job done. Now I discover another hurdle to overcome, finding the houses.
Some folks do not have house numbers or even names on their mailboxes. Some streets do not even have signs. Forget 911. An emergency vehicle will never find them. In fact, there were some I could not find.
After finishing the addresses in town I headed for those addresses on my list in the countryside. The beginning of my rural route started with a post woman. When she saw me, she warned me not to put my books in the mailboxes or hang them on their doors. I knew that. I was putting them on the ground underneath or on the frame in-between boxes.
So here I am driving down a country road and I find a gate with a matching number on it, a no trespassing sign and no mailbox. I throw the bag with the newspaper tucked inside onto the ground by the gate and drive off. Later, down the road, a policeman stops and tells me people are complaining about me driving around throwing stuff on the ground. I explain that I am delivering telephone books. He then says to me, "Maybe you should hang them on the mailboxes."
I patiently explain that we were instructed not to do that, and as a matter of fact had just spoken to a post woman who said not to. By now I am beginning to get a little paranoid about Mr. and Mrs. John and Mary Citizen. Maybe they do not really want to communicate.
After that I drive into a canyon to deliver the last of my load. I drive to the end of the canyon leaving a trail of books under mailboxes. At the end, I turn my truck around and head back out again. As I approach the entrance to the canyon I spot a man standing on his porch watching me drive by. He has a rifle in his hands.
Suddenly a shot rings out. Frightened, I step on the gas. I cannot help but feel it is a warning saying, "Don't come back!"
"Wow! Forget Mr. and Mrs. Citizen! I'm getting out of here. It's me or them now." I am beginning to wonder if it's worth it.
As I drive home tired, hungry, thirsty and deflated, I have second thoughts about this job I have chosen. With a sigh of relief, I enter my driveway and begin to relax.
"Just think, I reflect, if someone had to climb up twenty steps in this apartment complex to deliver only two books at a time. There are 24 units total, half of which are upstairs. That comes out to about 24 books, at $.12 each, all that for a wage of $2.88."
Exhausted, I climb up the twenty steps to my apartment and then reality hits me in the face. There on my doorstep, on the doorknob side, lies my freshly delivered telephone book.
My new telephone book is stark naked! It has no plastic bag, no insert, and the wind has blown its pages all asunder.
"I think I'll find another job!"