SCHENECTADY — The skies are dark at 3 a.m. and the human body’s internal timer cries out for sleep, not work.
It’s easy to overlook details at that hour, but one Daily Gazette carrier who has adapted to the night owl schedule after decades delivering the paper realized early Saturday that something was amiss with one of his customers.
Schenectady police later told Paul Gordon he probably saved the woman’s life by alerting them — she’d been on the floor in her Consaul Road home for days, in distress and unable to get up.
“I don’t know what happened,” Gordon said about the details of the medical emergency that befell her. He has talked with a nurse at Ellis Hospital and learned the patient is doing well but was unable to speak with him as of Tuesday.
There were three separate warning signs Saturday that something wasn’t right, Gordon recalls:
The newspapers were beginning to pile up untouched at the home of a subscriber who would call if they weren’t delivered promptly each morning.
The same lights were on each night inside the house.
And finally, her cat got weird.
“What happened Saturday morning is the cat was in the window, acting a little squirrely,” Gordon said.
He called a Gazette circulation manager and asked if the subscriber was on vacation, and perhaps he hadn’t been notified. But she wasn’t.
“So I called the cops,” Gordon said. “That was it, I thought. An hour and a half later the cop called me and said, ‘You just saved this lady’s life.'”
“I said, ‘Wow, you just made my month.'”
Schenectady Police spokesman Pat Irwin said the woman, who is in her late 70s, appears to have been on the floor for several days: Newspapers dating back to Sept. 26 had accumulated outside.
The two responding officers checked the doors and windows until they found an unlocked window and pushed it open. They shouted inside to ask if everything was OK, and the resident responded that she’d fallen and couldn’t get up.
The unlocked window was small, Irwin said. The smaller of the two officers stripped off his bulky gear crawled inside and unlocked the door. Paramedics then took her to Ellis.
Gordon has been on this particular delivery route for only a few months.
The Rotterdam resident delivers 600 newspapers a day over 120 miles but also is a frequent substitute carrier and troubleshooter, filling in when a carrier quits or making replacement deliveries when a subscriber complains of a missing or wet newspaper.
“The rapport I developed with her and the reason I know her is I manage the area,” Gordon said.
He had made a few of those replacement deliveries to her home and would ring her doorbell to let her know it was there.
“She would come out and talk to me before I leave, small talk most of the time,” he said.
“She says to me, ‘I’m really appreciative that you bring the paper to me.’ And I says, ‘No problem. The next time you can make me an omelette.'”
Brian Zarelli, who manages circulation and delivery for The Gazette, said Gordon was the right person at the right place Saturday morning.
“Paul’s been doing this for a long time, he’s a veteran carrier,” Zarelli said. “He’s worked for The Gazette, the Times Union, the New York Times.
“He knows his customers very well, so he’s very attuned to things like that. We encourage all of our carriers to take notice of things like that.”
Over the years, there have been numerous instances of carriers and the office staff checking on subscribers to determine why their newspapers are piling up in the delivery tube or on the front steps, Zarelli said. The situation on Consaul Road was a worst-case scenario, but thankfully a rare one.
Gordon recalled another worrisome scene — a house in Niskayuna where the front door was open at 2 a.m. with a barking dog inside but no human response. He notified town police about that one, and the officer called him back to the scene to thank him in person and to let him know it was just a forgetful guest who’d run out into the night, rushing to work and not locking up behind herself. Nothing sinister.
“Those kinds of things happen, it’s usually fruitless,” Gordon said of his experiences in 20 years delivering The Gazette.
He values the personal connection with his subscribers. Some still send him Christmas cards with tips, years after leaving for Arizona or somewhere else warm.
“It’s because you develop a relationship with these people,” Gordon said. “That’s how I keep my customers.”
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