In high school, as middle class suburban kids, we had it pretty easy much of the time. We went to school, hung out with friends, did homework, went to the lake, watched TV and on occasion tried to make a little cash. I watched most of the old popular reruns, my personal favorite was Looney Tunes. My buddy Josh was a huge Dukes of Hazard fan. It was his favorite TV show by far. The first job I tried was lumberjacking on the family farm. Josh chose a paper route. Both are tough gigs but what possessed him to want to get up at 4AM on a weekend and rush around delivering huge piles of newspapers as a high school student….I’ll never know. Somehow his recruitment efforts were successful for the first run so I was onboard. His plan was to take his parents’ suburban to handle the route. So, one Saturday night our sophomore year I spent the night at his house so we could get an early start the next morning. This was in the days before the term “Sport Utility Vehicle” existed. The mid-80’s models were still built on truck chassis, so driving these boats was just like the 70’s model heavy half pickup that I borrowed from my dad on occasion, and they were just as tough.
4AM came early and I reluctantly roll out of bed, tired and hungry. Normally, Josh’s mom would have had breakfast ready at this point in our day but at 4AM…no such luck. So instead he fires up the suburban as I wearily survey the scene. I thought it strange that he had removed the back seats which had to me physically removed from the vehicle. As soon as we leave the house, it becomes clear that we we’re going to have to stop for road food, but we have to pick up the papers first. We arrive at the Tyler Morning Telegraph within a half hour and as they load us up, my eyes get wider and wider at each incoming load. By the time they finish, my jaw is agape and the suburban is stacked front to back about 2/3 of the way to the top. This is the Sunday edition laden with ad circulars and comics. At 16 years old, we don’t exactly have a seasoned work ethic or attention to detail so, naturally we get a little behind. The first problem is the road food. We hadn’t planned ahead to bring snacks from home. Josh seconds my motion to stop off and fuel up (I’m craving some blueberry muffins and a Dr. Pepper). As I pop open the package we get back onto the road and checked the route. Here’s the next logistics problem. We failed to go over the plan in advance and with less than a year of driving experience, don’t know the city roads well. Checking the clock, Josh gets nervous because if we don’t deliver all of the papers by the deadline, the customers don’t have to pay the bill and he gets docked or maybe even fired. Since we’re behind schedule, he’s driving like a bat out of hell. I’m not feelin’ the rush so I’m like, “dude, you don’t have to speed, the papers aren’t going anywhere”. Not only does he ignore my advise, but he decides to gamble on a shortcut. We just happen to be near my neighborhood which he kind of knows so, it looks like a good opportunity to shave off a few minutes. We turn onto a road that passes right by my house. It’s a steep downhill from Shiloh Rd (a major thoroughfare) into the residential area. At the bottom of the darkened hill is a two way stop (for some reason, this intersection was built with huge dips on each side). Because of the lack of visibility, I’m shocked to find that as we roll down the hill towards the intersection, Josh isn’t letting off the gas. Disturbed by this, I’m like, “dude, you need to slow down”. Yet again, he doesn’t listen. I repeat my warning as I remember the giant dip at the bottom and the stop sign which gives right of way to crossing traffic. “Hey man, slow down”, I project with a sense of urgency through a mouthful of blueberry muffin. In a 4,000 pound vehicle filled with another couple thousand pounds of newspapers, we’re barreling towards the stop sign like a runaway freight train towards a “bridge out” sign. This is the point at which I started to get freaked out and in a panic belt out my demand to “Slow the F*!% down. With the bag of muffins in one hand and the other reaching swiftly for the “Oh S*!%” handle above the window, I yelled, “DUDE!…there’s a DIIIIIIIPP!!!”. Before he can react, we slam into the crossroad, which at 40mph is like a giant speed bump. We simultaneously yell, “AHHHHHH…..”The front suspension gives way so much that the front of the truck frame pummels the pavement as we skid through the intersection, sparks flying. The suspension rebounds as we cross the midpoint of the road which sends us and the several hundred copies of the Sunday telegraph flying into the air, all four wheels off the ground. As we continue our cry “…HHHHHHHHHH…” In mid-air, I swear I can almost hear the musical horn of the general lee and smell swiss steak simmering in the kitchen, (which my mom used to cook often with mashed potatoes & gravy while I watched reruns on cable). Bottoming out a 6,000 lb vehicle is a violent collision so the newspapers launch upwards into the roof while my precious blueberry muffins fly out of the bag that I still grasp in my left hand. Papers are falling into our laps while the muffins are bouncing off my face, the dashboard, windshield and everything else. As we come down on the other side of the intersection, by some miracle, Josh regains control of the faux chrome trimmed, two-tone, three ton beast as we coast to the next stop sign, me in an adrenaline laced stupor and him with an idiot grin on his face. We come to a stop at the next block, look at each other and he says in laughter, “Whoa….that was Bad Ass!” I say in anger…”Dude…not cool. I lost my muffins”.
It was true. Sadly, every last one of my gluten rich mini muffins had landed in the floorboard and there was no time to refill. So we spent the next several hours delivering massive stacks of newspapers to random locations on an empty stomach.