Junk Mail

“You may have won an all-expenses-paid trip to Jamaica,” says another prize-winning envelope that showed up in my mailbox. I just need to call this 800-number to claim my prize. Or else it’s a letter pleading with me to help save the whales, the timber wolves, the honey bees, the polar ice cap, and life as we know it. I’m feeling weak; my resistance is fading. Maybe I should just pull out my checkbook and put a stop to this. Let’s face it: they’ve got me where they want me.

Before long, I’m opening letters with calls to action from Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, and Progressives For Action to stop the next Supreme Court nominee. Others demand that I subscribe to their magazines with “unbelievable” deals: Woodworking Journal, Nutrition Action, In These Times, American Humanist . . . . Where does it all end? And how did it ever get this way?

At a time when the U.S. Postal Service is going through tough times, it’s reassuring to know that I am helping to provide steady employment for some of our local workers. They stuff my mailbox every week with 10 to 12 letters asking me to take a stand, make that phone call to my congressman, or write that check to help out. It wasn’t always like this; it used to be that I received mail only for bills due — electric, water, cable, and so forth or, occasionally from a long lost friend. But I do seem to recall, several years ago, sending in a small contribution to an organization like Public Citizen or the Audubon Club. Could they possibly have passed my name and address around to other organizations which turned around and did the same? Obviously, this strategy has been snowballing. They know a sucker for good causes when they see one. Not that I mind contributing to worthwhile endeavors, I just can’t afford all of them, and it’s difficult to turn so many good ones down.

For some peculiar reason, I have a compulsion to open every single piece of junk mail that comes to me. Call it obsessive-compulsive or anal-retentive; all I know is someone addressed a letter to me specifically and it’s my responsibility to open it. Some people can just identify certain mail as junk and chuck it in the trash. Not me. I’ve got to read it thoroughly to learn the nature of the cause and what kind of urgent desperation they’re in. Sometimes there’s a key in the envelope from a Toyota dealer who wants me to bring the key down to the showroom to see if it fits the Grand Prize car they’re giving away. But I don’t care much for the odds and decide against it. Over the years, I’ve subscribed to lots of magazines and barely keep up with all the reading.

I need a major reboot. Maybe I could temporarily enter the federal witness protection program, find a new zip code, and disappear from those relentless folks who are bent on tracking me down. At least long enough for my trail to go cold.