Saturday, September 27, 2008

Junk mail

The other morning a slip of paper came through our letter box, not, I hasten to add, of its own accord, but thrust there by person or persons unknown.
I bounded down the stairs three at a time in a state of high excitement only to discover that my wife had leapt up from her armchair and dashed out of the sitting room before me. As she read the contents quickly I hopped about from one foot to the other, as though bursting to go to the toilet.
“It’s only a flyer for blinds,” she said, handing me the paper and returning to Fair City.
My face fell. I suppose you are either a curtain person or a blinds person and I am the former. My experiences of blinds is limited to holidays in Kerry or Sligo, where I quickly found that I don’t have the necessary hand/eye coordination to operate them successfully. When I’m trying to raise them, they lower further and further or else I end up with one side up and one side down in a very art nouveau but impractical way.
Consequently I trooped out to the kitchen and placed the flyer in the empty cornflakes box that stands by the back door. The box saves us having to go out to the green bin every time we have a piece of green recycling. When the box is full, we bring it out and empty it. (This ingenious invention has actually been patented by my wife and is under copyright. Bill Dyson is said to be raging that he didn’t think of it first.)
Not all junk mail goes straight in the recycling though. If the flyer is of the non-shiny sort and is blank on one side, it is added to the bundle of scrap paper in the drawer held in place by an elastic band. This is handy if I need a piece of paper to work out why the taxman has taken so much money off me or if I need to write a note to my wife to tell her that I’ve gone out to buy the new Lionel Richie album.
The point that I am making, very long-windedly, is that it doesn’t require a lot of physical effort to transfer one small piece of paper from the front door to the green bin. There is no need to hire a hand trolley or a fork lift, unless you are very feeble, although admittedly there is a need to walk six yards from front door to back. However, this unnecessary trip can be obviated by leaving the flyer at the foot of the stairs until such time as someone is going into the kitchen.
I have no problems with junk mail. The green bin truck comes around every second week now and we never find that our green bin is overflowing. I am sure that the nice men in the recycling centre get quite a buzz out of reading all the leaflets they receive every day.
We do not often eat out but if a new establishment opens in the neighbourhood, a flyer would remind us to “give it a bash.” I do not need any handy jobs done around the house, as I simply close my eyes and work around the problem. I am not thinking of buying or selling a house in the area, nor am I thinking of buying a new Peugeot, though I am sure they are very nice cars.
I do not need my shirts ironed and, as my youngest is twenty, I do not need a childminder, though at times I’m not so sure. I will glance through Lidl’s catalogue to see if they have anything “on special,” and do the same for Aldi, even though I can’t be bothered to travel to Maynooth to pick up a pair of retractable garden shears. Nor am I likely to join Leo Varadkar’s blue-shirted army in the near future. Sorry Leo.
Probably the only piece of junk mail I object to is the one that asks me if I want my lawn cutting. Without knocking on my neighbours’ doors, I am unsure if I have been specifically targetted for this leaflet because of the length of my grass out front or if everybody on the street has received it. I suspect the former, as I never receive this type of flyer when my grass has been freshly cut.
But although 99% of junk mail holds little or no interest to me, I will defend to the death the right to deliver it to my door. (Well, not quite “to the death” – more “till I get bored” really. I have no deep desire to be martyred for this cause and become the patron saint of junk mail.)
Junk mail is produced, in the main, by local businesses trying to promote a service to the local community. They have used a bit of initiative and gone to the trouble of producing a flyer that, they hope, will attract more customers and I applaud them for that. I am sure there are less stony ears than mine out there in the community and I hope their efforts are successful. More customers equals more jobs, as I’ve been trying to explain to Brian Lenihan.
It saddens me therefore that a few people are feeling the urge to put little “No junk mail” signs on their letter boxes. Despite what people maintain, we are hardly burdened down by the weight of junk mail pouring through our letter boxes. We don’t need to call out the fire brigade when we return from holidays to help us force open the front door. At most, what do we receive – three, four pieces of junk mail per day? It is hardly back-breaking work to cope with all of it.
It also raises the question as to what constitutes junk mail. Does notification of evening classes fall under this heading? Public information leaflets? The Community Voice? Census information forms? Warnings of an imminent nuclear attack? Does junk mail have to be trying to sell you something?
One letter box in the vicinity is adorned with an essay threatening prosecution under the Litter Act to anybody who dares to drop a leaflet, a menu or a newspaper through it. This person seems very angry. The only explanation I can come up with for this litigious fury is that perhaps there is a baby in the house who is constantly being wakened by the sound of the letter box clattering.
Of course, I feel he is missing out because of this. I have often had the urge to rifle through my green bin and post out all the previous fortnight’s flyers to him in one large A4 envelope. This way he can show support to his local community without the baby being constantly woken.
But I jest. I accept that some people might find the task of transferring junk mail from front door to green bin onerous in the extreme. I am consequently considering offering my services in this regard, calling out to people’s homes to perform this task for them for a nominal sum.
In order to promote this piece of entrepreneurship, I will be sending out a flyer to all houses in the near future.

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