Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pedro the Paperboy delivers the news, 1/4/06

Tried to sleep in this morning, but was woken up by a pounding on my window. Something thudded up against the glass, slid down, and momentarily later, thudded again. Thud ... thud ... thud ... almost sounded like a giant slowly pounding on the gates to hell.

I resisted for as long as I could, hoping he'd go away, but no, the noise persisted, so I opened my window, and just as I thought, Pedro, my paperboy, was picking up my plastic-wrapped newspaper, readying to toss it again. "All right, Pedro! I'm awake," I shout down to him.

"Well, then, open up! I could use some coffee," he announces. My house is the last delivery for Pedro, a youngish-looking 40-year-old delivery guy from Mexico. Sometimes, when the deliveries go smoothly, he has some time at the end of his morning route to stop in for a cup of coffee and discuss the news. It's funny almost, on those days, he walks noisily into my apartment, scaring my cat, having already read both the Tribune and Sun-Times. I don't know when he gets a chance to read. Unlike the stereotypical paperboy of yesteryear that was a young kid pushing a cart and tossing newspapers onto people's garage roofs, Pedro is from the current batch of delivery guys who drive their beat-up old cars and vans, often throwing newspaper out the window as the vehicle idles along the quiet streets at 4 a.m. Pedro delivers the Chicago papers to more than a thousand homes in a couple of hours every morning.

"What's the matter? You sick?" Pedro asks, taking a cup of black coffee and spreading out at the kitchen table.

Nah ... just thought I'd sleep in today.

"Well, I've got a couple of minutes before my shift at the restaurant. Wanna hear what's new?" Pedro has three low-paying jobs, working about 18 hours a day to support his family. Obviously, I make more than he does, so I don't mind him drinking my organic, fair trade Mexican coffee, even though he prefers the instant.

OK, Pedro "I Read Your Newspaper So You Don't Have To" the Paperboy, what's going on in the world?

He starts off, "Here's what matters ...

Story 1: Bye-bye winter?
"It says here," Pedro said, flipping through the newspaper (my newspaper), "that spring-like temperatures that had some in Illinois reaching for golf clubs instead of snow shovels as they greeted 2006 will dip later this week, but the worst of winter's freeze may already be over, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. Above-normal temperatures are forecast through March, making a repeat of the frigid blast that ushered in December unlikely.

"There's this club in McHenry County where rich people jump on their skis. They're afraid that their Jan. 15 tournament might be cancelled for the first time in 100 years if it doesn't get colder."

Why It's Important
I wonder if this story is important because it points to the problem of global warming. I ask Pedro, "Do these extreme weather shifts prove that the environment is out of whack?"

"C'mon, man, nobody cares about that. I gotta deliver the paper in my Grand Am every morning. Warmer temperatures mean I don't have to worry about driving through the snow."

What about winter? What's happening to winter and the polar ice caps and all that?

"Hey, you wanna know what I think about the cold? My coffee's getting cold. Warm it up, OK?"

Story 2: Ryan going down
"So, George Ryan's trial started up again yesterday after an eleven-day holiday break, and this one guy who's testifying under immunity from prosecution got up there and said that when he worked in the Illinois secretary of state's office, he pretty much worked on the governor's campaign. He did such a good job that he even got a promotion, and now he's snitching on Ryan.

"Some other guy said that when he told the governor about corruption, Ryan said, 'Fuck you, Jack. These are my guys.' I'd like to say that to some people, but I can't."

Why It's Important
I didn't realize Pedro was keeping up with the trial, so I ask him if he thinks Ryan will testify in his own defense.

"Are you kidding me? The only reason I mentioned this story is because of the break they all got. The judge, the lawyers, even the jury got 11 days off. You know how much time off Pedro got for the holidays this year? Zero days! You want your damn paper every day, even on Christmas. If I deliver it OK, no problem, but if it's five minutes late or something, you get on that phone and call the newspaper. You know I get docked for every call they get?"

Story 3: Illinois Gaming Board wants to see some ID
"The Gaming Board is thinking about preventing compulsive gamblers from entering casinos by asking for a driver's license. In the meantime, towns across the state want the last casino license. The Waukeegan mayor said his town 'is suffering and in dire need of a major economic boost.'"

Why It's Important
"What I don't understand," Pedro says, "is how having people gamble away all their money is good for the local economy. Maybe my English isn't too good so just don't understand these things, but if you say immoral things like gambling are OK, why not legalize drugs and prostitution too?"

I try to explain, try to tell Pedro that an innocent industry such as Mob-controlled "gaming" is actually a healthy release for people and that problem gamblers can always put themselves on the list and be stopped from blowing all their money. But Pedro's not having any of it, and dashes off to buy some lottery tickets before heading to his next job.


Anonymous The Mom said...

You are unbelievable!! I think I should mention that I nominated your blog for some award. If you hear from somebody about something like this, don't freak, ok?

3:01 PM  
Anonymous jenska said...

You know, at first I thought this was made up. Then I thought it was true! Then I felt like a nimrod. Excellent storytelling, as usual. I see a coffeetable book frm The Daley Show in your future.

10:38 PM  
Blogger ap said...

Thanks to both of you! (Personally, I have no idea if Pedro is real or just part of a dream.)

8:13 AM  

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