It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...


Hooray, hooray, it's the second of May! I don't have to see that stupid goddamn song lyric everywhere I look for another whole yearrrr...ay!

Well, it had to rhyme somehow.

Say, how do you get your Free Boston Newspaper when you get one? Do you take one from the stand, or do you avail yourself of the services of a conveniently-placed newspaper-giver-outer? I usually go and get one from a friendly newspaper-giver-outer at the T stop before I go to work. But now in South Station, I have to run the Gauntlet Of Other Newspaper Giver-Outers. If I were to graciously take a copy from everyone I run into, I'd have a stack of papers of my own... which I'd probably then stop and try to give away for free. There used to be one or two hawkers; now I'm dodging newspaper giver-outers by the hogshead.

See, time was when I saw two, maybe three newspaper-givin' people out there during my Red Line commute from Davis to South Station. The first one was a Portuguese gentleman in the Davis T stop, handing out copies of the Metro. He was a very nice fella. Then he was accompanied by an older guy who loved hollering "MET-ro pay-PAH!" and was always very friendly and wished everybody a good morning. I don't even think he was an actual Metro employee; he looked old enough to be living in nearby Ciampa Manor and who just loved hanging out in the morning playing paperboy and chatting with the nice people went by. Sometimes I felt conflicted as I liked both fellows and felt bad if I took the paper from one guy and didn't from the other.

Then there was the cool black lady in South Station who had a lovely sing-song cadence: "Free MET-ro, good MOR-ning!" She made a point to say hi to all the kids who happened to be going by with their parents, and said "Good morning, Sista!" to every other black woman she saw. While I fit in neither category, I thought it was kind of neat, but wondered if any of the women ever felt uncomforable by the greeting.

Then one day they disappeared. And I saw that the Metro was hiring paper giver-outers. Did they cut everybody and re-hired anew to save money on raises or something? The new people were shaky, nervous, and the turnover is swift. Davis Square has seen quite a few since just January. There's been a new woman at South Station for a while and she started out real nervous, but I've noticed over time how she's became friends with the older woman who sells the Herald by the ramp to the escalators. One presumes that has picked up a few pointers from the Herald lady as she now sounds a bit more, well, professional as a paper-hawker.

Then along came BostonNOW, the brand-new revolutionary newspaper that's indentured servant blogger-driven and what uses absolutely no sensationalism whatsoever to push copies (an empty playground swing with the headline ARE CHILD PREDATORS IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? A picture of an Evil Man in a Ski Mask using a Laptop and the headline DATA CROOKS WANT TO STEAL YOUR IDENTITY! They're the Channel 7 of newspapers.) BOstonNOW!!1 saw that the Metro was employing people to give out free papers, so they decided to bring their own on the scene. Metro retaliated by putting even more paper giver-outers in the busier T stops. And none of them know from hawking papers, but they're everywhere.

At South Station they're on the subway station concourse, they're outside on the train platforms, near the Atlantic Ave crosswalk, along the length of Summer Street near where the car service folks hang out. THEY'RE EVERYWHERE. Maybe BostonNOW(TheRestOfYouSchlubsLATER) could run a scary picture on their front page of people in brightly colored vests with stacks of newspapers. DAILY ACCOSTING! the headline could screen. WILL YOU BE NEXT?! ARE YOUR CHILDREN, ON THEIR WAY TO THE CHILDREN'S MUSEUM, SAFE? For the luvva Pete, someone bring Hank Phillipi Ryan in on the case!

There's the newsboy stereotype, you know, EXTRY EXTRY READ ALL ABOUT IT, ELIOT NESS CONFRONTS AL CAPONE'S GOONS IN AN ALL-OUT SHOOT-OUT! The one thing they had going for them, besides using the word "EXTRY" and phrases like "Aw, nuts to yer old man!" when someone gave 'em a wooden nickel, was their exuberance and enthusiasm. They proclaimed they had papers, there was something great to read in the papers, and maybe you should think about getting a paper.

This new breed of paper giver-outers has no such exuberance. While their job is dependent on fulfilling a quota of Papers Given Out, they don't treat the product as newspapers. They treat it as Yet Another Handout That Most People Won't Take -- or, worse yet, treat it as some form of mendicant's job.

"Metro paper?" one asks, dully hopefully, sticking a newspaper out half-heartedly. "BostonNOW? Newest paper in town?" the other asks, as if he is unsure himself of what he's hawking. All repeatedly in the same tone as, say, "Any spare change? Spare change? Spare change?" And when two rival newspaper giver-outers are near each other, they try their best to outquestion the other. See, the Metro's whole reason for employing newspaper giver-outers in the first place was to add to their newspaper the Personal Experience, a friendly face attached to the newspaper brand that you see every morning, with whom you exchange wishes for a good day as you rush by to your train. That personal experience is completely diminished if you have to dodge a chorus line of sullen hawkers who can't remove that question mark from their pitches, and thus keep a copy of your paper firmly in hand as you run by them so they don't try to single you out for a half-hearted offer.

Even the Herald has been getting into the act at South Station, giving away in the afternoon the copies they couldn't sell for four bits in the morning. I hear the Glob practices this as well elsewhere in town, but South Station, boy howdy that's Herald territory. And their hawkers at least know the ropes. "FREE HERALD!" one guy on Summer Street routinely bellows, which of course prompts me to really want to reply with the ol' chestnut "RIGHT ON! HE DIDN'T DO NOTHING!" But so far, I've resisted temptation. I mean, I bet he hasn't heard THAT one in two, maybe three hours.
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