I have been trapped in the house too long.
I know this because some time in the last year, the best part of my day became getting the mail.
I guess if I’m being honest, the mail has always been fun. You go out and open that little door, hoping there might be a prize waiting for you. It’s like your own daily game show.
I get excited when I see the white postal truck pull up to my house, but I never run right out. I wait until I hear my mailbox lid clank shut and the truck pulls away. I prefer to savor the experience privately, to relish that moment of surprise before you open the box or envelope.
I like to keep things anonymous, like Santa Claus on Christmas. You put out milk and cookies, you go to sleep, and in the morning there are presents under the tree. No awkward eye contact, no exchanges of pleasantries, just the goods.
The only problem is that unless I drunkenly ordered something I didn’t need on Amazon two nights ago, the stuff my mailman drops off is rarely worth leaving my chair. My issue of The New Yorker comes on Thursdays, but other than that, it’s a bunch of junk.
I’m fascinated there are companies out there still vying for my business via the U.S. Postal Service. The cost of color printing and mailing something has got to be ASTRONOMICAL, and yet I still get a goddamn Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon in the mail every other week. Which, by the way, I used to throw out until my wife once saw me trashing it.
“What are you doing? Those are coupons,” she said.
I pointed out we have not set foot in a Bed, Bath & Beyond since we registered there for our wedding 5 years ago. “Maybe if we had coupons, we would,” she replied.
Since then I’ve kept them, stuffing the blue and white card into a cubby overflowing with expired coupons.
This summer, we accidentally got a postcard from a local animal hospital that had our address on it but was intended for another family. On the back was an inked paw print and a handwritten note. “We’re so sorry about Sunny,” the note read. “He was a good boy. We will remember him forever.”
Once I stopped sobbing into my hand, I called the animal hospital to explain the mix-up, but they’d already closed. I put the card on the kitchen table with the intention of returning it the next day.
The note was gone in the morning, so I asked Melinda if she’d seen it.
“Oh, I threw that away,” she said. “It wasn’t for us.”
“You THREW IT AWAY?” I said.
“What’s the big deal?” Melinda said. “They probably send one of those to every family that loses a dog.”
I didn’t feel like explaining the dynamics of death to her, so I said my own little apology to Sunny in doggy heaven and tried to move on with my day.
Now THIS was a haul.
I was disappointed to discover, however, the culprits of the overstuffing were two issues of a newspaper called The Epoch Times. They were over a month old.
Despite having a bachelor’s degree in journalism, I’d never heard of this publication, but it got my Spidey Sense tingling. This didn’t feel like a real newspaper. It felt like propaganda disguised as a newspaper.
The first headline that caught my attention was one that read “Opinion: Netflix’s Cuties the latest instance of sacrificing our children.” Other gems included “The Federal Government’s annual spending orgy wastes your money,” “Preserving our values for the next generation,” and an ad for a three-volume book set called The Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World; the headline of which told me it is the book I’ve been waiting for.
I tossed the papers in the recycle bin and forgot about them, until the mystery was solved several weeks later when I was on the phone with my mom. Like most times we talk, she didn’t have much to report, so she steered the conversation into politics.
In response to my skepticism regarding Mom’s feeling the country was “doomed” following President Biden’s inauguration, she told me I felt that way because I was “brainwashed by the mainstream media.”
She said the only media sources that could be trusted to tell the truth were those outside the fold, which is why she and my dad had subscribed to The Epoch Times.
“I’ve never heard of that paper,” I said. “How many Pulitzers have they won?”
“Your dad and I sent you some samples in the mail. We thought you’d appreciate the quality journalism.”
Now recalling the fake newspapers stuffed in my mailbox, I couldn’t help myself from laughing. “THAT WAS YOU?” I said. “YOU SENT ME THAT PROPAGANDA?”
Mom said it wasn’t my fault I was so closed-minded. “It’s where you live,” she said.
Which is fair. She lives in New Jersey, and I live in the real world.
The Rambler is my community newsletter, wedged in my screen door four times a year. It absolutely looks like junk, and I’m sure most people in the neighborhood toss it right in the trash, but I look forward to every issue like a dork waiting for a new episode of The Mandalorian.
Recent articles have included “End Covid-19 blues (hopefully) with fish fry,” “A birthday parade for Mr. Adams,” and the lead story that “Pothole” Joe Alexander had died at the age of 90.
The Rambler is such a masturbatory publication, so self-serving and bitchy. So far as I can tell, there are only two writers: Daniel, the editor-in-chief; and a guy named Carl, whom I’m pretty sure is the guy the sports fields at the local rec center are named after.
Carl’s my favorite, because he’s an old man with an agenda and too much time on his hands. He writes about how things used to be in the neighborhood, or he bitches about how things should go back to how they used to be. One of Carl’s articles in the last edition of the paper profiled Scotty, the 89 year-old barber, who recalled cutting hair for Shorty Marshall, Herbie Potter, Old Man Shepherd, and Potato Pearson.
“Honey!” I yelled to Melinda from the living room. “You’ll never believe this article. It says here Scotty cut hair for both Shorty Marshall AND Potato Pearson.”
Melinda said nothing.
“Baby… POTATO FUCKING PEARSON!”
Since my Rambler already came this week, my hopes weren’t high today when I went to check the mail. All I found was an ad for something called the Zinger. “Meet the future of battery-operated personal transportation,” the copy read. “It’s not a wheelchair, it’s not a power chair, it’s a ZINGER. Discover life-changing freedom… AND FUN!”
My Zinger ad ended up in the basket by the fireplace where it will serve as kindling on the next chilly day. But maybe somewhere it ended up on a fridge, solving a problem or allowing someone in need to discover life changing freedom… AND FUN.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that not every day can be a good mail day, but if you keep waiting, the junk mail you need will come to you. Maybe it’s a coupon or a sympathy card. Maybe it’s a newsletter full of zoning complaints or neo-conservative presstitution. Until the world opens, at least I’ll have my mailman’s visit and a new chance at winning my own little game show.