Tripping It

Lehighton (PA) Times News

December 4, 1969

Jewels in Your Mailbox

Inundate is a very functional word.

It was, until recently, considered a rather archaic word, having been quite in vogue in the mid-19th century. It was somewhat burdensome, both in pronunciation and in aesthetic value. It was frowned upon in the beginning of the 20th century, though, as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald preened the English language and made steady use of the lowest common denominator words. It is back, though, with a vengeance that can only come from being ignored for half a century.

The word means, “to cover with or as with a flood; to overflow; deluge.”

It can apply to someone who has come home from a rainstorm and found his or her house underwater; it would be said to be inundated. Or when a man goes in to his place of employment and his boss has a list of 16,000 things for him to do in a period of eight hours; he would be considered to be inundated with work. I suppose that in this age of stretch fabrics, stretch imaginations, and stretch morals (sic) it would not be too far our to say that when a male or a female shows vehement emotion for another person, that the object of that emotion is being inundated with passion. But, paramount among the uses of inundate today sees to be the day-to-day complaint of the person in the household who makes the daily pilgrimage to the family mailbox. The explanation would seem to be: “We’ve been inundated with junk mail again!”

The junk mail thing gets out of hand more every year. It has many unwholesome side effects, primary among them being the financial one: since junk mail goes through the great American postal system at bulk rate, the cost of the carriage of the junk stuff must be made up by first class postage increases, which have come periodically for the last ten years.

It also increases the annual garbage hauling cost of most cities, boroughs, and townships. A borough of about 1,000 homes will have to have 16½ tons of junk mail hauled away yearly, at the minimum. A woman recently saved all of her junk mail for a period of one year. At the end of that time she weighed the end result of her savings, and found that she had 33 pounds of pure crud mail. Everything from advertisements for a great sale on land in Florida to a packet of magazine advertisements in which it was proclaimed “You May Have Won A $60,000 Home.” The variety is staggering; the diversity is overwhelming.

Where at one time it was necessary to go through the process of organizing a nationwide canvas of homes in order to secure funds for various projects, such organizations can now run their fund-raising campaigns through the mails at the infamous bulk rate. And the cross-section of mail that one receives from the do-gooders makes it look (to anyone who would take a glance into your mailbox) as if you may be one of the world’s great philanthropists.

The United Nations Association of the United States of America gives you the opportunity to contribute to their world services: you can become anything from a Membership Patron by giving $1,000 or more a year, to a lowly Regular Member for the paltry sum of $7.00 per year. Or, should you wish to be an intellectual at the same time that you preserve world peace with your monies, you can join the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, where you can be titled a Founding Member for $1,000 or more, all the way down to an Associate Member for $10 a year. Obviously these groups are a little more elite than the U.N. group.

Senator George S. McGovern in New York sends his regards in the name of The Fund for Peace, Inc., and notes your interest in preserving world peace—at any cost. A contribution would be kindly appreciated. Sending him a Photostat of my income tax payments from last year hasn’t elicited a response from him, however. “Dear Friend,” begins the letter from the Council for a Livable World, “will you join with some 10,000 informed, concerned citizens to support a politically effective peace organization?” Enclosed with the letter is a form that can be sent back (with money, of course) to elect Hart for the Senate or Moss for the Senate. Right.

Then there are things from the NAACP, Columbia University, The Wilderness Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And among all of this bilge there is a little note from one that explains how you were narrowed down. “Profile matching” enabled us to locate your name as one whose interests seem relatable to peace. That’s what it says. Obviously sometime in my life I ordered a peace poster or a magazine subscription from somewhere and old “Profile matching” found out about it and distributed my name to all of the participating peace-seeking organizations in the world. I wonder how long it is going to take for the bulk-rate junk from the Maoist League to get over here asking for donations.

It is nice—in some ways—to come home every day and see the mailbox filled. It makes one feel as though he is remembered by someone. But it can get out of hand. It seems to me I recall a recent Supreme Court ruling that unsolicited pornography through the mails is liable to court action. Isn’t it proper to apply the same to bulk-rate mail? After all, in regards taste, donation campaigns may be to one person as pornography is to another.

It is very tempting to begin a campaign to have people who receive junk mail to write Return to Sender on the front of it and send all of it back. Bulk rate is not returned to sender, of course, and would pile up in the post offices. Maybe if we INUNDATE them they’ll take the hint.