Excellence is found in the details


The first day he started his delivery route, I noticed, saw it in the tight roll of the newspaper laid politely on my doormat, in the knot at the top of the rain-protecting blue plastic bag.

It was the first time I had ever seen my paper rolled, or knotted, or placed neatly anywhere.

The contrast surprised me.

Home delivery of the newspaper is one of the many things I’ll miss if I ever stop reporting for one. Child of the technology generation though I am, there’s nothing quite like spreading the Sunday paper over the table, coffee in my favorite mug cupped perfectly in the one hand, enjoying the one morning paper we produce on the one morning I can move just a little slower than usual.

But our last carrier left something to be desired. I probably should have called; I know, in my head, that the people driving slowly down the roads, tossing papers from car windows, or walking down city blocks with swelling tote bags strapped across their chests, are the front lines of our relationship with the community. I speak to a few, to the ne’er do wells or the politicians or the movers and shakers of the town; they see everyone.

But it was never bad enough to push me to making that call, or even walking across the office to circulation. I didn’t want to be petty. It doesn’t really matter to me, how my paper arrives, so long as it gets there in a readable fashion. And so I didn’t.

And every day I found it caught in the evergreen bush outside my porch, or flopped on top of a marigold. The days she got it onto the porch, it hit hard into the screen door, sounding like someone had slammed it on their way in, and I’d start up from where ever I was and come out, see her back retreating to the beat-up car idling in the street.

He takes his job seriously, now. I’ve seen him, a small boy pedaling up the street, papers stuck upright in the basket on the front of his bike. Each one is rolled tightly, held with a rubber band. On cloudy days, he slips them into the blue plastic bags, ties the top shut.

And they’re always laying on the welcome mat outside the front door, right up against the step heading inside.

One day he missed, and I heard a whispered ‘dang it!’ of frustration as he hopped off the bike, straightened it into its place.

I don’t know if he’ll keep it up all school year. The paper is ready for delivery during that hour children are just coming home from school, and I don’t know if they’ll let him deliver a tad later in the day. Being on-time – it’s a mantra in every department, but circulation has to hear about it when anybody is late.

I don’t know how he’d deliver in the winter, either, when snow and ice and salt collect on the streets and sidewalks, and bikes become hazardous and cold and miserable.

But I hope he keeps it up. And I wish I remembered his name.

I’d like to drop by the glassed-in circulation office, find his manager, tell them that age, apparently, has nothing to do with skill or work ethic. Because our elementary-aged carrier beats his adult predecessor, hands down.

Excellence, you know, is in the details.

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Filed under Notebook sketches, People

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