After all these years, I figured our relationship with the Denver Post was solid. Here at the ranch, we’ve been subscribers since probably the early 1950s. Then last week we received the equivalent of a “Dear John” letter from Michael A. Cowan, the Post’s assistant state circulation manager, saying, “It’s over.” (For younger readers, “Dear John” letters are a WWII thing, the letters hometown girlfriends wrote to their boyfriends in the Army, Navy or whatever, telling them they, ahem, had found somebody else.)
With the Post, we’d had a few hints along the way. First, the daily papers in their protective plastic sleeves didn’t appear in our driveway as usual. Then, sporadically, one would appear. Perhaps two days in a row. Then nothing. In time, we learned that Mary Ann, the Post’s super-reliable carrier, had quit the route. Understandable. So why wasn’t the Denver Post communicating with us?
Not only had home delivery stopped, there were no Denver Posts in town. Not in the coin boxes, not anywhere. A total breakdown. We waited for what we thought was a discreet interval – 10 days, perhaps two weeks. Then last week on Monday – Lo! A Denver Post, all fresh looking in its shiny plastic sleeve lay there in our driveway. Aha! They didn’t forget. They didn’t ignore us. These things take time to work out, we told ourselves, as I walked out to pick up this welcome friend.
And then I saw the letter inside the clear plastic. Sometimes the sleeves had been a bright orange, then a slightly florescent green. Occasionally Posts appeared with printed advertising adorning the covering. But not this time.
The letter said delivery costs were out of hand. But we had other options. How about online? Or we could subscribe via mail delivery. That’s the way our paper came for years, but that means you get both Sunday and Monday editions on Monday. How delighted we were when the Post started delivering our papers on Sundays – just like they do in the big cities. I’d grown up with the Chicago Tribune’s welcome “thump” on our broad front porch every Sunday morning, signaling the arrival of what my brother and I called “the funnies,” now known as “the comics.”
Assistant Circulation Manager Cowan’s third and fourth options said, basically, “Pick your daily paper up at Mary’s Store in Placerville.” That’s the equivalent of living in Denver and driving to Silverthorne every day to pick up your Denver Post. And we’re supposed to take this guy seriously!
I pick up the phone and dial the 800 number listed at the bottom of the letter. I go through the whole menu – “press one if,” “press two if,” etc. Now they want me to type in my street address or apartment number. I know the automatic system on the other end won’t be able to make heads or tails of my rural Western Colorado address, but I do my best.
I’m not a text messaging person so I’m pretty slow. I type: 421 County Rd. Y43. Immediately I’m switched to a real person. I go through my spiel. I’m handed over to somebody else. They’re sure we can straighten this thing out. He takes my phone number and assures me that a circulation supervisor will call me the very next day.
After several days I call back and I ask for the circulation manager. Among other things, I say that for Colorado’s leading newspaper, this is not a good performance. This guy is very sympathetic. No paper for three weeks? Shocking. I’ll credit your account, Ms. Herndon.
But in no time he calls back, crisp as dry crackers. No, our delivery is over. No, somebody else deals with the coin boxes, so he can’t answer any questions about why nobody brings any Posts to Norwood in any form. Someone will call, he says, not very friendly now, not at all.
Then that evening about dinnertime, Greg calls. He’s the Post’s southwestern Colorado circulation person. This is a financial decision he pleads. Do I know that newspapers all over the country are in dire economic straights? I do. (Among other things, I probably read it in the Denver Post.) Greg says he’s tried everything to find a new carrier for Norwood, but has had no luck. We talk a long time. We joust. He pleads for understanding. I insist that figuring out how to get a daily bundle of Denver Posts from Placerville (20-25 minutes down the canyon) to a central location in Norwood should not be an insurmountable challenge. After all, Norwood is not the moon.
Southwestern Circulation Manager Greg (we never get to the last name) agrees that if the Norwood community could come up with a person, or persons, who could be hired to make the roundtrip to Placerville each day and deliver said bundle of Denver Posts to a central location in Norwood, the Denver Post would pay this driver mileage plus “time.”
A couple of us here in Norwood are working on this idea. With the high volume of traffic up and down the San Miguel River Canyon every day, we figure we should be able to come up with a workable plan.
Along the way, we just might take a small cut out of our collective carbon footprint.