From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR
Paperboy celebrates a golden anniversary of sorts today with this No. Half-a-Hundred installment of Ask the Paperboy, a Q&A effort meant to educate, inform and inspire. It has seldom accomplished any of those intended purposes.
But if nothing else during all our years together, Paperboy has served as proof to you that falling on your face is still, in our book, moving forward.
Paperboy likes to think of himself as a cautiously aggressive optimist or, at worst and probably closer to the truth, a pessimist with a decent attitude.
Not sure of the initial question because the hard copy of the inaugural “Ask the Paperboy, Chapter 1” has been eaten by time and moths. I think I have it in the attic, I’m just scared to go look. Regardless, that was circa 1991. It was a different world back then, a Tweetless, Instagramless, Facebookless and Miley Cyrusless world, a world where Paperboy could slip off and go to the bathroom and only he, for whatever triumph or disappointment might have happened there, would know about it.
So although those first Paperboys are at present at-large – and I really do need to find them because a book of Paperboys would serve future generations – I am almost sure that the column was inspired by Shine Broussard, a loyal and inquisitive friend who hasn’t seen the ball since his life kicked off. Still, now and then his observations of this world in which we stumble though set Paperboy aback.
“What is the difference,” he asked one day, “between a sandwich and a sammich? Is there one? Gotta be.”
If I can remember the moment just right, I had to lean up against something. The beauty in the simplicity of that complicated query hung me up. I wanted to know too. And that’s when I started asking Paperboy.
As I figured, Paperboy – because he knows a whole lot of things about a whole lot of stuff, none of it important -- had thought this out a long, long time ago. He answered with about the same difficulty you’d have singing “Happy Birthday to You.”
“A sandwich,” Paperboy said, “is something your momma makes you and serves you on a plate, porcelain or stoneware, and it’s cut just right and no mayonnaise is coming down the side. A sammich is something you grab out of a box on lunch break and eat while leaning against a tree, or it’s something you pull out of a Ziplock in your pocket and eat quick while your rifle’s on safety and you’re IN a tree. Most of us guys have made hundreds of sammiches; few of us have made even one sandwich.”
How can you deny the general reading public information like that? You can’t, not and sleep well at night.
So since then, we’ve tried to answer all questions posed. Maybe we missed on one or two, but I doubt it. Remember, Paperboy has more useless information in his little finger than the entire U.S. tax code has in its entire body, if it had one.
We’ve answered holiday questions: “Why is it called Labor Day when no one much works, unless you count grilling and drinking as labor?”, and “What’s a yule?”
We’ve answered grammar questions, from “What’s an Oxford comma?” to “What’s a colon?”, and physiology questions, from “What’s his endocrine system got that mine ain’t got!?”, to “What’s a colon?”
Music questions: “Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop?” Athletic questions: “Why isn’t Shoeless Joe eligible for the Hall of Fame now since his ban was a lifetime ban and he’s dead now?” Food questions: “Why is pie round and cornbread square?” Questions from the Animal Kingdom: “If you see a turtle outside his shell, is he homeless or nekkid?”
And more personal questions than we care to remember, like “Why does my wife always say it’s my fault?” And of course the answer was that your wife didn’t say it was your fault; she simply said she was blaming you. There’s a difference. Subtle. But key.
And so, as a matter of public service, Paperboy will keep his head on a swivel and soldier on. Send me your questions and I’ll pass them along. He’s the man with answers for everyone who answers to no one – except maybe to Papergirl. Even a Paperboy’s got to know his limitations.