By LANDON WOODROOF
Brentwood’s favorite “paperboy” Jason Rager wants to thank the Brentwood community for its support following the recent death of his wife. He also wants to inform his regular customers of his recent relocation to a new selling spot just down the road.
When word got out last month that Rager’s wife of 17 years, Elaine, had died suddenly in her sleep, the Brentwood community rallied and raised over $10,000 to help Rager pay for funeral expenses. These donations also made up for his lost income from missing several days of work.
The money had been raised through a GoFundMe page set up by Rager’s friend and Brentwood resident, Joe Gray. The two met as a result of Gray regularly driving past Rager’s post next to the I-65 onramp on Old Hickory Boulevard.
Not too long after his wife’s funeral, Rager was back out there selling copies of the FaithUnity newspaper.
This past Thursday, though, an officer with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department gave Rager a misdemeanor citation for selling at his regular location. According to the citation, the officer issued Rager a warning. This warning stated that Rager was allowed to sell on the sidewalk, but not the median. He returned 40 minutes later to find Rager was still in the median.
Rager said he was not trying to be disrespectful by going back out. He just felt he had no choice but to keep working since that is where all his customers were.
The report states that Rager had a clean record, with no outstanding warrants or criminal history. This means the officer was able to issue him only a citation for the offense.
“Thank God for the fact I’ve never been in any trouble,” Rager said.
The relevant law listed on the citation, Tennessee Code Annotated 55-8-139, states, “No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride or employment from the occupant of any vehicle.” Violating this law is listed as a class C misdemeanor.
“He’s looking at it like it’s a safety thing for me, too,” Rager said of the Metro officer who gave him the ticket. Rager said he always understood that there was a physical risk in selling on that median. But he felt it was one he had to take.
Since he got the citation, Rager has been setting up at the end of the I-65 south Old Hickory Boulevard exit ramp coming into Brentwood. Rager said he was told it was OK to sell at this spot since there is a sidewalk there.
He plans to be out there as often as he can, Monday through Thursday, Saturday and Sunday sometimes. He is no longer able to work on Fridays, he said, because since his wife died he has had to get a full time dog sitter for his 11-year-old beagle, Charlie, and she cannot watch him on Fridays.
“People don’t understand, but that dog is like my child,” Rager said.
He said Charlie has been having a rough time since Elaine’s death, but that things are starting to settle down.
“He’s coming along,” he said. “Like me, it’s just gonna take a while.”
Along with announcing his new location, Rager wanted to offer his heartfelt thanks to all the people in Brentwood who helped him after Elaine’s death.
“I was so blown away by that,” he said. “I’d like to tell people how much I appreciate the overwhelming response everybody gave to that. And how grateful I am of people being so good to me. It means the world to me.”
To Rager, the people he sees everyday and sells newspapers to are more than just customers.
“I really love the people up there they’ve been so good to me, and I’m friends with so many of them,” he said. “It’s like my extended family because I don’t have any family left really so that is my family.”
Rager hopes that his regular customers will keep buying papers and saying hello now that he has moved. Since he’s basically just relocated from the Old Hickory Boulevard I-65 onramp to the offramp into Brentwood, he should see a lot of the same people, just at different times in the day.
Rager intends to do his best at his new location.
“I look forward to trying to build that spot back up just like the other one,” he said.