By Zachary Roman
For the past 10 years if you’ve ever read the Toronto Star newspaper inHaliburton County you have delivery driver Cynthia Kocot to thank.
“I jokingly say I actually don’t enjoy driving. I much prefer to be thepassenger. 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 thetime.”
Kocot grew up in Minden before moving to Port Perry and living there for a while. When friends of hers bought and reopened Stan’sGarage 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 inHaliburton County and soon after Kocot’s delivery driving days began.
“Our gentleman who had brought us the papers Roger that spring he decidedhe 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 workwith 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 didthat for him. And then he had the option to change his job withindelivering the Star. He was going to go to a new area and asked if Iwanted 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-roundcan 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 wakingup early. “I have to admit I’m not always the best about going to bedwhen I should. So I do function on a lot less sleep than I actuallyneed” said Kocot. “If I’m smart every three to four days I have a napthat is like three four hours at a minimum.”
Every morning shepicks up the papers at 4:30 a.m. at the Minden Foodland. From there ittakes her two-and-a-half to three hours to complete her route aroundHaliburton County. She said she is usually able to deliver the paperswithin five to 10 minutes of a customer’s scheduled delivery timebarring any extenuating circumstances.
And over the years there have certainly been a few.
“I see deer almost every day. Unfortunately I have hit or been hit by 10of 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 foggymorning. That was very scary … When I stopped I was looking at hisbutt ‘cause he was right on the yellow the middle of the road yellowline. 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 alltimes ready to pull over and capture the natural beauty around her. Sowhile there have been some scary and sad encounters with wildlife theyare vastly outnumbered by the beautiful ones.
“I’ve seen bears I’veseen foxes porcupines turkeys like you name it probably I have seenit” said Kocot. “I see incredible sunrises and tons of wildlife. Whichwhen 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 thecommunity. “COVID definitely shows the amount of people that step up tohelp whenever help is needed. Various times people’s houses have burneddown they’ve lost everything. The word goes out. People give themfurniture clothing toys that kind of stuff. Now with COVID seniorsand [immune-compromised] people are stuck at home. Other people arestepping up to do their shopping to do their deliveries to just checkin on them” said Kocot. “When I grew up in Minden there was only 1200 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 ofsomething.”
The majority of Kocot’s papers are for driveway delivery but the Star doesn’t provide the blue plastic bags that the newspapersarrive in because Kocot is contracted to them and not technically anemployee. She buys them herself so that the papers remain readable nomatter 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’mvery fortunate I have fabulous customers … I would say 90 per cent ofmy customers give me back their bags so that I can reuse them. I say tothem … you can stick them on a pole … I have somebody who clothespinsthem 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 onSaturday 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 theyreturn to me.”
Since she is out driving almost every day Kocot faces more dangers from the elements than the safely-bagged newspapers shedelivers do. She can recall days on the job when the snow was so deepthat the front of her vehicle was pushing it up over her windshield. “Iam driving in weather often that lots of other people would never thinkto drive in” said Kocot. “I often am plowing snow with the front of myvehicle because I’m out before the plows are in the winter. They werereally awesome this [past] winter though they were out so early.”
To have more control in the harsh conditions Kocot likes to driveall-wheel-drive vehicles with a manual transmission. She has owned twoToyota Rav 4’s and currently drives a Subaru Forester. “I drive oldvehicles because I do beat them up pretty good. I don’t buy anythingnew” said Kocot. “I have a very handy husband and our daughter wentthrough and is a mechanic. So that definitely helps.”
Kocot’s familycan help her with her job by fixing up her vehicle. And before thatcould ever happen Kocot’s job helped her with her family. “As a momwhen I started doing this I still had kids at home. So it was greatespecially in the summer because I was done work by eight o’clock ornine o’clock [in the morning]. And I had the whole day to do stuff withmy kids” said Kocot. “I mean you’re only doing three hours a day soyou’re not getting paid as you would for an eight hour day but it fitsmy lifestyle.”
Kocot said she enjoys being on the road when no oneelse is – and since no one else is in the car either she’s able tolisten to her music cranked as loud as she wants. She also gets tolisten 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 atthe 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 onCD. She goes through many in a week which she says is enjoyable for her because she loves reading.
The life lesson Kocot has learned fromher job? “Enjoy where you are at the time you are. I take lots ofpictures and people often say ‘oh your pictures are so amazing’” saidKocot. “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 Iam at the time.”