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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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The uninvited guests in my mailbox

They’re coming. I know they’re coming. I dread and brace for it. And every year, just prior to Thanksgiving they begin to arrive.

The normal wad of bills and advertisements in our mailbox is thickened by the addition of catalogs offering every possible cute saying on a T-shirt, every toy you can imagine, every holiday ornament or accessory, every piece of unusual jewelry. We are inundated by these convenient temptations to buy without having to maneuver through the parking lots and holiday crowds.

At first, they’re kind of fun to play with. I enjoy perusing the pages while having breakfast or lunch. If I see something that would be the perfect gift for a child or grandchild, I stick a Post-It note with their name on it over the item.

But that gets old and expensive fast. I just gave in to temptation and ordered a book that cost $15. And I paid another $5 for shipping. I could have bought another toy with that $5 if I had store-shopped.

This year Oscar and I promised each other in advance to be strong and throw these intruders away unread. What has happened in the past is that they begin to pile up on kitchen chairs and counters, in bathroom reading-material baskets and on night tables for pre-sleep perusal. Just what the senders anticipated and hoped for, I’m sure.

But somehow the catalogs seem to remain all over our house well after the holidays have passed, tempting me to continue to purchase things I don’t need and cluttering our flat surfaces. And what I’ve noticed this year for the first time is that most of them are offering many of the exact same items. I’m seeing the same T-shirts and toys displayed over and over.

We’re receiving at least three or four of these enticements almost every day now and neither Oscar nor I have the time or energy to pay attention to them. And so we’ve begun to toss them into the recycling bin unopened and unread. And there they lie, like the sirens’ voices calling us to temptation. No parking necessary, no crowds, no time limit because catalog stores never close.

I wonder what it costs to compose, print and mail these pieces of mailbox madness. I’m sure it must be worthwhile or businesses wouldn’t continue to do it. Perhaps it’s even cheaper than building and staffing a store.

And I wonder just how my name managed to get on so many potential customer lists.

But for us there’s a unique and ironic benefit to this annual replay. As an electrical engineer, Oscar spent a good part of his career working in the research department of the postal service. So as we remove each of these daily heaps of catalogs from our mailbox, he reminds to be grateful because they are supporting our retirement.

Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”

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