Newspaper delivery driver captures images along route
By Zachary Roman
For the past 10 years, if you’ve ever read the Toronto Star newspaper in Haliburton County, you have delivery driver Cynthia Kocot to thank.
jokingly say, I actually don’t enjoy driving. I much prefer to be the
passenger. But as I say, the job fits my life quite well,” said Kocot.
“I very rarely actually read the papers. I used to … when I had the
Kocot grew up in Minden before moving to Port Perry and living there for a while. When friends of hers bought and reopened Stan’s Garage, Kocot and her husband moved back to the area to run it for them. When they were finished with that job, they bought a house in Haliburton County and soon after, Kocot’s delivery driving days began.
“Our gentleman who had brought us the papers, Roger, that spring he decided he wouldn’t mind having a little bit of help doing the papers on say the weekend so he could have time off. When he asked if I wanted to work with him, [if] I would do weekends, [while] he did during the week,” said Kocot. “I think it was about a year and a half maybe that I did that for him. And then he had the option to change his job within delivering the Star. He was going to go to a new area and asked if I wanted to take the route on full time. Which, up here, year-round job? I said sure will.”
The job is just about as year-round as year-round
can get, the only day Kocot gets off being Dec. 25. Even on that one day
off, Kocot doesn’t sleep in because her body is so adjusted to waking
up early. “I have to admit, I’m not always the best about going to bed
when I should. So I do function on a lot less sleep than I actually
need,” said Kocot. “If I’m smart, every three to four days I have a nap
that is like three, four hours at a minimum.”
Every morning, she picks up the papers at 4:30 a.m. at the Minden Foodland. From there, it takes her two-and-a-half to three hours to complete her route around Haliburton County. She said she is usually able to deliver the papers within five to 10 minutes of a customer’s scheduled delivery time, barring any extenuating circumstances.
And over the years, there have certainly been a few.
see deer almost every day. Unfortunately, I have hit or been hit by 10
of them because I’m busy, I’m moving when they’re moving,” said Kocot.
“I was very close actually to hitting a moose one very, very, foggy
morning. That was very scary ... When I stopped I was looking at his
butt ‘cause he was right on the yellow, the middle of the road yellow
line. And my heart was thumping.”
Kocot said this is the negative of the job. She is a nature lover and keeps her camera on her at all times, ready to pull over and capture the natural beauty around her. So while there have been some scary and sad encounters with wildlife, they are vastly outnumbered by the beautiful ones.
“I’ve seen bears, I’ve seen foxes, porcupines, turkeys, like you name it, probably I have seen it,” said Kocot. “I see incredible sunrises and tons of wildlife. Which when you live up here, I mean, that’s one of the best parts of living up here.”
But Kocot’s favourite part about Haliburton County is the community. “COVID definitely shows the amount of people that step up to help whenever help is needed. Various times people’s houses have burned down, they’ve lost everything. The word goes out. People give them furniture, clothing, toys, that kind of stuff. Now with COVID, seniors and [immune-compromised] people are stuck at home. Other people are stepping up to do their shopping, to do their deliveries, to just check in on them,” said Kocot. “When I grew up in Minden, there was only 1,200 people. So it was a little town. Even though it’s grown, there still is that feeling of a little town … you feel like you’re a part of something.”
The majority of Kocot’s papers are for driveway delivery,
but the Star doesn’t provide the blue plastic bags that the newspapers
arrive in because Kocot is contracted to them and not technically an
employee. She buys them herself so that the papers remain readable no
matter the weather. However, boxes of the bags aren’t cheap – and making
sure the bags don’t end up in a landfill is important to her.
“I’m very fortunate, I have fabulous customers … I would say 90 per cent of my customers give me back their bags so that I can reuse them. I say to them … you can stick them on a pole … I have somebody who clothespins them onto a branch of their tree, [some put them] in their mailbox,” said Kocot. “It just saves me a lot of money. I always use a new bag on Saturday because the Saturday papers are a little heavier. And I want to make sure that I’m not using a bag that has a hole or rip in it and [have] papers going to go flying everywhere. And if it’s pouring rain, I always use new bags. But other than that, I use the bags that they return to me.”
Since she is out driving almost every day, Kocot faces
more dangers from the elements than the safely-bagged newspapers she
delivers do. She can recall days on the job when the snow was so deep
that the front of her vehicle was pushing it up over her windshield. “I
am driving in weather often that lots of other people would never think
to drive in,” said Kocot. “I often am plowing snow with the front of my
vehicle because I’m out before the plows are in the winter. They were
really awesome this [past] winter though, they were out so early.”
To have more control in the harsh conditions, Kocot likes to drive all-wheel-drive vehicles with a manual transmission. She has owned two Toyota Rav 4’s and currently drives a Subaru Forester. “I drive old vehicles because I do beat them up pretty good. I don’t buy anything new,” said Kocot. “I have a very handy husband and our daughter went through and is a mechanic. So that definitely helps.”
Kocot’s family can help her with her job by fixing up her vehicle. And before that could ever happen, Kocot’s job helped her with her family. “As a mom, when I started doing this, I still had kids at home. So it was great, especially in the summer because I was done work by eight o’clock or nine o’clock [in the morning]. And I had the whole day to do stuff with my kids,” said Kocot. “I mean you’re only doing three hours a day, so you’re not getting paid as you would for an eight hour day, but it fits my lifestyle.”
Kocot said she enjoys being on the road when no one else is – and since no one else is in the car either, she’s able to listen to her music cranked as loud as she wants. She also gets to listen to music cranked loud at the many concerts she goes to for free. “I win a lot of radio contests because I’m driving, I’m in the car at the time those are going, so I go to a ridiculous amount of concerts,” said Kocot. If music isn’t the vibe that day, she listens to books on CD. She goes through many in a week, which she says is enjoyable for her because she loves reading.
The life lesson Kocot has learned from her job? “Enjoy where you are at the time you are. I take lots of pictures and people often say ‘oh, your pictures are so amazing,’” said Kocot. “I’m like, it’s just paying attention to what I’m driving through and actually seeing the sunrise or seeing the animals. I enjoy where I am at the time.”