Justin Skolnick lives and works in Portland.

Handled With Care

Originally posted to justin.revision8.com on in Barrington, Illinois

The FedEx man entered the office brighter but no less wry than normal. He was almost giddy.

“You know Walter Payton’s son? I’ve got his contract [2] in my truck.” And then the punchline: “Do you want to give the Bears another shot? Maybe I could lose it.” He chuckled his way out the door.

The Paytons live nearby, or at least they lived nearby when, as a second-grader, I solicited Walter’s autograph. My letter began something like, “Dear Mr. Payton, How are you? How is Mrs. Payton? I hope you’re good. You’re my favorite football player.” A friend’s father found an address. Though I doubt Payton Way exists I imagine the Post Office knew where to deliver it, like letters sent to the North Pole. Weeks later the mailman returned a glossy 8×10 signed in blue Sharpie.

There’s something exhilarating about carrying significant cargo — for some, a million-dollar athletic contract is like a peace treaty or a king’s crown. Or a king, for that matter. Something chauffeurs and cabbies experience daily.