The rain this past week certainly has been a blessing, as a good rain always is, but for circulation newspaper people, inclement weather has always been one big pain in the rear.
I’ve spent 18 years of my long, illustrious career in circulation. During that period of time, I hated any kind of weather that didn’t feature sunny clear days and starry nights.
The truth of the matter is that I still do.
In the south, there wasn’t ever a guarantee of such nice weather. For many years, there were in fact afternoon newspapers, delivered at 1 p.m. As you began to deliver your paper route, you could be looking at bright blue skies and 80-degree temperatures and white fluffy clouds, and at 3 p.m., there could be a rain storm that dropped two inches of rain in a matter of 15 minutes.
Then it would be clear skies and 80 degrees with humidity of about 500 degrees.
In the meantime, half the afternoon distribution would be completely wet. It wasn’t the carrier’s fault, or ours, and I don’t want to blame God for sure.
Since those days, the industry has given up serving newspapers without properly bagging each one, and for that matter, the industry has given up on afternoon newspapers.
I would receive some of the nastiest calls during those times of turbulent weather changes, especially from some very mature folks who I am sure had their Bible on their lap as they were telling me how rotten the carrier was, how inept I was, and that the paper itself wasn’t worth squat.
I remember one time in Elizabeth City, N.C., it snowed more than 40 inches in two days. Since 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. 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 get 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 get out for about six days.
About the fourth day of my great effort, I was at the office and received a phone call. I answered with great enthusiasm, “T. Pat Cavanaugh, Circulation Manager. I hope you are having a great day.”
There was a pause and this 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,’ I would have a paper right now.”
Humility is a hard pill to swallow, but I found that lady’s house. I actually had to walk about five blocks through snowdrifts to find her.
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 kitchen delivered.
Now here is a promise: if one of you ever gets a wet paper and you can cook a great pot of collard greens and ham, call me. I will personally deliver your paper every week, around lunch time and right to your kitchen table.
T. Pat Cavanaugh is the publisher of The News. You can reach him at 770-787-6397 or firstname.lastname@example.org.