My mailbox has a sign imprinted on the door that says, “Approved by the Postmaster General.” I was relieved to see it, although I am surprised that the Postmaster General has time to worry about
what a mailbox looks like in Birmingham, Alabama. I picture the poor man sitting at his desk as people parade in nonstop saying, “How about this one?” I’ve seen pictures of mailboxes that look like cows and Winnebagos, so I’m guessing he must be pretty open-minded.
Inspecting the mail that is delivered to my mailbox, however, is up to me, and I am not nearly as accommodating. I go out to the mailbox each day with a great sense of anticipation, even though what follows is mostly serious work.
First, I deal with the straight-up ads. These are easy. Either I’m interested in something or I’m not. 20% off at one of my favorite stores? Yes, please! An application for a new credit card? No, thank you.
Catalogs face the same scrutiny. If I’m currently in the market for what they offer, they go to the “Read” pile. If not, I remove the name label and send them to the great Recycling Beyond, although, sometimes on a rainy day, I go through them just for sport.
The charity pleas are tougher. They are all worthy causes, so I have set my accept/reject line at how the organization spends the money they’ve already been given. I hang onto the envelopes of the charities I know and trust and leave room for new local concerns that have demonstrated concrete, boots-on-the-ground progress. I never feel good after that part of the process, but that’s the job of the Murphy Family Postmaster General.
By then, I’m down to mail that looks official. Bills go to the right, everything else to the left for additional screening. Right now, I’m struggling with piles of political ads. Some are short and straightforward. I read them until I get to a breach of one of my deal-breaker issues (there are many), and then they go in the reject pile.
Somehow, I have made my way onto the mailing list of both political parties, which, in a perfect world, would be the ideal way to begin an open-minded decision, but so far, it’s not working out that way. Many weighty envelopes include surveys sent by official-sounding organizations using the words “patriot” or “heritage” and include a caveat on the envelope that only the addressee (that would be me) is entitled to this inside influence of their organization’s platform. Once you get inside, however, the tone goes something like this: A: Do you love your family? (Yes or No) B. Do you want your family to be safe? (Yes or No) The “C” part goes on to name their opponent as the sinister blockade to my safety and freedom and the future of the world as we know it. At the end, of course, mentioned in a BTW sort of way, is a plea for me to send them money so they can buy more pitchforks to storm the castle. Nope.
After all that carnage, there is little left, but occasionally, occasionally, there is a card, a little note, a wonderfully unexpected communication from a faraway friend that makes my whole day. And that, my friends, is what motivates me to go back out to the mailbox tomorrow.
Intermittent reinforcement. It’s a powerful force, the carrot to all that mailbox stick. The ad people, political or otherwise, would do well to remember that. So says the Murphy Family Postmaster General.