“You’re in a mess, and in excess.” Billy Strayhorn
I am a person who cares very deeply about the planet—how can I not? It’s my home. I also have a great fondness for humanity. As Ruth Gordon so aptly put it in Harold and Maude: They’re my species. I love cats and dogs, elephants, tigers, and the giant panda. I even have a soft spot—at a respectful distance—for the bees that pollinate the crops from which so much of our food comes.
Because of these various and numerous carings, I am the recipient of a staggering quantity of e-mail petitions and donation requests. Three-hundred is a “good” day, but a closer average is 500. More than that and you can hear me whimpering softly into my keyboard Please, let me have a life.
Well, problems demand solutions, so I have recently decided to weed through the druck and click on that little life-saver Unsubscribe Me. (I should have done it years ago, but I was too busy … answering e-mails.)
I’m not doing a Thoreau here and disappearing into the woods. I realize these are desperate times, and as such call for desperate measures. Or at least a quantity of $5 and $10 donations, and a daily dozen of signed petitions. So, how to separate the wheat from the chaff? Well, I believe there are situations where our democracy needs lawyers on the ground, sometimes hordes of them, so I won’t be axing the ACLU. Likewise, I won’t part company with Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way, Democracy Now, the Union of Concerned Scientists, or the World Wildlife Fund. And I want to reassure the Humane Society that I’m still going to donate my lovely 2001 Ford Focus. I just need the use of it for another six weeks.
But, not all that screams READ ME THIS INSTANT is gold. So, gone is the magazine I declined to renew back in 2009, but which continues to send me weekly come-ons. (Read this woman’s lips: No means no.) History, too, are the BIG! SALE! NOW! adverts for clothing, designer cookware, and high-tech gadgets from companies I’ve never patronized. It’s also arrivederci to the guy who’s always yammering on about tinnitus (I can’t hear you anymore.)
And though it pains me, because I think many of them are very good people, it’s time to be honest with myself and confess that I cannot possibly fill the campaign coffers of all 187 Democrats in the House on a writer’s income. (Democrat #188, Rep. Fattah from Pennsylvania, saved me the trouble by resigning in June after being busted on corruption charges.)
Don’t worry Lizzie Warren. You are my hero, and you will always have my heart, my vote, and whatever spare change I find beneath the sofa cushions.
This purging of my Inbox is no small task, but already I feel wonderfully exhilarated. It’s made me consider what else in life I might unsubscribe to. A sort of thinking outside the (in)box. So far, my wish list of things I’d like to vanquish with the click of a mouse includes:
1)Any repetitive task involving cleaning—washing dishes, scrubbing toilets, mopping floors, sieving the cat box. Bye!
2)Junk mail consisting of credit card come-ons, solicitations for “free” dinners to discuss investment strategies for the 401K I don’t have, and ultra-posh catalogs ($275 for a pair of shorts? I’ll think about it when I stop laughing).
3)All yardwork that involves heavy weeding. We have—and I want to emphasize this—a very, very small yard. We chose our house with its wee lot because we DO NOT LIKE yardwork. We like writing and reading, bicycling and enjoying a gin-and-tonic on the deck. Yet, despite the terraced garden I created to cover the front lawn, and the pavers we laid down for a patio to cover the back yard, I still dig and clear 35-40 giant bags of what our landfill correctly labels “yard waste.”
How is it possible that palm oil deforestation is wreaking havoc on half the world and here in my puny 4,000 sq. ft. lot, a jungle abounds?
4)Speaking of havoc in the larger world, unsubscribe me from TV, radio, and print pundits who just spout whatever outlandish drivel comes into their heads for the sole purpose of ramping up their ratings, while sowing discord, escalating tensions, and mongering fear (I’ve always wanted to use monger as a verb!).
5)Related to #4, I would like to cancel the 24-hour news cycle, period. Possibly the worst innovation to come out of the media explosion cable TV introduced, it leads otherwise reasonable newscasters to say things like, “Michael Jackson will only die once.”
6)Also high on my list of things to delete is that phone-answering set-up where an improbably zombie-like computerized “woman” asks you questions, then insists you speak your answer into the void. No matter how slowly and clearly you enunciate, “she” never quite “hears” you.
Zombie woman: Are you experiencing any fever? Just say yes or no.
ZW: I’m sorry. I didn’t quite understand your reply. Could you repeat that?
You (perspiring heavily): Yes! My temperature is 104!
ZW: I’m sorry. Can we try that again?
You (swooning): 104! My temperature is 104! I’m burning up!!!
ZW: Let’s try a different question.
7)And last, but certainly not least, please save me from any political “debates” where candidates compare the size of their hands, ears, nose to any other part of their anatomy as if it had any relevance to world hunger, global warming, or the desperate needs of refugees.
I mean, seriously, Beam me up, Scotty!