Delivering Phone Books

Last week, I was reading a book to Sloan and Beau called Strong Man. It was a children’s biography on Charles Atlas, a bodybuilder and fitness guru who was a national celebrity during the first half of the 20th century.

Sloan holding the book “Strong Man” by Meghan McCarthy.

At one point in the story, it addressed how Atlas got his start as a strongman in the Coney Island sideshow. During his routine, he would tear phone books in half. When I read that part, Sloan stopped me with a confused look on her face and asked a question.

You can see the reference (bottom left) to phone books that made Sloan ask “the” question.

“What’s a phone book, daddy?”

Although a bit mortified at how old her question made me feel, I couldn’t hide my laughter. I explained to her what a phone book was and then I told her a personal story…

During one summer in college, I answered a classified ad in the newspaper. The gig? Delivering phone books. I reported to a warehouse in Spokane Valley where a gruff guy interviewed me for 10 minutes in a makeshift office. Convinced that I wasn’t going to hoard the phone books for myself, he hired me and assigned me a route. The guy then helped me pack every spot in my small Nissan Sentra with phone books.

For the next couple weeks, my time was consumed with delivering phone books to front porches. The pay structure was based on how many books I delivered, with each book netting me something like $.10.

Yep, not something I was going to get rich on.

I was kept honest by automated telephone calls that were placed to the households on my route. The recording would confirm that the person received a phone book. As you can imagine, this work could get strenuous. Hauling phone books in the heat through hilly neighborhoods at a dime per delivery wasn’t exactly a cushy job.

Thankfully, I didn’t do the phone book racket for too long. A road construction job I held for a couple summers started again so I said “peace out” to my phone book delivery duties after finishing my route.

But the experience did build a little character, put some money in my pocket, and provided a story that I could one day tell my children about. Little did I know how educational that story would end up being. Don’t Blink.

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