The Globe’s delivery fiasco has us paying attention to the people who deliver our papers like never before. Forget the Norman Rockwell-like image of a boy on a paper. These days the print edition is delivered by adults in cars doing high volume. It’s grueling work, especially in winter, and it’s part-time, so it’s often someone’s second job. Those typically filling the bill are immigrants, like Alvaro DaSilva.
DaSilva came to the US from Brazil 15 years ago.
He's been chasing the American dream ever since.
His day starts at 2 am in his apartment in Newton.
By 2:30 he's on his way to the warehouse in Waltham where he picks up his papers.
By 3:00am, DaSilva is standing at a plywood table putting papers into plastic bags: blue for the New York Times, green for the Boston Herald, clear for the Wall Street Journal. No Globes this week because he works for PCF, the company the Globe dropped but will go back to next week.
DaSilver plops the bagged papers deftly into batches on a hand trolley and wheels them to the car.
At 3:40 he’s leaving the warehouse.
By 4:00 DaSilva is delivering papers all over Belmont. He’s good, tossing papers through the passenger-side window so they land with a satisfying “thwack” on people’s porches. Mostly. Sometimes he has to jump out and retrieve them from the bushes or from under a car.
I watch the flicking motion he has to do and ask him if he ever gets elbow pain.
“Yeah, I had tennis elbow twice,” he tells me. “You can’t take days off so you can heal. You just keep going.”
"Just keep going" could be DaSilva's motto. He delivered papers when he first arrived in the US. Then he left for a better job—and now runs a construction company. But when his wife left her job when they were expecting their second child, he went back to the newspaper route because it earns him an extra thousand dollars a month. He does it to survive.
“I wouldn't be there if I didn't need it. If I didn't have a goal to keep me motivated and help me wake up every day and keep going,” he says.
For DaSilva, that goal is keeping up with the rent on his Newton apartment so his kids can go to good schools. He has a daughter in high school and a son about to start elementary school.
He tells me lots of people try delivering newspapers but have to quit because they can’t hack it. It's not just the early hours and the logistics that can change day by day. It's the relentlessness of it.
“You don't have a day off, a holiday, if you're sick you gotta go in. It doesn’t matter how sick you are. If you want to keep your job,” he says.
DaSilva remembers, growing up in Brazil, how his father would carry him to bed if he fell asleep on the sofa at night. He can't do that for his son because he goes to bed before him.
“If I took him to bed like that it was three times at most,” he says. “I think I lost time with him growing up. I think that’s been the hardest thing for me.”
And then there's the winter. Things are better now that DaSilva has an SUV with four-wheel drive. But when he started out he just had a regular car.
I forgot how many times I got stuck, all the aggravation, the suffering,” he says. “That feeling that you can't quit.”
DaSilva doesn't have any weekends -- Sunday is actually the hardest day in the newspaper delivery business. He’s only taken one week's vacation since 2009. Plus a day off for his son's birth and his last two anniversaries. Even so, he says he really grateful for the newspaper job and that it’s helped him grow his own construction business during daylight hours.
When we get back to his house after delivering hundreds of newspapers, it feels like the day should be over. But it's just begun. He'll take a shower, have some coffee, read the paper, and then drop his daughter at school on his way to work.