Is there any company left in America that doesn’t sell life insurance? I opened an envelope from my bank today which did not look like the monthly statement. A twinge of concern crossed my consciousness, causing me to hurriedly tear at the seal. I shook out the letter with my bank’s logo blazoned across the top. I’m going to die, it said. And wouldn’t my loved ones feel ever so much better if they received a wad of cash as a result? This felt like a rather ominous opinion coming from the little bank down the street where I stash my meager tai chi and yoga instructor earnings. It’s been over a year since I did any actual stashing. Did my bank consider this lack of cash flow as a sign of my imminent demise?
Well, no, I learned as I read further. The bank was heralding my luck instead. They had teamed up with Live Forever Life Insurance Company to offer one of their most prominent depositors (me!) a spectacular deal on the cheapest, crappiest life insurance policy sold only to that portion of mankind not living in a third world country. They implored me to consider the dire straits in which I would leave my family should I be run over by the W3 bus as I made my way to the food co-op next Friday. That sounded frightfully specific! Obviously, nobody working on this campaign ever checked my deposit history. The only people missing my income would be those running the local chocolate company.
This episode and hundreds more like it left me wondering how I could cope with all the stuff that enters my life unbidden. Plague, pestilence, potholes. The history of things humanity didn’t ask for is an epic saga of the enormously burdensome. We have no choice but to accept and deal with naturally occurring nuisances, but from the get-go, people have always seemed to want to unendingly foist their personal annoying crap upon their fellow beings. Wars, racism, poorly-behaved world leaders. That’s the “big stuff,” but right now, an onslaught of the “small stuff” is causing a good portion of my sweating. I’m speaking of that crowning jewel of capitalism—advertising. Is it my fellow (wo)man’s right to bombard me constantly, through every possible means of communication, for the sake of relieving me of my spending cash? It feels like a fulltime job just trying to keep from drowning in a sea of solicitations.
In analyzing the many channels through which I receive a perpetual supply of notices regarding where and to whom I should be shelling out my every dime, I can point the biggest finger at The U.S. Mail. Many of us have a love/hate relationship with the post office. On the one hand, they handle billions of pieces of paper daily. Most of the time they get things done efficiently and I can admire their track record for getting it right. We like our mailman (Mike from Boston) and feel that we receive our post on a timely basis even when it snows. Then there are the times when the crew in another state, which we had relied upon to deliver correctly, screwed up with a lost package or really slow service and/or generally poor management. Any enterprise run by human beings has to suffer the occasional consequence of human error. My beef is our postal carriers are obliged by law to deliver each and every article entrusted to their care, even when I choose to vehemently reject it, actively defending my mailbox from this blitzkrieg of plugola.
My mailbox overflows with every sort of undesired drivel by the tonnage. In the weeks leading up to the N.C. primary election, I received at least 6 fliers per day, most of them from one candidate. I did not vote for that candidate based solely on the amount of crap I had to redirect into my recycling bin. Tree-killing bastard! But, let me assure you, he was not alone in the race to see who is the most annoying waster of natural resources. Then there are the coupons I need to take advantage of in stores where I would never shop, the weekly grocery specials on ground chuck and white sugar, pleas from the nonprofits I once made the mistake of donating to, the AARP publications I didn’t ask for, catalogues, flyers, notices…all insisting I give them my undivided attention. And of course, the mother of all ubiquitous solicitations, those life insurance peddlers disguised as legitimate mail from a familiar company. Oh, how I wish I could refuse receipt of these devilish deliveries or find a way to return them all to their senders. See how they feel with this level of bombardment when it lands right back where it started.
Even though it is still being used, delivery by mail is now considered the outdated method of advertising. When email services first started, I was delighted. Here was a way to send messages to my friends or do business without the involvement of anyone else. It continued that way for quite some time until businesses learned how to get my email address. There is the “If you sign up to get our emails, you will get 10% off your next purchase” gambit. I can only blame myself for the weight of all those messages in my inbox via businesses from which I have taken that bait. Now I use up much of my time trying to unsubscribe. This is no easy task. They always ask why I would do such a terrible thing. Didn’t they serve me well? Am I trying to put them out of business? My heart has grown hardened regarding their pleas for me to stay. If there was an I’m going to smash my computer with a sledge hammer if you send me one more email option on their why-are-you-abandoning-us? list, I would surely check it.
There is a newer trend by my free email service to plop a few ads into my daily deliveries. I have no control over receiving these abominations, but I am able to delete them before reading. Then I get the ridiculous come-on from my email company asking me to pay for ad-free service. It’s an endless war in which we all must play our part. Telling them to bugger off is mine.
Finally, I come to the worse miscreants of all. Those of the Spam Nation. Someone started calling our unwanted online communications “spam.” Scuttlebutt sources claim the term came from the Monty Python sketch about a lady whose food choices all included a certain canned meat product that was unliked, unwanted and infuriatingly in every available meal. I can screech all I want, but everything’s got some spam in it, and it can reach me just about anywhere on my phone or computer. I am primed and ready to ward off the attacks, or at least as much as I can be for $75 per year of protection ($130 if I really want to go all out). Texts, phone calls, emails and probably ways of which I’m not even cognizant.
The most prolific pathway is through the Comments section of this blog. I have but one small program to thwart spamming efforts to reach Ethel’s readers and subscribers. I have to approve of every comment made before anyone else can read it. Whew! It’s a slender little thing, but spares my readership from a swath of fiends from around the globe.
I average between 15 to 26 specimens of spam each day on the blog comments. These creeps seem to have attached themselves to one specific story and cling onto it for dear life. One day I had 28 spamy comments, so I broke them down to analyze their content. Fifteen of them were in Russian—a dead give-away. Then come the bitcoin, earn money, huge profit-making scams from one particular, determined fellow. Online gaming and gambling are up there in my daily count. Porn, of course, the likes of which are either sad or disgusting. Then there are the really long, pages-long comments with about 50 or so links to God knows what. Viagra sales in Español. Hangover remedies. Comments that say how great this topic is and how more people should be reading about it… please click here! are among some of my favorites. Out of the 28 comments I received, 3 were legit. When the reader writes about details in the story, without providing links to death and destruction, I know they are actual readers and pose no threat to the Ethel community.
Life goes on despite the spamy-ness of it. I feel loyal to my bank and my mailman despite their nefarious behaviors. I admit to browsing through that one envelope with all the coupons for window installment and wood-fired pizza and pulling out a couple to stuff away in the coupon drawer for future use as kindling in our fire pit. (As a side note, that’s also where all the chopsticks from the local Chinese restaurant delivery end up). I’m on a mission, so I’ll continue to search for ways to diminish the burden of undesired solicitations… and to look both ways when crossing the street.
Why can’t I get the baked beans without the spam?