Saturday Morning Paper Route Encounter

Sometimes, when the air hits me just right, I’ve just returned from an early Saturday morning paper route—a Tears for Fears tune from my portable cassette player still running through my head. I’m sinking back under the covers with the damp coolness of the bike ride in my hair and the smell of newsprint on my hands.

It’s just such a perfect 80s moment, right?

Nothing like this moment will likely ever exist again. First and foremost because kids don’t deliver papers anymore. The news “paper” is fading and there is no Walkman. You could use a phone with earbuds, but do they still make the foam headphones like we had in the 80s? Maybe a “retro” special edition.

I’ve written about the pitfalls of nostalgia and won’t backslide despite my nostalgia for the topic. I will not allow myself to ache for this moment; it is simply a moment that I recall once in awhile if my hair is cold and I’m getting cozy under a blanket.
There is more to this Saturday morning moment. Paul (my twin) and I had had a few friends over to spend the night. It couldn’t have been a birthday because our birthday is in January and Oklahoma would have been much colder. Perhaps it was simply a middle school Friday night with nothing better to do than celebrate being middle schoolers with Commodore 64 games, pizza delivery funded by our paper route, and rented VHS movies.

When Paul and I signed up to split a route for the Norman Transcript, it was a weekday afternoon paper. But they soon added a Saturday morning—a story that stands on its own. There are several stories regarding paper throwing that I could tell, but I ‘ll start with this moment.

I’m sure we must have used an alarm clock to wake up so early on a Saturday, but I don’t think we would have used one in this case because we had not slept in our bedroom. Paul, I, and the other boys had crashed in the bedroom that was serving as a den at our little green rent house on Leslie Lane in Norman, Oklahoma. It is likely that my mother had cracked the door and said, in a low early-morning, sing-song voice, “Paul and Daaaaaaa-vid. The papers are here.”

Perhaps one or more of the boys stirred, but we climbed out of sleeping bags or blankets on couches or floors and shuffled out of the room without waking anyone.

My goal was to wake up as little as needed to deliver the papers so that I could go right back to sleep. I performed my duties with mindless routine, never fully opening my eyes. I opened the front door to find the stack of papers which been dropped off early by a nameless person in a van. I grabbed the papers and Paul met me in our bedroom with the bag of rubber bands. We dropped them on the floor, counted them out between us, and expertly rolled them as tightly as possible for optimum throwing. Then we stuffed them into our bags.

The bags were our uniforms. They were made of sturdy off-white canvas with an ample shoulder strap and the Transcript branding across the side. When I wore this, I was on the job—my first job; the only real job a 12-year-old kid could get other than mowing lawns.

By eighth grade, Paul and I had given up our dirt bikes for what we saw as more mature ten-speed bikes, but they were far less ideal for throwing papers than our dirt bikes. Although I cannot remember specifically, I have a good reason to believe I was still riding my Huffy dirt bike.

I picked up my Panasonic portable cassette player and headphones from my headboard shelf and made a quick battery check by flipping the radio switch to see if the red power button was still bright. Then I reached for a cassette, out of a shoebox under my bed; something not too stimulating, something with a subdued tone…”Songs from the Big Chair” by Tears for Fears. The reason I know that I was riding the Huffy was that Tears for Fears would not be culturally cancelled by my school along with Wham over rumors of bisexuality until my eighth-grade year.

I doubt Paul and I said a word as we slung our bags and mounted our bikes. Dawn had just broken, and we would only be riding together until we hit Wylie Road where he would turn right, and I left. I liked my route because Wylie Road southbound had a slight decline which allowed me to coast for a little while. Coasting on a bike is a little taste of flight.

By now, I knew my route by memory. I could move through this route with very little thought. Stay sleepy. Get it done and go back to sleep. I threw my south of Boyd west of Wylie Road street, Avondale, with expert aim, remembering those which had requested a porch toss.  I could hit most of them from the street, but occasionally had to pull up the drive to hit it. Then began turning up Wylie again to scoot east toward my streets off Berry—Cruce and the east end of Leslie Lane.

Living in one of the greatest college football towns in the in country in the 80s, there were legends among us, not the least of which was Brian “The Boz” Bosworth. We knew him to drive one of two vehicles, both red and both likely illegal gifts from boosters. One of them was a Honda Elite motor scooter—in retrospect, a strange thing for a linebacker to ride, but it was cool at the time. Anybody in the state and wider would recognize him for his famous “The Boz” haircut—a uber-stylish blond, flattop mullet with a very close buzz cut across the sides, sometimes with lines of colors through them—a strong precursor to the faux-hawk.

The sighting was brief. I was ascending northbound Wylie and over the top of the hill, like a dream, came The Boz, his blond hair shining in the early morning sun, silver Oakley’s covering his eyes, riding his red scooter as “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” played in my ears.

But I wasn’t going to get excited. He was one of us for now; just another Normanite on a cool morning ride. I gave him a nod, but he just kept rolling. I turned down the next street and the encounter was over, and my mind returned to laying my head down as soon as possible.

I can’t say why I took that attitude about The Boz—a national celebrity soon to become an NFL and movie star. Was it a sense of respect for his privacy? Was it a refusal to elevate someone’s status for the sake of their fame? Both values I developed at some point. Or did I simply want to keep enough of my remaining sleepiness to sneak back under a blanket with the cool in my hair and the smell of newsprint on my hands.

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