So, the doorbell rings. At 1 in the afternoon. The crack of a Saturday dawn. There's a young Asian kid with a crew cut standing outside smiling at me. He has the smug, I've-been-up-for-at-least-8-hours-and-run-5-miles-before-apparently-deciding-to-knock-at-random-people's-doors look. I, having been at the receiving end of this look before, am unfazed by it's smugness. I simply goggle at him, as my caffeine deprived brain gropes hopelessly for an explanation for his presence. After a couple of seconds of this, he decides to take matters in his own hand. He says, "I'm the newspaper delivery guy?". Recognition creeps in hesitantly. And along with recognition, bitterness and a sense of impending panic. Because behind the affable, muscle-bound, seemingly liekable exterior of this chap lurks the sole reason for one of the Banes of my Existence. The dastardly problem that has so often been used as a clincher in the arguments of informed friends that I'm certifiable. The Unfortunate Newspaper Situation, as it is called in my circles. The facts are simple. I'm an American newspaper virgin. The abundance of their news overwhelms me. I flounder in the face of all those pages. I feel suffocated. It's a complex mixture of clautrophobia, agoraphobia and the very real danger of asphyxiating to death in the morass that is the Sunday paper. I am perfectly happy without the news. As Paul would say, I can get all the news I need from the weather report. However, one fateful weekend dazed by a hangover and disoriented by the early hour, confronted by this selfsame sinisterly smiling boy with the misleadingly unassuming exterior, I blithely signed up for newspaper door delivery. I maintain that I was under the impression that it was Some Other Service that I was signing up for (I'm never at my lucidest on weekend mornings). My friends (who represent the Forces of Evil) jeer and insist that it is just one of the many symptoms of my insanity. However that might be (and we all know that Forces of Evil are never to be believed, it goes with their job description), I can't deny that I keep renewing the subscription every couple of months. I have by now come to terms with the fact that no other service is being offered. As far as I can ascertain the only contract (and I've had ample time to ascertain this in) being entered upon is that of me paying a princely sum, in return for which I get wads of newspaper every day. They invariably pile up on the mat until I can't step out of my house without drowning in a sea of print. At this point of critical mass I normally decide to liquidate them, and this typically involves 5 trips to the dumpster. I have nightmares of being newspaper-ed in and having to jump out of my balcony to get out of my house. I'm perfectly clear that I don't want the newspaper delivered at my doorstep, in fact I'd pay to make them stop. But at the crucial instant, when I ought to be shutting the door firmly on the face of my would-be delivery boy after refusing calmly, and with composure, to renew the subscription, I invariably find myself ushering him out of the house affably, lighter in the pocket, and heavier in the heart (and the doormat).
But this time, it shall not be so. I have given the matter much thought and I have a Speech Prepared, so ha! It will explain how I've enjoyed working with Newspaper Boy, how his work has made a Substantial Difference in my life and often, been the Sole Source of Exercise in my week, but People Change, and he has to Accept it and Move On. Our relationship is Over I will say. It is not him, it's me I will add fixing him with my steely gaze. My speech is a masterful blend of the polite and firm, and I've even practised saying it to one of my marginally less evil friends. Newspaper Boy can proceed to be disgusted at my lack of interest in worldly affairs till he's blue in the face. Disapproving looks will not move me from my burning deck. I will stand firm. I take a deep breath and open my mouth. "Miss, we're discontinuing the newspaper delivery service", he says. I lose the lungful of breath I had just accumulated. "Not enough customers", he explains dismally. I rally quickly, or as quickly as I can at this time of the day. "Awww, that is soo sad", I wail, giving what I feel is a convincing imitation of a grief-stricken news addict. "Yeah", he shakes his head at this bad taste displayed by the world-at-large's abstinence from building newspaper mountains at their apartment door-steps. "It was such a nice idea. And you were so good at it. I don't think you've missed even one day", I feel a manic impulse to shield the boy from the blows of constant disasppointment that is life. I think it's the guilt of intent. "Except one Thursday in December", he says mournfully, "There was a storm". "I'm going to miss seeing the news outside the door when I wake up", I continue perjuring my soul gaily. The over-whelming relief flooding through me makes me giddy. I am free. Free at last!!! "In fact I don't know what I'll do now. I might actually have to start buying them from the vending machines." I chuckle inwardly at that one, floating around eight stories up on my cloud of freedom, feelings of guilt extinguished by my exemplary and selfless (I did perjure my soul) attempts at cheering him up. "Miss, you don't have to do that. I'll just sign you up for the weekend service. We're still doing that. Don't you worry about it." He smiles in happy joy, obviously ringing this up as his good deed for the day. Crazy news-addict lady in Apt #1 made happy. Check. "Will it be cash or cheque?"" He looks at me enquiringly. It's called karma. You can't sidestep it. I float gently down from my eight floor cloud top and sign the subscription form with the lightness that comes from accepting the inevitable.