The Distro King

Photo by Martin Connelly

Barry Ross has distributed The Scope since our first issue in 2006, and for the last ten years or so he’s been distributing publications and hanging posters. These days he works for 12 different publications, and spends most of his days on the road.

So how did you get into this?
When I think back to many decades ago there were times I’d do something along these lines, jack of all trades or whatever kind of scenario—but as I’ve started to age I can see these things that you maybe did one or two times as a kid turn out to be what your career is—and it’s starting the education for your career as it were.

It started with The Muse. My wife was working at MUN, and I’ve always had an interest in university newspapers and stuff, so I used to read The Muse, and they were advertising that they needed an off campus distributor. The ads kept staring at me in the face—and then I realized I liked The Muse, I want to be helpful if I can be, and I’ve got a vehicle and I love to drive, so jeez, why don’t I check it out? And that’s what got me into it.

How long have you been at it then?
I started about 10 years ago, with The Muse off campus, and then shortly thereafter with The Gazette off campus, and then The Scope came along, and after that I decided to find some other publication to distribute and make it a full time job.

So how many are you distributing now?
About 12, all around.

How did you get connected with The Scope?
They found out about me through The Muse, actually, long before the first issue. I had a little meeting with them and they hired me on as it were, so from the first issue on I was the first car route distributor. Eventually they added enough locations so we hired on a second driver and as it stands now we have three drivers and one walking route. Two people can do it, but boy it’s a long day—a 15 hour day from early-early till late. Especially in the winter when weather can slow you down.

Tell me about a typical day distributing The Scope.
I get on the go pretty early. As it turns out I do a lot of driving but I do a lot of walking too. I must walk about five miles a day—quite often it is carrying a bundle of papers. It’s sorta non stop. I might swing through a drive-thru to grab a bite to eat or something, but usually I only do that if I know that the next location I need to go to is more than a five minute drive away—I don’t just sit there in the car and eat. I just do it when I’m moving.

The more I do it I’m getting calmer with it. It is sort of stressful because you are in traffic all the time, so you have to look out for accidents—but you’re multitasking because you have to think about what you just did and what you’re going to do. You design your route, but then you might be doing something a little differently—so you’re constantly at least mentally willing to ad lib any given moment. So you can get pretty stressed out by the end of the day. But I’m finding now that I can be less stressed and I don’t know if it’s self control, or if it’s easier now, or if it’s just that I’m not sweating the small stuff I shouldn’t have been sweating in the first place.

Get over it and get on with your stress free life, y’know?

So do you run into a lot of people throughout the day?
Well certainly, a lot of the places I go, people can see me coming through the front window, and they’re real happy to see me because they’re bored—so the first thing they’re gonna do is grab a copy out of my hands before I even put them in the rack. And even if we don’t have a fantastic rapport they’ll yell out “thanks” as I’m walking away.

How about people who aren’t as nice?
The only time I’ve ever had direct negative comments are when we’ve been terminated. One example would be Carpenters Millwrights College in Paradise. They’d taken the rack and when I asked about it they said, “oh yes, we have it here—we don’t want this anymore.” And I said, okay, like I don’t even ask why, because usually they’ll volunteer it. And if they don’t I’ll just walk away anyway.

With the sex column in there, that’s quite often why they get terminated from a location. She would tell me, “oh the sex column in there was awful! In just one of the responses the guy there he said the word ‘fuck’ four times!”

And I’m thinking, really, for a college, the word “fuck” is what got them? Not the actual sexual goings on in the column, but to be upset at a college over the word “fuck”—I don’t get it. But what can you do in a situation like that? Generally speaking they know I’m just the messenger, just the delivery guy, so they’re generally okay with me. If they seem to be addressing me personally I tell them “I’m just the paperboy, y’know?”

Do people ever mess with the publications?
I sort of call it a jungle, you know? There’s all kinds of animals out there, and you never know what to expect. One thing that bugs me is when someone will take one and read it, crumple it up, and then put it back in the rack—don’t you get it? You’re supposed to take it! That kind of bugs me, especially when quite often they’ll put it in backwards so you can’t see the front cover anymore. And that effects sales, as it were. Or sometimes they’ll pick up the whole stack of papers and turn them all around. And why would you do that Mr. Monkey? Only monkeys know.

It sounds like you take some ownership over the publications you’re distributing.
Well for sure, like one other monkey thing I’ve seen is I’ll go into some location and someone has come in with a new publication and they’ve taken over our rack or something—and it’s like, that’s not cool. If you can’t afford your own rack just put a pile on the counter. And just these areas where publications are located—they become all messy. When I’m in there with whatever publication I have, I do some housekeeping, I tidy everybody’s stuff up and do some rearranging—to fit everything in the space in the best way, because it’s better for everyone if it’s like that. Even if someone takes over our rack or whatever, I won’t throw them out, I’ll just put them somewhere where they should be. So I do have a certain ownership of the whole scene in a way. It’s my business, and I only want the best for it.