What the writer said:
What I remembered:DETROIT — If you are a person of a certain age it's odd to drive down a major artery in a large metropolitan American city and strain to find a newspaper box at any of the crossroads.That's especially true in a city such as Detroit, with a storied history of competitive journalism that dug deep into holding power in check, whether it was city hall, the unions or large corporations.It's not that those papers are gone. The lack of boxes is in part because of contractual delivery systems and partly because of vandalism. But the disappearing boxes are mostly because we consume our news differently.
I was in my late teens or early twenties, and working in downtown Cleveland. Then, like so many working class girls, I was doing clerical work in some office. Not well paid, but steady work, with benefits. It paid enough to buy a flashy wardrobe, enjoy lunches out, and have cash in my pocket. As I, like so many of that generation, lived at home, other than a token part of my paycheck to my parents was mine to spend.
I usually grabbed a cup of coffee on the way to work, and generally bought a newspaper - in those days, Cleveland had TWO major papers - the Cleveland Plain Dealer (mornings), and the Cleveland Press (evenings).
I stopped at a newspaper box, and was waiting for the middle-aged Black man to complete his transaction, when he turned to me, with the door open, and said, "Go ahead, just take yours, too."
I indicated that I didn't need an unpaid paper, but he insisted - not in a threatening way, but as though he was hurt that I didn't appreciate his kindly gesture.
Finally, I took the paper, and waited until his back was turned and he was walking away. Then, I put my quarter in, and opened and closed the door.
I just couldn't ignore my upbringing and STEAL the paper. It wasn't something that fit my standards, molded by parents who didn't have much, but were honest.
But, that gentleman's standards, multiplied by all the others who DID take the paper, not-so gradually eroded cultural expectations of honesty.
And, THAT'S why the newspaper box is no more. Because the norm is to steal in situations where it is possible. Because "nobody gets hurt".
But they do.