Every Monday morning before the garbage truck arrives, it is my chore to wheel the trash cart out to the mailbox and clean out all the junk that has accumulated there during the week.
It’s a tough job, requiring an attention to detail that I am not quite capable of on Monday mornings.
It used to be a simple task but then with so much direct marketing going directly into the trash, the industry was forced to evolve – in a downright Darwinian manner.
Like viruses who hide under coats of protein or bugs that disguise themselves as twigs, a few species of junk mail have wrapped themselves in envelopes that appear to be something you need – like utility bills or government documents – a favorite being the refund check.
I thought I'd seen it all, until sifting through last week's mail when I came across the ultimate. An official looking envelop that declared in big, bold letters: YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.
Wow! Just plain... WOW!
I tried to guess what it might be. The warranty on our coffee maker is about to expire. Could it be that? An extension offer?
The return address read US Department of Commerce. So what gives? Is our government getting into the junk mail business?
I suppose it was inevitable. We are already in the banking and car business, so why not junk mail? It's probably fallen on hard times too.
So as required by law, I opened the envelop – and found a questionnaire called The American Community Survey. It's a booklet printed on cheap stock with all kinds of nosy questions in bold blank ink and green shaded boxes for the answers.
Having a pen on me, I used the mailbox as a desk and began filling it out.
The very first question threw me for a loop. It wanted to know BOTH my age and date of birth - which raised a few questions of my own. Was the Census incapable of doing simple arithmetic or just plain lazy? Or could it be a test to see if I was an idiot? In that case, I hoped I would not disappoint.
The next question about my gender was just as bad. It gave only two choices. Male and female. Good grief, how stuck in last millennium can you get?
The question of race demonstrated some sign of progress. Respondents could check as many boxes as applicable. Black, White, Asian, Inuit; Elizabeth Warren, knock yourself out.
Under HOUSING, they covered all the bases. Even including a little green box to check if you were living in a van down by the river. You got to wonder though - how many people living like that have a mailbox?
Next the survey wanted to know how many stoves and refrigerators we had. For that I needed help.
“Hon,” I yelled from the driveway, “how many stoves and fridges do we got?”
“Inside or outside?” she yelled back.
Good question, I hadn't thought of that. Counting the ones on the porch, we had at least five of each. The same went for automobiles, so I started adding up the yard-cars.
“Why do you want to know?” she shouted.
“I'm filling out a survey.”
“IT'S A CENSUS FORM."
“DON'T YOU DARE...” she shouted as she ran across the lawn.
“We got to fill it out,” I told her, “it's the law.”
“I'll do it,” she said then muttered, “people will think we're a bunch of hicks...”
“Wouldn't worry about that,” I told her as I flipped a glossy Lexus ad into the trash.
This week’s writing challenge: write a tale in the form of message.
- Write a letter.
- Write an email exchange.
- Write a trail of Tweets. Or is that twits?
Post your article to Gather Writing Essentials.
BE SURE TO TAG your submission with MWE. Note: I search for articles using the tag "MWE" If you don't tag it right, I will not find it.
- Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
Reminder: the cutoff for the Gather Anthology is July 28, 2012. If you want to submit your writing, send a message to Pam Brittain's Gather email for the details.
Last week’s writing challenge to tell a workplace tale drew the following responses:
Weekly reminder: don't forget to recommend an article that you like (to learn why, read Ann Marcaida's article Attract More Writers and Artists to Gather!).. Also try to place a comment on at least one article and say more than you liked the piece. Tell the author what worked and what needs work.