The moment I had been dreading for years had finally arrived. I felt dizzy.

It was 2 a.m., and just as I stepped onto the driveway with our dog for a middle-of-the-night potty break, a truck pulled in. It was our newspaper carrier.

My dog is small, roughly 13 pounds, and looks like a cross between an Ewok and a Gremlin. He barked, fully displaying his Napoleon complex. I was unconcerned about his barking. My thoughts were laser-focused on my attire. Pajamas or clothes? The rush of relief was electric. Clothes! (I was up late baking cinnamon rolls for my son’s birthday.)

Now to the next pressing question: the newspaper handoff.

I awkwardly indicated to toss it onto the driveway — no need to approach my “fierce” beast. We joked about dogs with tiny bladders and wished each other a good day (it was technically morning). I walked back inside, praised my dog’s bravery, sat down, and read the paper.

I didn’t make it very far. My mind drifted to the newspaper carrier. I covered twice for a friend’s paper route in high school. Two times was all I needed to know I was not cut out for it. It was brutal.


First, each customer had a preference as to where their paper was delivered. Some wanted it on the driveway, others on the porch. Secondly, newspapers, like mail, were delivered regardless of weather; I was fortunate the weather cooperated. Then there was the question of transportation. I had a 12-speed bike, something nearly impossible to balance with a heavy bag of papers. A car with a driver would be a dream, but only one person gets paid to deliver the papers. And then there are the days requiring the papers to be placed into plastic sleeves. I had to do this only if it rained, but what a pain — especially for the thick Sunday paper. For me, the papers needed to be delivered by 6 a.m. (I imagine the required times nowadays could be even earlier.) It was exhausting. And when I was done, the day was just beginning. But my work went unnoticed.

There are many people who do their work in the shadows. Products loaded, transported, delivered, and unloaded. Shelves are restocked. Classrooms and buildings cleaned. Because of this, their work is often undervalued, marginalized, and stigmatized. Nonetheless, their work is essential. In the earlier days of the pandemic, we saw how essential they are.

Now, I wouldn’t go as far as to say my column is an essential part of a Sunday morning, but I do think the newspapers are. I’ll admit I find myself reading the paper more and more digitally, and I often embed links in my own column to more information that readers would only discover if they read the digital version. Nevertheless, I still like getting a paper copy. I like flipping through it, almost always spotting something I missed in the digital version. And if I cancel my paper subscription, I also know someone will have one house fewer to visit in the morning and that weighs heavily on me.

Psychologists believe we are hardwired with the need to be appreciated. Some professions are celebrated more than others: teachers, nurses, administrative assistants, etc. But clearly, we don’t think all jobs are worthy of celebration. When was the last time you saw a Hallmark card for a newspaper carrier?

So, as I sat staring at my paper, reminiscing of my two measly days delivering newspapers, I wondered how many faceless service workers there are who go about their days never getting a “thank you.” We may bump into hotel cleaning staff, for instance, but we barely acknowledge them. We might offer a nod before checking out, but most of us don’t leave thank-you notes behind, let alone a tip.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Why would I do that? It’s their job to clean my room.” Let’s not overthink this: It isn’t the job that deserves celebration, it’s the person — especially when they do jobs most of us couldn’t hack.

If you have a paper subscription, find out how to give your carrier a tip. They deserve it. If you stay at a hotel, leave a tip behind, and write “Thank you!” on the hotel notepaper. Take a second to say hi to cleaning crew at work. I’m certain you’ll make their day.

And if your dog must go out at 2 a.m., I’ll pray you’re not in your pajamas.

Hilary Koch lives in Waterville. She can be reached at:

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