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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

You've Got Mail . . . Again

Look. I try to do my part. Honestly, I do. I try to live by the very reminder that I often repeat in this blog: “There are other people in the world besides you,” or in this case, me. To that end, I’ve been known to donate modest amounts to charities (as long as their website text doesn’t contain errors), and also to make attempts to reduce my so-called carbon footprint for the sake of the environment. Surprisingly . . . and more than a bit annoyingly . . . these two efforts are often in conflict, as I find it’s nearly a part-time job getting my name off the paper mailing lists of these do-gooders..

As much as the Curmudgeon tends to rhapsodize about that mysterious time known as The Way Things Used to Be—and indeed, just to be absolutely clear, a lot of things used to be a lot better—there are some modern developments that I’ve fully embraced. True, I was dragged kicking and screaming into using a cell phone, and then into the practice of texting, and more recently into joining Instagram (an application whose use I still don’t understand). And fine, if the truth be told, I still don’t trust microwaves. Nothing should be able to heat food that fast; it just isn’t natural. But email and the internet are two relatively recent inventions that I use comfortably and appreciatively. They work.

So when I donate online to a charity and they thank me and ask for more money via email, I clearly don’t need to be further thanked or solicited via paper mail. Those mailbox missives, which cost money to send, don’t even get opened, since they duplicate communications that can be, and usually have been already, accomplished on line. And so, because I don’t want to waste paper, I while away the afternoons looking up contact information and reaching out to these organizations individually to request deletion from their paper mailing lists. It’s time-consuming and only temporarily effective.

Because here’s where it all gets worse. Each time I donate to a cause, I’m plunked back onto the organization’s mailing list afresh. Apparently the no-paper-mail status that I worked so hard to achieve doesn’t stick. And so I return to my computer to ask these good people, once again, to please kindly delete my information from their mailing lists. And since my tendency is to give small donations to a good number of causes, this practice has become a substantial part of my life’s work. It’s said we spend about a third of our lives sleeping. I’m convinced this near-futile endeavor is giving that percentage a run for its money.

And I begin to go mad with puzzling through the logic swamp: If you’re trying to get much-needed funds to the poor, the starving, those lacking resources, wouldn’t it make sense not to waste a penny? Wouldn’t these causes be well-served by someone figuring out how to make mailing choices permanent? I mean, I’m quite sure the technological ability exists. Hire a millennial IT specialist for five minutes. And yet, the mail keeps coming, some of it from organizations created to help the environment. The one I got yesterday was from The Nature Conservancy . . . The Nature Conservancy. I can’t even begin to parse through the ironies of killing trees to save trees and spending donated funds to do so. Is that really the most nature-friendly choice?

Now, this may be a Weekly Curmudgeon first, but the Curmudgeon may have figured out a solution, or at least a theory worth testing. I’m thinking that if I sign on for small automatic monthly donations, it may be that my mailing preferences will stand the test of time.

But if not, it may be that the best thing I can do for charities and causes is to stop donating to them, thereby saving them the expense of multiple mailings. I’ll bet I can save a whole tree that way. What can I say? I care enough not to give.

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