Receiving Useless Catalogues?

In our apartment complex, here in Los Angeles, the US Mail delivery person uses an industrial pile-driver to get our mail jammed into our mailboxes. This, of course, is extremely efficient because any junk mail that comes in our direction can be efficiently inserted in our mailbox.

I’m not sure how they get the apparatus in proximity to our condo mailbox area but it apparently works.

This mail delivery methodology, however, makes it difficult to get our mail out of our mailbox. Neighboring tenants would try to retrieve their mail before work, straining with their feet against the wall while pulling, with all their might, to get their wads of mail.

It’s good cardiovascular exercise but there is some risk to it. It also steers us toward unproductive emotional states if we are wearing less-than-sensible shoes in our striving to meet the LA fashion bar for our climb up the career ladder. This is true, no matter how many meditation and self-fulfillment CDs we play on our way to work. It is also why people angrily honk their car horn more in LA. It’s because they tried to get their mail before they got into their cars to go to work.

There are so many magazines pulverized into our mailboxes that to retrieve our mail, we all chipped in and hired a local Emergency Medical Technician to use “The Jaws of Life” to retrieve our mail. You know, those giant cable cutters that you see in movies, used by (unjustly incarcerated) prisoners to cut through razor wire fences to escape.

The guy we hire uses the giant extractors to pry out our shredded magazines piece by piece.

Our neighbor and friend Elizabeth told us about an alternative to getting so many unwanted magazines jammed into our mailbox. It is:

Once you create an account and verify your email, sign in and do a search of the name of the catalogue company. Click on the name of the magazine you do not want. The tool will ask you to create a mailing name and address that is on the label of the magazine you received. While your address name varies because of titles or different uses of initials, for each magazine, you input how they input your mailing information on the label.

Obviously, sooner or later, you’ll won’t have to create new name versions. Most of these magazines and direct mailers buy your information from the same sources.

You next type in your customer number (or Code) and also your “Key Code” (if those numbers appear on your label.) You don’t have to have every bit of information but just input what appears on that particular label. If you have more than one mailing address, you can add the additional one(s). For any of this address label information, you can just add alternatives to match various information appearing on the labels. In the future, any information you have added to your account will appear as options in dropdown choices for each field. In time, the more labels you input (to eliminate unwanted mailings), the less typing you have to do for each label. The same goes for other members of your household who get unwanted catalogues.

In our household, there are two of us but we have about six or more name combinations because of the varying forms of names, titles and initials that have appeared on the mailing labels. You can even tell bulk mailers to stop delivering magazines for people who used to live in your living space.

When you have completed tying the information on the received mailing label, click on the “Confirm” button (at the bottom of the page) and in about 5 seconds, it gives you a “Success” indication that the magazine has been advised to remove you from their mailing list.

In my last visit to the website, I eliminated 10 magazines in just a few minutes. is a non-profit organization and lets you use their service for free. You can contribute to it using their donation button. Check it out. Save the Postal Service person from having to drive their big pile driver stuffing rig to your mailbox to deliver your mail. Best of all, you can dress for success as if today you’ll be discovered by a Hollywood Talent Agent. You’ll even be able to check your mail on the way.

How Connected Do We Need To Be?

It is 2005. It’s been a technologicalogical year so far. I taught a class for the Religious Studies Department of the State University of New York at Buffalo on Paul’s strange first letter to the Corinthians. I’ve been able to experiment with the use of their relatively new online course software called CourseInfo.® 1 It has a quiz generator which the students loved because they could take the tests at home without leaving the squalor of their meager abodes. With virtually all the time in the world to take the quizzes, they could look up any answer in their class notes or the web-stored lectures.

Actually, the quizzes have served as a forced
review of the class material, achieving my original
goal: that they never sit in a church and hear a talk on 1st Corinthians and not be aware of the historical, religious, cultural and linguistic things prompting Paul to write such a diverse and difficult response to their problems. If their ministers ever fail to do their homework before their Sunday presentations on Corinthians, they’ll know it.

Yet many of these students won’t because
churches, by in large, aren’t making that connection with the 20’s age group. The clergy and the staunch leaders of the denominational franchises may get their second chance when these young adults return for the wedding and baptism certifications.

It’s odd to me that some people spend their
lifetime having nothing at all to do with a local
church and yet be hell-bent-to-leather to make sure they participate in two church rituals – baptism and a wedding in a church building. It’s almost like they have to have these two good luck charms in order to move ahead several squares on their Americana board game of life.

But when the pager on my hip starts to vibrate, it reminds me that I have succumbed to the lure of yet another gadget. This time, it’s the Motorola “Talkabout”® pager. Perhaps their Marketing department wanted to create an image of a 1  made by© “walkabout” in the Australian “outback.” . . . Tie me kangaroo
down sport, . . . whatever.

My last pager stopped functioning and the
service provider suggested I subscribe to paging and email services with the cell phone I already own. This, I figured, would dictate that I have to leave the phone on all the time to get pages. The attractive young woman behind the counter suggested I also purchase a vibrating cell phone battery so the whole phone can vibrate.

What they fail to realize is that cell phones are
too big to be pagers. Can you imagine carrying around a beeper the size of a banana and have it suddenly begin vibrating in your pocket or purse? Good grief, you could get arrested or something. Perhaps I could use it in an audition for the cast of Ally McBeal.

“Excuse me but I think there is a phone over
on your desk that is having a seizure.”

This little technological wonder looks like a
miniature computer from a kid’s gum ball machine
with a keyboard small enough to be operated by a
touch typist eight inches tall. It is the width and
thickness of the palm of your hand. The little screen displays the telephone number of the individual paging you if the caller chose option number one but it can do more.

Those calling my pager number can also choose option two, allowing them to leave a  voicemail message. When a voice message is left, the display indicates a voice message is waiting, prompting me to dial the number on the nearest phone and listen to the message.

Option number three of this paging service
connects the caller with a live operator who will type whatever the caller dictates and that message appears on the pager screen.

“Pick up eggs on your way home.”

“I am sorry I missed the class quiz on line but my computer isn’t working and I couldn’t get on one at the school library because my car wouldn’t start.”

Imagine standing in line, looking down at
your pager and it says, “My divorce lawyer has
documented all of your shenanigans and we’ll see you in court.”

You look up and respond to the person behind
the counter, “I’d like a cheeseburger, a fries,
chocolate milkshake and several aspirin please.”

There is even an internet address assigned to
this device so people can type a note directly to my pager from their computer. Since I can read these messages anywhere I am, I’ve also instructed my Outlook Express© email software on our computer to forward all received communications to my pager. Since the pager uses wireless and internet technology, I can actually type a response to the text messages sent to the pager and there isn’t a cost-per minute fee.

But with this much accessibility, I wonder
just who I think I am? The Almighty? There are not
that many people who need my immediate attention. Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis?
Someday, into the not too distant future when they add the live video function, are we going to have to rent a small locker into which to put these things to get a little privacy? Someday, will we be surprised to see Leno or Letterman trying to have a video conversation with us from our pocket when we reach for change to pay the paper carrier? “Are you truly happy with your cellular carrier?” one of them might say.

Perhaps it’s our loneliness that prompts us to
want to be so accessible in our cellular and internet connectedness. Frankly, I would like it if God would send me a digital message once in a while.

“Nice going on how you handled that road-raged jerk of a driver” God might type to me.

“Buy Lucent Technologies stock – now!” God might advise.

“Missed you in worship services yesterday” I’d be

“Stop everything and go back and apologize. She was right and you completely missed the most important thing. I don’t know why I ask her to stay with you.”

Maybe it’s fear. Perhaps we’re hoping someone will send us the one little encouragement or bit of information that will come at just the right time.
Maybe the Almighty has been sending messages
we’ve ignored. Missed any messages lately?

With today’s much more powerful cell phones and wireless palm devices, we are now able to be so connected that we can be in touch with anyone and everyone at any time, do business anywhere. But has you noticed that, in the process, we run
the risk of never being in touch with ourselves? In the overall seduction, we can easily forget that our primary connection to life is through our own
interiority – the experiencing of our own body and all our senses, including the mind, which allow us to touch and be touched by the world, and to act
appropriately in response to it. . . .

“With all this talk about connectivity, what about connectivity to ourselves? Are we becoming so
connected to everybody else that we are never where we actually are? We are at the beach on the cell phone, so are we there?” (See John Kabat-Zinn, p.152=153. Coming To Our Senses, Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, (New York: Hyperion, 2005) ISBN: 0-7868-6756-6.