My mailman—mail lady, actually—says that approximately four out of every seven pieces of mail she delivers to my neighborhood could be classified as junk. She shakes her head at the fact that most of her work goes straight from the mailbox to the garbage can.
I thought about that yesterday while walking to the porch from the mailbox, a handful of letters in my grasp. Most were destined for recycling (I thought the mail lady would somehow feel better knowing that, and I promised myself I’d tell her next time she came around). But even that didn’t seem to do all her hard work justice. So I made it a point to sit and open each and every letter. Read them, even. Then I could toss them away without feeling so guilty.
There was the usual fare—satellite television offers, a flyer from the local furniture store, a newsletter from a church my family visited five years ago.
But it was the last letter that caught my attention. A thick, linen envelope, my name embossed with gold letters on the front. Fancy for junk mail.
The return address was just that—an address. I tore it open and read:
Not exactly personable. Then again, junk mail never is. But then:
“Whether you realize it or not, you’re a person of influence.”
Well now, that’s more like it.
“You live with passion and purpose”—
—“encouraging and helping others”—
—“and building a legacy for your family and future generations—”
Okay, I’ll buy that.
Way down in the fourth paragraph, I finally realized what they were getting at. It was a magazine advertisement, one “for people just like you” that offered a monthly assortment of “inspiring stories from others like you who deserve to live a hopeful, vibrant life.”
I’ll admit, it sounded interesting. Which is why I actually finished the letter. Then I turned to the inserts (full color, mind you) of sample articles, which to my surprise seemed overly populated by elderly people.
That’s when I discovered the publication’s name.
And that’s when I discovered exactly what had happened.
I’d just been solicited for an old folks magazine.
I stood there in the middle of my living room, flabbergasted. Surely this was some mistake. Me? No. Surely not. I’m not old. Sure, in the minds of some I could be consider older. But not old. And yeah, I’m a little thin on top, but a lot of guys are, guys younger than me, and besides I have a tattoo and shop at Abercombie & Fitch. Old people don’t do that.
But it still bugged me. My wife said I wasn’t old, though I thought that was likely because she’s older than I am and telling me I was would make her old by proxy. My kids said I was old—“Ancient,” said my daughter—but to them, anyone over twenty is old.
I was at a loss. Why were the people at Mature Living picking on me? My family said to let it go—“Bein’ mad’s not good for your heart, Daddy,” said my daughter—but I couldn’t. So I did what any sane person would do. I called the number at the end of the letter and asked them how they got my name.
It was a lady’s voice on the other end of the line—a young voice, though I suddenly realized that young to me was twenty-five. Megan, she said. Can I help you?
“Yes.” I cleared my throat, suddenly wondering what in the world I was doing. “Megan. Hi. My name is Billy.” (Billy being a very youngish name.) “I just received one of your advertisements in the mail.”
“Wonderful!” said Megan. “Would you like to begin a subscription.”
“No. No Megan, I would not. I just need to know how you got my name. Is there some old people’s database? Do you buy your names from pharmacies or something? Because I picked up a prescription for my dad the other day, and that wasn’t for me.”
Megan didn’t know what to say to that. Didn’t know where the names came from, either.
“Are you sure you don’t want to begin a subscription?” she asked.
“No. I mean yes. Yes, Megan, I am sure. I am not mature. Do you hear me?”
And then I hung up.
I’m not sure what Megan thought of that, but she likely had quite a story to tell during her break.
It’s funny how we think we’re comfortable with who and where we are in this life, and how quickly we are faced with the truth.
I won’t make that mistake again. Next time, all the junk mail’s going straight to the trash.
This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Adventure. To read more adventurous posts, visit my friend Peter Pollock at PeterPollock.com