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COLUMN SIX: What I learned from my paper route

BY LOIS LACROIX
Special to the VOICE

I never had a paper route before the autumn of 2018 — I am in my late 60s. I track the inspiration for this action back to the election in October of last year. I had volunteered to help with canvassing the neighbourhoods of Pelham in support of a local candidate. That meant getting out at least three days a week and walking for about 2 – 3 hours each time to knock on doors, leave information in either the hands or doorways of local residents.

I found it interesting to walk in a variety of neighbourhoods I had not been in before and to meet people and chat when I found them home. By the end of the campaign period in late October, I had lost a pound or two and improved my stamina and, I am sure, my overall fitness level. Although I don’t mind the winter and do enjoy a brisk walk in cold sunshine, I felt I needed some enticement to pull me out of the warmth of home and away from the call of an intriguing novel during the months to follow. The ad in the Voice seemed to arrive just as I was contemplating what I could do. 135 papers to deliver, right in my own neighbourhood! I was excited and proclaimed to my spouse that I was going to call about that route. He raised his head from the video game he was playing, and questioned “Really? Why?” … and went back to the screen.

After a brief call to the Voice office, and a couple of emails, I had my route. The papers arrived at my door Tuesday morning and were to be distributed by Wednesday afternoon. My goal was “same day delivery.”

I began my walk down the streets, carefully checking the list of “Do not deliver” addresses I had been provided with (just five). The first couple of weeks was a simple challenge to ensure I had papers at the right addresses, and that they were placed securely in mailboxes or in the door or under doormats.

After that, I began to enjoy the walk down the streets and through the neighbourhood, completing a “step” workout as I climbed up the stairs of houses fronted with two or three steps. My spouse began to accompany me, saying it was to ensure I was “okay,” then he became a regular partner in my weekly walk. However, by mid-November he began to ask, “When are you going to stop doing this? Winter is coming, you don’t want to break a hip.”

As the weather became colder, I learned to dress in layers. It took the first dozen houses to adapt to the brisk air, and once I got moving, I warmed up quickly and could open my jacket to keep from getting too hot. I learned that fingerless gloves were useful to wear in November, but as winter set in, I began to wear heavier mittens. I would have to remove one mitt to fold papers that had to be placed in the door handles, but I quickly slid my bare hand into my pocket to warm up between houses.

I learned to wear dark-coloured or a washable clothing, as the ink from carrying the papers in my arms would rub off on my hands, gloves or jacket. I tested a few different cleaners when I did laundry to see what worked best to remove the ink (always best to pre-soak before throwing in the washer!).

Although I did not encounter very many people on delivery days, those I did meet were friendly and seemed to appreciate the weekly updates provided in the newspaper. I was happy to have this task to do, as the grey days in November were providing little motivation to leave the house, other than to travel by car to the grocery store. Just the fact that I had to be out walking one day a week was enough incentive to work in at least two or three more days. Sure, I could have opted to drive up to the new community centre and use the indoor track or perhaps join the walking club that meets twice a week to walk as a group throughout the town. There is just something about being out in the winter cold and grabbing a hint of Vitamin D from the frigid air that is invigorating and makes me feel like a true Canadian. As for the walking club, I have concluded that a slow start to the day with a mug of coffee and gentle stretches is my preferred activity for the early part of the morning.

I enjoyed the transition from the fall into the Christmas season, getting a close-up look at the creative decorating many homeowners did to celebrate the season.

I met some individuals walking dogs during my route, but the dogs I worried about were those barking so furiously on the other side of a door when I approached. I wondered if they suffered concussions as they slammed their heads against the window to fend me off. I hoped they heard me say, “Easy there, doggie,” as I planted the paper and moved quickly away.

I observed the steady progression of new buildings and felt bad about the loud, daily noises the residents in the area had to endure for a couple of weeks as foundations and sewers were being installed, happy to move quickly through this and into quieter domains. I was surprised by the number of homes where mailboxes are seemingly ignored, leaving their contents to accumulate—a steadily growing lump of flyers and papers.

As winter settled in, my spouse’s words about breaking a hip would surface in my mind. He was right about that. I knew that senior falls was a serious issue. As if preordered, and just in time for the winter season, a national paper provided me with an article entitled “A senior’s resolution: no more falling down in 2019.” The author had experienced a fall. She identified several contributing factors to falls generally, and related to to seniors specifically. I read it studiously and vowed there would be no falls for me in my line of duty!

On the wet, snowy or icy days, I slowed my pace and practiced mindfulness with each step. As the article stated, some falls are the result of being preoccupied with things to do, places to go, and therefore being inattentive to the hazards beneath our feet. No more wandering of mind while I was on the streets. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and observing where the path was taking me. I purposefully lifted my feet. Who knew that younger folk lift their feet higher than those of us that are older? When does this begin to happen, I wondered.

By March, I was priding myself because of the regular walks I was taking, as well as not having any fall-related injuries. As the sun became warmer, and walkways a little more secure underfoot, I picked up my pace… at least until that early March blast of rain, then freezing cold, followed by a dump of snow. Ice hidden under snow is a major hazard. During that couple of weeks, I again slowed my pace and carefully stepped around patches of ice. Then, on one of those delivery days, with only four houses left to deliver, it happened.

A beautiful late winter’s day, sun bright and blinding on the snow. My thoughts trailed off to warmer days ahead, then… face-plant into a fluffy pile of snow that had hidden a layer of ice as I left a driveway to get back to the clean road surface.

It happened fast.

I know for sure my face was in the snow, because my glasses were caked in the stuff.

As one does after an embarrassing event, I jumped up quickly to see if anyone had observed this ungraceful forward fall. Luckily, no one around and even luckier, my spouse was on the other side of the street, a couple of houses up from me, walking the other way. Whew!

I brushed myself off, shook out my hat, wiped the snow from my glasses and continued on. The only harm done was a peg taken off of my too-extreme confidence and pride.

Now, as the snow has melted, and warmer days are definitely on the door step, I have new pleasures on my walk. The songbirds have returned, and their chatter is a welcome sound as I leave my front door.

I observe the development of greener yards and the popping up of early spring crocuses and snow drops. For the most part, spring-inspired wreaths have replaced the previous décor of winter, although a surprising number of faded Christmas greens remain on some front porches. I do not doubt that they will soon give way to brighter blooms of the season.

I continue to be mindful of my steps, even though the winter hazards are gone—beware of the uneven pavement!

 

“It’s a dangerous business…going out your door.

You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.

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