Ed was sitting at the breakfast table when he heard rumbling and clanging outside. Suddenly, he recognized the sound. It was the noise of a row of grocery carts being run together. He jumped up and went out on the balcony. Looking down he could see a grizzled old man (maybe his own age) with a pick-up truck and trailer. The man, who sported a scruffy beard, an old lumberjack shirt, and ratty jeans, was pushing the carts up on the trailer.
Ed was not happy. He had to deliver flyers that day, and he would need a cart. It crossed his mind to run downstairs and try to wrest a buggy away from the old guy before he got them all in the trailer. But by then his breakfast would be cold. Thinking about it, he remembered a spot at one of the other apartments where he could probably find a cart.
Ed tried to figure out the grocery cart guy’s racket. Maybe he was retired, and was doing this for extra money. Or it could be his full-time job. Although the pick-up and the trailer were starting to look beat up, they were good brands. That kind of trailer started at $1500 and the truck would be maybe $30,000. Ed didn’t feel sorry for him.
Back at the breakfast table, Ed reflected on his own situation. He had been laid off for nearly half a year now, and had about six weeks unemployment benefits left. At age 62, he was a pariah to employers. His plant, Universal Tool and Die, was closed now, and it had been the last tool-making factory in the city. Short of starting to learn a whole new line of work, there was little he could do.
That was why, back in the early summer, he had followed up on a newspaper ad for someone to deliver papers to an apartment downtown. There were 120 customers in a single building. Ed figured that he could do the building in less than 90 minutes. So it might be worth it, especially if he could combine it with another route nearby. Besides, 120 papers… 6 times a week… that must produce some income. But probably not enough to interfere with his benefits.
When he phoned the office, however, that particular route was taken; but the lady assured him that there were many more. Right in his own area he could deliver flyers to 40 homes twice a week. Ed hesitated. Obviously, there wouldn’t be much money involved, but it might be good to get his foot in the door. After all, no one was hot-footing up to his apartment to give him a job.
Ed finished his breakfast hastily. He would have to move quickly now and find a cart. That would mean extra time this morning. It had been quite a shock when his first monthly paycheck came in at $30. Doing the math, he realized that he was getting something like 66 cents an hour gross pay. When he had to run around to fetch a grocery cart, it meant that he was being paid even less.