Cutting the postman out of the loop

Like most of you, I’ve been grousing about the postal service for years, and not only when they raise the price of stamps. Given the choice, I always go with UPS. For one thing, the UPS man actually drives up my dirt road and delivers to my door. The closest the U.S. Mail gets is more than a mile, to a little box at the post office, which is now open only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week.

Our postmistress can’t explain why it takes a first-class letter six days, on average, to get here from Malibu. It could get here faster by ox cart.

So with all the hoo-hah about mail contamination, the postal service put a notice in our boxes last week warning us to be suspicious of pieces that are unexpected or from someone we don’t know. Does this include those with Ed McMahon’s picture? At least 90 percent of my mail comes from people I’ve never met who want me to donate to their causes or buy something I don’t need. Does this mean that I can now, in good conscience, chuck these bids without opening them? Yesss!

Today’s stack contained one from something called the Life Extension Foundation in Florida. Well, I’m certainly suspicious of that. They want me to join “the world’s largest organization dedicated to discovering and disseminating scientific methods to slow down, stop and eventually reverse aging.” I’m not kidding. The fee to join is $75, but if my response arrives by Sept. 30, I will get a 50 percent discount. Hello! I received this on Nov. 8. Too bad.

Next on the stack is from The Hemlock Society. I wonder if they know I didn’t join the Life Extension thing. My $35 donation will give me discounts on books, pamphlets and tapes for planning a peaceful death. Don’t these guys have a problem with Attorney General John Ashcroft? I think he’s planning to arrest everyone in Oregon who has participated in the “gentle, assisted, hastened death” the Hemlocks are offering.

Actually, I don’t think it’s sporting to plan one’s death. It might even be bad luck. I say, Surprise me.

The Natural Resources Defense Council sends a note to tell me my membership is apparently going to expire before I do. The “great news” is I can renew my membership this month and “our environment will benefit twice as much.” An NRDC trustee has promised to match every dollar I give with an extra dollar. For $15, I probably will renew just in case I’m still around to enjoy the improvements to our environment. Besides, Robert Redford keeps telling me I should, and when Redford talks, I listen.

Co-op America will send me its National Green Pages for $20 a year, so I can buy green products (I already do), invest in green businesses (What’s to invest? You guys got all my money), boycott corporate criminals and change the way America does business. As a bonus, I get something called a “socially responsible” Financial Planning Handbook. What’s to plan? See above. Hey, this was mailed from Washington, D.C. Aaargh! I shouldn’t have opened it.

Here’s one from Environmental Defense mailed from New York City. Straight into the dustbin with that.

Pesticide Action Network’s envelope has no postmark and no return address. Oh, too bad. It’s probably a good cause, but I daren’t touch it.

Now, along with all these bids are postcards (no problem about whether or not to open these) from Social Security, AT&T, Kaiser, KCET and others, begging me to sign up for direct deposit, direct withdrawal, e-mail billing and various electronic payment options. Until now I’ve resisted such high-tech conveniences. But now, they’re beginning to look good. I could cut down trips to the post office to maybe once or twice a week. No late charges, no stamps, no angst over getting to the post office before 4 p.m. I think I could get the hang of this.

I’d still have to go there once a week to get my New Yorker. And, of course, all the catalogs from which I can order things by phone to be delivered by the UPS man. I can see how we could almost cut the postal service out of the loop completely.

All this simplicity might even help the Life Extension thing so I don’t have to think about the Hemlock thing. I see me recycling pounds of unopened mail. Just doing my bit for Environmental Defense, by way of apology for not opening their stuff.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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