Saturday, January 07, 2017

Circumstantial Evidence

It might not have been the first snow of the season, but it was the first that had fallen overnight. And it wasn't much to speak of, just a gentle coating of white, enough to create a continuous canvas covering every surface. You could see where the squirrels were jumping around, where the deer were foraging for food and well, where someone drove across the lawn.

The tracks plainly went down our neighbor's driveway to the bottom, then did a K-turn as the car reversed. They then headed about halfway back up. There, between their driveway and ours, there's a little break in the woods, a spot where the trees stop on one side and bushes on the other. The tracks clearly proceeded through the gap, onto our driveway and to the bottom. There they did a similar K-turn and headed back to the top. Alphabetically speaking, rather than each having a well traced "I" we had an "H" between us.

This being seven in the morning there weren't a whole lot of explanations save one. Both homes get The New York Times delivered daily. And while I had a paper route when I was a kid, the time when some pimply faced 10-year old would ride his bike with a bag of Daily Bugles and toss one to each customer is firmly in a "Leave It To Beaver" past. These days it's a guy in a racing down the street and flinging them out the open window of a beat-up Toyota.

That said, while we've gone through a number of iterations as to the method, the present delivery person had raised the bar of late. Perhaps it was some supervisor's orders because of our longstanding customer-ship, or more likely trying to mollify us after numerous complaints as to the quality of the service. Whatever the reason, we had noted with pleasure that recently the paper went from being skidded under a tree at the top of the driveway to being thrown close to the back door. No, it's not ironing the creases out the pages, but I'll take what I can get.

But while I prefer the latter approach to getting all the news that's fit to print, I'm not willing to sacrifice my lawn for it. Maybe the he was running late and was looking to shave off a few seconds. Maybe some newborn Bambi had wandered onto the top of our neighbor's driveway, and he didn't want to spook it. Or maybe it was a substitute driver less attuned to the normal routine. More likely it was Occam's razor: he saw a shortcut and he took it.

I snapped a picture of the tracks and we sent a note of complaint to the Times. As customers for over 20 years, one would think they would put some value in our relationship and the handling of any issues. You would think. But back came the quick response. While they were sorry, "Upon review of the photo of the damage, we are unable to determine if this damage was caused by our carrier. Please provide us with video or photographic proof of the carrier causing the damage. If you are unable to provide us with the requested proof, please contact your local authorities." Translation: tough luck. Unless you can tell him to stop mid-lawn while you go get your phone to tape it, we don't believe you. Your words, your photo ain't good enough. It's merely circumstantial evidence that SOMEONE drove across your lawn at 7A while the paper was being delivered. But our guy? You may have a gun and it's smoking, but unless you have video of him pulling the trigger, no dice.

I thought about putting a nail-studded board in the gap. Or maybe stringing a tight steel wire from tree to bush at bumper height. Rather, I opted just to put a chair dead in the middle: we're watching. But justice came from another angle. Coincidentally, a few days before this all happened, tucked inside in the paper was a holiday card from the carrier with his address, the usual signal for a seasonal tip. I had written out a check, and it was sitting on my desk ready to be mailed. And wouldn't you know it: before it got to the mailbox it took a shortcut to the trash. Live by the sword, die by the sword.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves reading the physical paper in the morning. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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