Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hunt Elk! Win a Weatherby!

At two separate times in my young adult life, I worked for a subcontractor of the U.S. Postal Service. My job was to sit at a computer screen and look at pictures of mail and code them for delivery. I learned a few things from this job. The first being that people really, really do not know how to address mail. The second being that you don't know the meaning of fun until you have typed postal codes for nine straight hours in the middle of the night under fluorescent lighting. The third, and probably most frightening thing, is that it is by sheer miracle that any mail gets delivered correctly at all.

Of course now we don't use the "snail mail" very often any more. We can pay our bills online, send notes, upload photos, send e-cards, submit essays for rejection, enter contests, receive newsletters and coupons and just about anything else you want to do. It's simple, right? Enter your email address in the form and save the planet from all those pesky envelopes and stamps. Why teach kids to write at all? Why not just start out in primary school with keyboarding classes so they can type their way into adulthood?

Into adulthood where they cannot seem to remember their own email addresses. I have been in a 15 round grudge match with the NRA over the last several months. It would appear that a man named Stuart thinks he's me. I don't really blame him. Who wouldn't want a piece of all this? Judging from his preferences, I'm guessing actually he wouldn't. We don't have a lot in common, Stuart and I. How on earth do I know this?

Because he has used my email address to sign up for every newsletter the NRA sends out, for several golf publications and discount superstores, for an extremely right-wing alumni group, for a long johns manufacturing and direct sales company (OK, so sometimes I look at these when I get them), and a few other assorted mailing lists. At first, I would just casually unsubscribe. I know sometimes we slip up when we type. It was probably an accident. There was that whole span of time where I signed all of my professional correspondence "Love, Lou" by mistake. My rather startled clients probably just thought they were receiving really good customer service. (That would help explain the hugging, too, now that I think about it.)

But eventually it seems that my dear Stuart would realize that he wasn't getting his NRA credit card offers. Did you even know that you could get a credit card through the NRA? I think you can earn points with it or something. (Bullet points. Ha!) There are typos and then there is using an email address that is clearly not yours to sign up for the most random crap. Not only that, but when I unsubscribe I get a few weeks respite and then dear Stuart signs me up all over again. To everything. How does this happen? I feel dirty reading someone else's mail. It's a felony. (This is what I tell the monkeys when they open my mail. "You don't want to go to jail for reading my mail, do you?" "But it's just a packet of oil change coupons!" "Felony! Jail! Do you? Do you?!" We're a well-adjusted family.) I feel dirty getting NRA newsletters. I'm terrified Charlton Heston is going to show up at my house with a shotgun or something. (Another quick digression: I know how to shoot a shotgun, by the way. My dad borrowed one when we were kids and took us out into the woods and set up things like milk jugs filled with water to approximate a human head. He wanted us to know that guns were real and to see the real damage they could do and also how to use one properly. Like I said, we're a well-adjusted family.)

I realize this email thing is what a friend of mine calls a "white boy problem"; that it is only a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things; that my grandparents had to walk uphill barefoot in the snow to the outhouse to get their email, but there's this nerdy part of me that worries over it. I worry that Stuart is missing out on updates about his favorite pastimes - wearing long johns and going on golf ball hunts with his alumni group - and I worry that the gun and golf loving Stuart is mentally unbalanced because he can't seem to grasp what his own email address is. We can't have folks like that just hitting golf balls willy nilly.

The "not right"ness of it all bothers me on a cellular level. It makes me worry that the fabric of our very society will unravel because of this blatant lack of attention to detail. It bothers me that we just generally accept that we will get this weirdo crap in our inboxes and that there will come a day when we can't tell the difference anymore between honest communication and misdirected messages. That one day it will all be spam. (Brief digression: when we lived in China, people would send us care packages from the States with things we couldn't get like brownie mixes and mac and cheese and stuff. And Spam. "Oh goody! Spam! You know, there's just not enough mystery meat here in China. I think I need some in a can from the good ole U S of A!" I think this is the very origin of calling unwanted emails "spam": my family's care packages. It's literally Spam. A whole inbox full of goodness and just for the heck of it, we'll throw in this nasty can of Soylent Green.)

Canned meat products aside, my dear Stuart, I don't want to hunt elk. I don't want to win a Weatherby. I don't even know what a Weatherby is! (How does that sort of contest even work, anyway? For every set of elk horns you send in, you get an entry into the Weatherby drawing?) I don't want the latest technology in ball washing. I have plenty of silk long johns. I attended a different crazy para-military state university, so I won't be attending your reunion. But I would like you to do all of those things if you want to. At the very least, can you use my email address for your personal correspondence so at least I can have access to the really juicy stuff?


  1. This, you know, is too good to be true.

  2. Now you have me all worried that the first package I have ever sent by airmail will not get to it's intended destination! Fingers crossed!!

    PS sorry I am a secret Spam lover ;-)

  3. Ball washing? My kids are looking at me, wondering why I'm giggling. Stuart is definitely missing out.
    (I blame my adult mental issues on the fact that I watched Soylent Green as a child.)

  4. This reminds me of two things--first, when I was a senior in high school and VERY bored and VERY, um, stalkery toward Mr. High School, a mutual friend of ours and I sat down and filled out all these "send more information" cards from a college catalog with Mr. High School's name and address so for MONTHS after that he was receiving information packets about, say the African dance program at some obscure Midwestern college or the nursing program at Florida State or whatever. HILARIOUS! (Though horrible--especially from an environmental standpoint.)

    The other thing is an article I read in Reader's Digest (or some other semi-reliable source) a few years ago about how you should NEVER use the unsubscribe button on spam emails because (and this is diabolical)--that is how they know that the email to which they sent the spam is a working, valid email address, which they then sell to OTHER spammers. The quiet spells you are experiencing are probably that little gap between when you unsubscribe and when the spammers meet up in a dark alley somewhere to cop another bag of valid email addresses.


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