Would a dribbling rottweiler remove three of my fingers? | Steve Canavan

A work colleague of mine once told me he has one rule in life which is, when asked a direct question, never to answer it but to deflect it.

Saturday, 15th February 2020, 12:00 am
Updated Saturday, 15th February 2020, 12:00 am
Beware what's lurking on the other side of the letterbox. Picture: Pixabay/Getty

If someone asks if he is free later, for example, he wouldn’t reply yes or no but would say something neutral like, ‘it’s a bit tricky – why?’ He could then find out what it is they wanted before deciding whether to agree or not.

Crafty, and something I recalled with regret the other day when I got a call from a friend of mine who has started a new business and to promote it has had a load of leaflets printed.

I didn't know this when he phoned and said: ‘Steve, are you doing anything tonight?’

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Imagining he was about to suggest heading to a pub to enjoy a pint and a chat about the relative merits of Chopin and Brahms (or, more likely, which three teams are most likely get relegated from the Premier League), I replied, ‘no, I’m free this evening’.

‘Good,’ he said. ‘I've got 1,000 leaflets to deliver and I need someone to give me a hand.’ By that point, of course, I had given away I had nothing on and couldn't get out of it.

Thus it meant that last Friday when I could have been slumped in front of the television I was wandering the streets pushing little bits of paper through the doors of strangers. But here's the thing. I really enjoyed it.

It took me back to the days when as a kid I did a paper-round and would spend hours trekking the streets, sticking the local weekly through letterboxes.

For this – about five hours labour, not to mention the possibility of a lifelong serious back complaint – I was paid £1.60. Our newsagent owned a BMW convertible and to this day I’m convinced he bought it using the money he saved not paying his paperboys properly.

I always enjoyed delivering papers, from getting that lovely dirty newsprint all over your hands to never quite knowing, in that moment when you popped a paper through a door, whether a salivating rottweiler was about to remove three of your fingers.

There was one house in a cul-de-sac which gained notoriety for containing a dog that was, I swear, about the size of a horse and had the loudest growl I have ever heard (with the exception of the moment Mrs Canavan gets in from work and realises I've spent my day off playing guitar instead of decorating the lounge, as promised sometime circa 2009).

There was a sign on the door which read: 'Warning – when delivering letters, do not put fingers through letterbox'.

The first time I delivered my paper I didn’t take much notice of this sign, assuming it was a pathetic and slightly dramatic ploy to scare away wannabe burglars. I was mistaken.

Before I’d even begun to so much as reach for the letterbox, something inside the property began snorting and headbutting the door like a frenzied bull dismembering a matador.

I tentatively edged my rolled-up newspaper toward the letterbox before, a nanosecond later, the howling beast inside ripped it from my hands. I can only imagine the owner of the house returns home every day to find bits of the butchered paper strewn around their hall.

The other part of being a paperboy I liked was the week before Christmas – the only time in the year you were permitted to knock on the door and hand the paper to the homeowner in the hope they would hand over a tip for your wonderful service.

In reality about 15 out of 500 folk gave you a few measly coppers – the rest clearly thought a paperboy didn’t deserve a tip and simply took the paper out of my hands with a curt ‘thanks’, then slammed the door in my face.

I got the last laugh, however, by accidentally knocking the wing mirror off their car as I walked back down the drive.