As a parent of a 2-year-old, I’m used to early wake-ups. My son and I have a routine every morning – I drink my coffee, he drinks his water, he has his yogurt, I eat my cereal. We play together, sing together and wait. Sometime around 7 o’clock the dog will bark, lights will flash through the windows, and there will be a clink at our screen door.
“Newspaper,” we’ll both say joyfully together. When we open the door, there it will be, The Buffalo News, wrapped in an orange bag, and ready to inform us of current events.
While I don’t like to brag, our newspaper deliveryman is the best in all of Buffalo and maybe the whole world. His name is Nathaniel and he does not just deliver the newspaper, he brings it personally to our door.
I watch him as I’m walking the dog – my 2-year-old on my back in a carrier – backing carefully up into the driveway of every subscriber. Sometimes darting on foot with a few bags in hand, always quiet, always respectful of those who still may be asleep.
Nathaniel has a whole routine, having memorized every stop along the way and calculated the most efficient way to get the job done. I admire his professionalism. It can’t be easy to wake up so early every morning, stuff the bags when they are delivered to him and then spend hours bringing the papers door to door. But he always has a smile on his face.
I see his work through the eyes of my three children, all of whom have had a chance to wave with their toddler hands as Nathaniel backs out of the driveway, or to accept a newspaper from him if he’s still at the front door.
While he is not part of our family, Nathaniel has been an important part of our lives since we arrived in Buffalo seven years ago. In a way, he was one of the first to really show us what this city is all about – hard work, perseverance and dedication.
There have been days so cold that school had to be canceled, and still the paper is right at our door, right on time. He’s there when it snows. He’s there when it rains. In fact, on those rare occasions when he hasn’t come, we notice. I worry whether he’s sick or his car has broken down.
And I dread when he goes on vacation. The other carriers are just not the same, dismissing the paper on the driveway, a casualty of a hasty schedule.
As newspaper readership has shrunk over the years, the newspaper deliverymen and women are part of a forgotten force that one day will be replaced by smartphones and wireless providers. But I can tell you right now it will not be the same. How can a digital link really replace the feel of an actual newspaper, printed a few hours before and somehow in your house ready to read?
I come from a family of newspaper junkies. One of my earliest childhood memories is fighting over the comics with my younger sisters. My dad and mom read the front page, I got the sports page and everyone fought over the comics. Having a physical paper, delivered by hand, made mornings fun and helped take the edge off of the early morning blues.
So, to dear Nathaniel, my family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Years from now I can confer with my children about your impact on their lives. I know you have made a difference in mine.