I don’t know about you, but in this house, we’ve enjoyed our local newspaper for nearly forty years. I don’t read it much, but Saint Mary does. Invariably, I’ll find a story on my desk, clearly circled for me to read. I’m not henpecked but I am a wee bit controlled.
We’ve always been pleased with the newspaper service. For decades, they tossed that paper right onto the front porch, where I could lean out and grab it. We always appreciated that and at Christmas time, Mary wrote the delivery folks an extra check.
A couple of years ago (right after we sent the Christmas “bonus check”) we received a letter from the newspaper office. It seems that they were no longer able to get the paper to our front door, but they could still get it to the driveway. That is, unless we were willing to pay an extra five bucks. Now, mind you, our home is built on a small hill. To get to the driveway from my front door, I must walk down the sidewalk, down the steps and find the newspaper. If I were thirty years old and living in California, that would be an enjoyable trip. But I’m older than two thirties put together in Missouri. I know that if I were in California I probably wouldn’t read the newspaper at all, but that’s beside the point. There’s a principle involved here.
I took more than a little umbrage at the extra charge. “No Christmas Bonus for you!” I shouted in my best Seinfeld Soup Nazi voice. I told Mary I’d be damned if I was going to pay for that, and I’d do it myself. And I did. Until it snowed and got really, really cold. It took me only one winter morning, standing in snow on my dark and freezing driveway to realize that perhaps my decision to take on the job of paper delivery boy was, well, unseasonable. I went inside where I could think.
I fixated on this problem. Now there were two things I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to pay the extra five bucks and I didn’t want to go out in the cold. Joe The Dog lethargically thumped his tail on the floor as I stared at him and that’s when it hit me. The problem wasn’t the distance to the driveway. The problem wasn’t Missouri winters. The problem was that Joe The Dog, to whom I provide food, water, shelter, education and companionship, was lazy. Joe could get the paper from the driveway every morning. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night would keep him from his appointed rounds.
Joe’s a clever dog. With a couple days training, he was happy and excited for me to open the front door. He would race to the driveway, grab the newspaper in its pink plastic wrapper and race back to the door. I taught him to take it down the hallway and deposit it undamaged on the floor beside my office chair. And Joe was happy, let me tell you. He never once felt put upon. He took on the job of morning paperdog with the thrill that only a dog owner can understand. He would sit in the office and stare at me expectantly until I said “Want to get the paper?” And he would tear down the hall to the front door where he would jump in the air until I got there. This dog actually jumps about two feet into the air when he’s excited, I kid you not; his ancestry has kangaroos in it. And he had reason to jump. We both knew a win-win situation when we saw it. I bragged on him. I put photos of him on Facebook, prancing up the sidewalk with the huge pink roll in his mouth. I wasn’t boastful about it, but when others told me I had a real knack with dogs, I let it be said uncontested.
During the summer that followed, a friend mentioned that he takes the electronic edition of the local paper—no physical paper delivered. He said I ought to take a look at it. He said the price was much better. Well, of course Mary and I investigated. I don’t remember the price difference, but it was enough to make you say “Maybe we ought to try it.”
And so we “went paperless.” We received our electronic newspaper and Mary enjoyed reading it. She was happy. My Scotch blood was warmed by the knowledge that I was still avoiding that extra five dollars. I was happy. Joe, on the other hand, was inconsolable. He wouldn’t get up. He refused to eat. He moped. He wouldn’t have a thing to do with me. Mornings were the worst. He would stare at me and I knew what he was thinking. “You’re not going to say it, are you?” I had never seen clinical depression in a dog before, but he had all the signs. He wouldn’t talk to me about it, and I realized that dog therapy was going to cost a lot more than the five dollar charge I had outwitted. A neighbor accosted me on the street one day and said “Why won’t you let that dog get the paper?” And he had a tone when he said it. I knew right there I had to solve the problem.
Things are better now. Mary reads the morning paper and emails me the articles that she thinks I need to read. She’s happy. I’m still controlled and resigned to it. But Joe the Dog is ecstatic. On the bookshelf above my desk is an old newspaper in its pink protector. And every morning I take it off the shelf and look at Joe. “Do you want to get the paper?” He leaps into the air and tears off to the front door. I step onto the porch and I throw the paper onto the driveway. Then I open the door for him. Like I said, a wee bit controlled.
I have never paid them the extra five bucks.