I Used To Deliver Phone Books: A Surprisingly Scary, Almost Traumatic, Completely True Experience
Gentle reader, if you'll come with me, I'd like to take you back in time.
This happened maybe fifteen years ago. I was just out of college and working here at the stations semi part time. I had just moved back to Sedalia, and I decided I'd try to find a flexible way to make a little extra money on the side. That's when I discovered phone book delivery.
Now you young people might not know this, but back in the day, there was a huge book filled with the names of people and businesses, listing their address and telephone number. Their landline telephone number. It was a telephone that plugged into the wall. Now such a thing still exists, but back then it was more essential.
So, my gig was to take phone books and deliver them to people and businesses that were on a "route" out in the county. Little did I know, this small side job would end up making me lose my car, get bitten by a dog, threatened with a shotgun, silently betrayed by a fellow employee, and literally followed for at least thirty minutes. Buckle up, folks, here we go.
My first assignment, as I said, was out in the county. Rural houses, sometimes with miles between them. But, they had phone service, and their company wanted them to have a phone book, and that's why I was getting a little more for my troubles. At first, it was pretty easy. Find an address, knock, and attempt to deliver the phone book personally. If they didn't pick up, you were instructed not to put the book in the mail box or in a newspaper box, but you were supposed to leave it at a certain corner of the door.
Some addresses were a little hard to find, because the addresses often aren't very visible on outdoor mailboxes by the road. But I was determined, I had been hired for a job and I was going to do it. Most of the first day was pretty uneventful. Most people weren't home. There was a little old lady that I talked to for a minute, but other than that, nothing. Til the last house of what I was going to cover that day (you had two or three days to complete your list). It was a very long driveway, but didn't have a gate. I drove up slowly, trying to avoid any pot holes. I hit one, but things seemed fine. I continued up to the door, and saw the house. I went up to the porch, knocked, and tried to hold up the phone book in case somebody was looking through a peephole. The door flew open, and a little old man stood there, shotgun in hand. It was not pointed directly at my face, but at me and I startled all the same.
"What are you doin here, young lady?"
"I..... have your phone book."
"Oh. Hand it here."
"Young lady, folks don't live out here for company. They live out here cos they DON'T want company. Now git."
And I got. I went to the station and did my normal afternoon shift. I decided he was just a crazy old coot. There must be a few here and there. I decided to let it go.
Next morning, I got up early to finish out my last bit of the route. I was driving a car that I had bought from my Grandmother, which I believe was a mid nineties/possibly late eighties Oldsmobile. I paid a thousand dollars for that car, and it was pretty decent as a get around vehicle. It was a little old lady car, but it was mine all mine. I started out again on the route. I got to a kind of trailer like place, well, it was two trailers, next to each other, with a kind of work area in the front. I pulled in to the driveway and saw a guy working outside. I looked at him, made eye contact, waved, and pointed to the phone book in my hand. Then I put it by the door, since he was busy, and went on my way.
I was going from house to house, just as yesterday. Most people weren't home. Soon I noticed a very large, black truck was following me. Like, right behind me. Not tailgaiting me, but far enough that I could see it. I wasn't scared at first, but I did get nervous. I continued on my route, and every time I got out of the car, the truck would hang back, wait a little, and then when I got to moving, they followed. This continued for a least a half an hour. Finally I was so scared that I was about to call the cops. I stopped the car on the side of the road and got out my phone when the truck pulled up next to me. It was the same guy from the trailer earlier.
"What are you doing out here?"
"I'm delivering phone books. I just delivered one to your house."
I even picked up a phone book from the stack next to me and held it up.
And then he drove off. After that, I calmed down and put my phone away. Then I got to thinking. Who the heck does that? Why would he do that? He literally saw me deliver a phone book to his house, and then watched me do the same thing over and over again for a half an hour. Did he really just not get it? Was seeing me do the same thing over and over again for that long just... not getting through? Or was he, like, hoping to corner me or something? It still kind of bugs me to this day. So after that, I was a little freaked out and decided to stop early. I could finish up the rest in the morning, I didn't have much left.
I get to the radio station in the old lady car, and resume my day. Then one of the sales associates at the time asked me what was wrong with my car. Something's wrong with my car? I went outside. There was a huge puddle of....liquid underneath it. Then I remembered. The pot hole on the old man's driveway. It must have punctured something and I had a leak. I had to call my Dad and we had it towed to the shop to see if it could be repaired.
But I still had a route to complete. So my Mom decided she was going to go with me, because I had told her about the weird truck guy and the old man with the gun. I could have just driven her minivan myself, but she didn't want me to be alone. So, off we went. This portion was a slightly more populated, there were about ten houses on this little road. So it was fall time, and I was wearing a loose, yarn type cardigan jacket. This is going to be important in a minute.
I got through most of the houses on the one side pretty easy. We noticed a large German Shepard that was barking at us and chasing the car a little. I didn't think much about it, I had seen a ton of dogs the past few days. He went back home. Then, we got to his house. There was no fence to the yard. I stepped out of the van, phone book in hand. I start walking up to the door when the dog literally flings itself at me and bites at my arm. Now, lucky for me, I was wearing that sweater, and the dog got his hold on the sweater, and not my arm. My mom is behind me in the minivan, blaring on the horn, and it scares the dog enough to let go. I dropped the phone book in the yard and got back in the car. F That, I thought. We went to the last house down the street, and when we came back, the dog was chained up in the yard, phone book gone. So the dog owner saw me get bit, did nothing, and then only chained up the dog when we left.
Thanks, great person who lives out in the county. You're lucky I didn't actually get hurt. My mom was ready to call the cops, animal control, the FBI, anybody and everybody.
In the end, I don't even remember if the car was salvageable, but I don't think so. So I lost a car, but I learned a valuable lesson: People who live in the country live there because they don't want company. And some people are maybe a little dense. And some people maybe are a little reckless with their animals.
But I completed my route, and I completed it on time, and I got paid. In fact I had done a good enough job that they called me again the next year to do another route. I said I would absolutely not unless it was in town. I was not going out in the county ever again. They gave me an in town route and it was just fine. I walked most of the route with my CD Walkman and it was decidedly not scary. I think I did in town routes maybe a couple more times, until they gave me a business route for a Saturday. Some of the businesses weren't open, so I called the office and asked what I should do, because most business deliveries required a signature. The girl at the counter (a very nasally, almost grating voice - very distinctive) said to leave them by the door just like anyone else. However, when I got back to turn in my route, I was chided for doing so by the supervisor. I stood there and watched the girl who I KNEW told me to do that as she sat silently letting me take the heat. I didn't say anything but I looked right at her... she wouldn't make eye contact with me. After that, I was done.
And that, fine reader, is the story of how I lost my car, got bit by a dog, threatened with a shotgun, and thrown under the bus over phone books. Learn from my experience and maybe be a little nice to the next delivery person you see. I'm sure the FedEx and UPS workers have some doozy stories.