Wild weather damp­ens pa­pers, spir­its

The Covington News - - Local news -

I know we need the rain and every­one is grate­ful for the re­cent heavy rains in­clud­ing me, but the cold I’m not so sure of.

I can’t help re­mem­ber­ing my old cir­cu­la­tion days and the havoc that rain caused the car­ri­ers

There were many times when pa­pers were served when the sun was out or the stars were as clear as a sparkling brook, and as soon as they were de­liv­ered, bam, hor­rific black storm clouds would ap­pear and pour out their con­tents on every­one’s evening or morn­ing pa­per. Of course to our sub­scribers, God had noth­ing to with that; it was al­ways the car­ri­ers’ fault.

Once, in Cal­i­for­nia af­ter my car­ri­ers had de­liv­ered 30,000 weekly news­pa­pers without bags, a tor­ren­tial rain storm hit, which caused me to have to print 30,000 more pa­pers and de­liver them the next day. Some of the calls I got were in the typ­i­cal Cal­i­for­nia laid back fash­ion. One lady was up­set be­cause she had noth­ing to put in her bird cage, an­other told me that he was con­cerned be­cause his puppy had no place to re­lieve him­self. An­other told me she was glad to get a break from my tirades. One lady said she hung hers on the clothes­line. They came in all day in sim­i­lar fash­ion. From that point on, never did I have pa­pers de­liv­ered without bags. I told my car­ri­ers that if even peo­ple were sun­bathing be­side the road to still put bags on the pa­pers. Think­ing about those days brought to mind a par­tic­u­larly bad weather oc­ca­sion in, of all places, North Carolina. I hope you en­joy.

I spent 18 years of my long, il­lus­tri­ous news­pa­per ca­reer in cir­cu­la­tion. Dur­ing that pe­riod of time, I hated any weather ex­cept weather fea­tur­ing sunny, clear days and starry nights.

In the South, there’s never a guar­an­tee of good cir­cu­la­tion weather be­cause at 1 p.m. you could be looking at bright blue skies, 80-de­gree tem­per­a­tures and white fluffy clouds, and at 3 p.m. there could be a rain storm drop­ping 2 inches of rain in 15 min­utes.

Then af­ter the storm, it would be clear skies and 80 de­grees with hu­mid­ity so high you could swim home.

In the mean­time, half the af­ter­noon dis­tri­bu­tion would be com­pletely wet.

It wasn’t the car­ri­ers’ fault, or ours, and surely I don’t want to blame God.

I would re­ceive some of the nas­ti­est calls dur­ing those times, es­pe­cially from some of our “ma­ture” folks telling me how rot­ten the car­rier was, how stupid I was and that the pa­per it­self wasn’t worth squat. I al­ways took that in stride be­cause at least it proved that folks needed and de­pended on their daily pa­per.

I re­mem­ber one time in El­iz­a­beth City, N.C., it snowed more than 40 inches in two days. Since it rarely ever snowed in north­east­ern North Carolina, there was only one snow plow in the area and it had to cover nine coun­ties; it took about a week to make roads pass­able.

We ac­tu­ally printed the pa­per ev­ery day, and to this day I still don’t know why, but I tried with my trusty crew of one to at least serve pa­pers in the city, with no hope to de­liver pa­pers to the ru­ral ar­eas.

We loaded up the com­pany truck with news­pa­per rolls for weight, and each day we served a lit­tle more of the pa­pers around the city.

To tell you the truth, I was quite proud of my­self, be­cause the U.S. mail did not de­liver for about six days.

About the fourth day of my great ef­fort I re­ceived a phone call at the of­fice. I an­swered with great en­thu­si­asm, “T. Pat Ca­vanaugh, cir­cu­la­tion man­ager. I hope you are hav­ing a great day.”

There was a pause and an el­derly lady said, “Hell no, I am not hav­ing a good day, and I don’t ap­pre­ci­ate you try­ing to make me have one. Do you have that straight?”

As my bub­ble burst, I an­swered meekly, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Now, are you the lit­tle fat boy I see in the pa­per who is al­ways do­ing some­thing with the Jaycees?”

“Yes ma’am, I am,” I said. “But I’m not quite that fat. You know how pic­tures make you look a lit­tle chunkier.”

“Well,” she said, “maybe if you spent less time with the Jaycees and more time do­ing your job, you would not only be not so ‘chunky,’ but I would have a pa­per right now.”

Hu­mil­ity is a hard pill to swal­low. But, she had a point.

I ac­tu­ally had to walk about five blocks through snow­drifts to find her house; I asked her why if she hadn’t got her mail or got­ten out of the house her­self that she thought she was en­ti­tled to get her pa­per. She told me that the pa­per had been her rock for 50 years and when she couldn’t get it, it was like not be­ing able to see a child. Wow, all of a sud­den, I re­mem­bered why I also loved the news­pa­per busi­ness. Be­cause a news­pa­per, to me, was al­ways like a liv­ing, breath­ing per­son. I ac­tu­ally had a lit­tle tear.

Later, she ac­tu­ally be­came a good friend who al­ways gave me good ad­vice, and boy could she fix the best col­lards and ham. I made sure she got a pa­per ev­ery day from that point on, rain or shine, and it was never wet be­cause it was de­liv­ered di­rectly to her kitchen.

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