Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Postman Cometh

The divergences of overseas life as compared to US living can often be exemplified by the little things. The minutia of everyday life that one, who has never left, would never consider. One of those things is the receipt of mail. Sure, the stamps were different, but what I'm talking about here is the stuff found in your mail box every day.

First, you got letters from friends who still cotton to the art of the personal Letter. I love those people - - in fact, who do you know that doesn't like to get a "real" letter in the mail? Why do you think that we all love Christmas? Letters! Second, of course I was getting my weekly crack-habit of People Magazine. But since my mag was delivered at least 30 days behind schedule, it was akin to living in a virtual dentist's office where old magazines come to die. As a result, I tended not to want to hear, for instance, when Ellen had come out of the closet. In my overseas world she was still stuck in there arranging hangers for at least another month. Finally, you received Bills. However, often times given language constraints, it may not have been immediately apparent that they were, in fact, requests for payment.

You didn't know that they were Bills until one day when you consciously acknowledged that unlike sorting through the mail here in the U.S. what you are not having to rifle through is the aptly categorized Junk Mail. That's right folks, being an expatriate means that your daily receipt of Junk Mail is pretty much nil. Hence, if the item did not fall in to the category of Magazine or Letter, then you could be reasonably assured that it was likely a Bill. Bills were quickly taken to my secretary for translation and handling. If it was not a bill, it was highly probable that is was some official government agency explaining in exquisite detail that you forgot to register at your local Office for Foreigners - - and then you could tip your head in that doggie way that indicates confusion and wonder - - if they know I am a foreigner why are they sending me stuff only in Japanese or German? Yet, I deviate from my topic...

(A quick note before I continue: In London we did get some Junk Mail, however it was unlike US Junk Mail in that it consisted mainly of 1)people putting lots of crap through your mail slot - i.e. not really mail per say, but Junk Hand Delivery, and 2) Real Estate magazines. Nice big glossy magazines showcasing lovely pictures of London flats for the bargain basement price of a decamillion pounds for 1,000 sq ft.)

But getting back to the mail here. These days my mail consists generally of a copious number of fliers for products I have no interest in purchasing and usually cannot figure out who would really want this (a stand alone Amish fireplace heater?), requests for donations to any number of worthwhile charities (but gee golly, I've plenty of return address labels), enough credit card application offers that my shredder is 90% composed of tiny little shreds of paper from Capital One and Citigroup, and of course catalogs.

It's highly likely that I'm preaching to the choir here, but aren't there days when there is not a single worthwhile thing in your mailbox? At the end of a week, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some disparate percentage of my recycling bin is composed of bunkum I got in the mail that I didn't ask for, want or more importantly, need.

(Another note: You may have observed that I did not bellyache about Catalogs. Sadly, I actually missed them in my absence. I've only been back several months, and since then I have been scratching an itch I didn't know was there. I'll get back to you in 6 months when the catalog influx has increased thanks to the wonderful world of Address Sharing. At this point the only thing that concerns me is LLBean. They send out a fair number in a month selling practically the same thing in each one. They must think consumers are stupid and need lots and lots of reiteration before we finally decide to purchase those rubber boots.)

It's about at this point where you are now wondering, "What is her point? Who cares about the mail, junk or other wise?" Well, I'm getting there. It's about an "offer" I got in yesterday's mail. There I was looking for Henry's report card and instead, I got an open-handed slap of reality. Should I still be living overseas, I would not have seen this. It was definitely something I didn't ask for, want, or more importantly, need. It was this:

Please note that my name is etched in the same little white box with the words "Senior Citizen Offer". Please note that it is for a magazine called "Sunset" - as in "the sunset of our lives" or some other euphemistic blather. Slap. slap and bigger slap!! Would I have been happier to get the letter that stated, "Hey you old bag, guess what? In just a few short months you will be able to get cheaper movie tickets and want to eat dinner at 5:00 in the afternoon! Our magazine can help you with that transition!"? In fact, it did say that, but with fewer words. Is it because us Senior Citizens can't concentrate that long?
So, no this post wasn't really about the mail. It's about the not so subtle ways that you can be reminded that you are no Spring Chicken. It's about the fact that when you take that walk to the mailbox you can be feeling youthful and sprightly. You are infused with that unrealistic internal vision of yourself practically glowing at the age of 25. It's about how you then shuffle aimlessly away from that same mailbox with an imagined dowagers hump, craving some butterscotch hard candy that you wished you now kept in a little dish on the coffee table - - right next to your AARP card and your monthly copy of Sunset Magazine. Damn that Junk Mail!


K said...

Heh. That's pretty funny. To make you feel (marginally) better, I believe AARP starts at like 45 and membership if free to everyone over that age. So take the membership. Maybe you can qualify for a discount on People.

Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy,

Kim Rowe, best friend in REAL life and FB friend as well - now that she's moved to Singapore, suggested I check out your blog. I have had great fun this morning reading through your posts and it has given me some understanding of what Kim is going through and will be going through. By the way, you are a fantastic writer!

You may remember me. I lived next to the Wood house in Chautauqua at 12 S. Lake Drive. My mother is Donna Holland. I'm Merritt. I'm one of those people who still writes letters. If you know my mother at all, you will know why I was taught at a VERY early age to write, write often and when writing a thank you note, say a lot more than "thanks". So, I did it and have continued to do it now for 45-some-ish years.

Anyway, when Kim first moved to Spore, the first thing I did was go to the Post Office, find out how much it cost to mail a letter there and buy a package of stamps so I could send her letters. As it turns out, since she's been gone, I've sent everything but a letter! Candy, napkins, kitchen items she forgot, Halloween treats, and most recently a package of Pittsburgh Steelers material which she absolutely had to have for the Super Bowl. Now I think I'll send People Magazine - which, of course will cost more than the stamps I purchased. In any case, I WILL send her a letter one of these days and I'll probably include some photos or something.

My mother is now 82 and we are in the process of moving her to a retirement community. Because of my association with her I am now getting TONS of mail from retirement communities, AARP, and other health information directed at those who are sitting in Gods waiting room. It makes me laugh, but I suppose you can never be to prepared, so I DO read some of it.

Thanks for sharing with all of us. Kim, if you are reading this, a letter is coming!

- Merritt Holland
Spier 2/8/2009