Sunday, May 17, 2015

You've got (way too much) mail

If you have an e-mail account, you get junk mail. Don’t deny it. You can call it a subscription. You can tell me you enjoy those daily pickle recipes. You can lie about wanting to receive hourly reminders that this is positively the very, very, absolute, honest-to-goodness LAST notice that you may be a grand prizewinner. It’s all junk and it’s clogging up your inbox. There are days when you wish you could toss your emails into a virtual bonfire just to avoid deleting each one.

I thought I received a lot of junk e-mail - until I started collecting my neighbors’ postal mail during their six-month stay in Florida.

Since late December we’ve been taking care of their cat (technically, half-cat, since she resides with us half the year), watering their plants (Spouse’s job – plants and I don’t mix), and taking in their mail. This last chore has proven over the years to be a lesson in refraining from ever checking the “yes” box on any type of solicitation.

Somehow Mrs. Neighbor has managed to get onto every mailing list imaginable. Whether it’s a plea to save the yellow-winged gnat of North Dakota or a request to join the International Society of Left-Handed Ping Pong Players, my neighbor receives it. Clearly, some pieces are easier than others to discard. You could easily fuel a two-week bonfire with all the unsolicited mail that passes through that mailbox.

There are some instances when it’s hard to make the decision about whether to keep or toss something. Take, for instance, the request for funding of certain reputable organizations that include a nickel with their appeal. Talk about a tough call. You wouldn’t feel right about getting rid of it because, after all, they sent you a nickel. Maybe you would have guilt over opening the envelope and keeping the nickel without sending a donation. For these reasons, this type sits in the limbo stack to be dealt with later.

Our neighbors do get some important mail, like renewals that they actually want and bills that I sure as heck don’t want. I dare not remove the most recent LL Bean catalog from their collection, and I have dutifully forwarded the Navy Times to their Florida residence. My incentive to properly tend to the regular onslaught of someone else’s mail is that it takes up too much space on my kitchen table and counter, and those areas are under constant threat of being buried even without anyone else’s mail.

Each winter I vow to rip off the address labels, send them to each of these solicitors and ask to have the neighbors’ address removed from these lists. There are a few issues with this.

First, I would have to use my envelopes and buy stamps to mail something to a company to tell them not to mail anything. That’s just too much irony for me.

Second, as the envelopes and parcels begin to gather in my little kitchen, the prospect of contacting every unsolicited piece suddenly sounds like a big old chore, similar to washing the dishes or folding the laundry.

And finally, it can be somewhat amusing to see the lengths solicitors will go to for a cause, no matter how strange. We should all consider how important the survival of the purple-bellied legless lizard of southern California could be to the environment.

From now until the end of the year the only mail I will have to face is what gets delivered directly to our home. But I know that by the time our seasonal assignment comes along there will be new invitations to sign up for and some very original petitions for patronage.

I wonder how our neighbors would feel about a bonfire in their mailbox.

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