Meetings & Beatings

By Mike Johnson

The best corporate meetings I ever attended were Mr. Ludke’s paper route meetings.

They occurred on Tuesdays after school, at the corner of Zinran Avenue, in Ludke’s car. As boss, it was his job to collect our newspaper payments, share company news and distribute prizes for the new subscriptions we’d generated.

Four or five of us boys would climb in the backseat. If more paperboys arrived, they’d sit up front or stand outside Ludke’s open window.

Our boss was a cool adult with a very loose connection to rules and protocol. As long as you aced your deliveries, got no complaints and paid your paper bill, you were golden.

We were on the “in-team” with Mr. Ludke because we often helped him deliver “down routes” where a paperboy had quit without notice. Ludke would first drive us around our routes then drive us around that down route. Then he’d take us to the bakery or slide us some “points” that could be redeemed for prizes. We loved the guy.

At one meeting, three of us cashed in points for cans of Silly String. A battle erupted right in the car, emptying about 6 cans. Ludke emptied one himself. The next Saturday, it took us a couple hours to clean his interior. That stuff doesn’t easily peel off after it dries.

In every group there’s a kid just a bit off the straight and narrow. Mark was that kid and at one meeting, he was seated in the front seat. He was giving Mr. Ludke some lip so Ludke playfully grabbed the billy club he kept next to his seat, fake-threatening Mark to tone it down a notch. Instead, Mark grabbed the club and whacked Mr. Ludke in the thigh.

Everyone gasped and the air sucked out of the car.

Mark’s eyes registered the realization of what he’d done. He dropped the club, leapt out of the car and started to run. We all looked at Mr. Ludke for guidance.

“Get him!”

Five of us piled out, chasing the frantic kid. Over two blocks we weaved through yards, flanked his escape routes and forced him to hop a fence into a stranger’s backyard. Mark was so terrified he started pounding on the back door, yelling for help, as we peeled his fingers off the door handle, dragging him back to Ludke’s car.

The kid was literally screaming and crying at the same time, begging us to release him. Instead, we pushed him right up to Ludke’s open driver’s window.

Mr. Ludke sized up the kid’s fear, smiled sweetly and said, “See you next week Mark!”

To this day, that's the best ending to any meeting I’ve ever attended.


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