August 31, 1970
After an exhilarating first day with my kindergarteners, I was unprepared for what I found when I walked into the apartment. Nate was on the phone in a highly stressed conversation. The discussion was heated, and I couldn’t figure out who might be on the line with him.
He nodded at me when I came in, but his expression of anger didn’t change. As I put my things down, he said, “But you can’t do that! It just isn’t fair!” I knew he must be talking to someone connected with his paper route, probably a disgruntled, non-paying customer.
Since the very beginning Nate had received several phone calls a day, each with a complaint. “My paper was damp.” Or, “My paper fell from the delivery tube.” Or, “Why can’t you deliver the paper to my porch?”
The complaints never stopped, but worse than that, after many weeks of faithful, timely deliveries, Nate had earned precious little money.
As he continued on the phone, I walked up behind him and put my arms around his waist – always magical for us both. But today it didn’t work. As the conversation ended, he banged down the phone and turned around.
“A customer?” I said, stepping back.
Once again Nate was behind in paying the Courier office for his newspapers since so many customers didn’t pay him. The money from paid accounts went toward our bills, but that meant falling behind with the office. And this time his boss made a threat.
I wasn’t sure what that meant, but whatever it was, it made Nate furious. “If they pull a stunt like that,” he said, “it could prevent me from joining the Bar Association or something worse, down the road.”
It was shocking to hear they had that kind of power over him when nothing his boss had promised about the job had come to be. “I just want to quit,” he said, his shoulders slumping in defeat.
He told me he’d tried to give blood again for the $25, but the clinic had turned him down, saying they had a full supply at the moment. That meant I couldn’t give either.
As we talked we focused on the question of quitting and decided to wait a day or two before deciding. That night I wrote about it in my journal:
I don’t know whether to encourage and urge enthusiasm to forge ahead, or to sympathize and urge to quit and “not think about it.” I wonder about all of this.
Nate didn’t eat much dinner and was up and down all night stressing about how to end the nightmare. Watching him suffer convinced me he should give notice and quit – though we’d still have to find a way to pay the $170.
“My inward parts are in turmoil and never still; days of affliction come to meet me.” (Job 30:27)