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Recalling chain letters, magazines and hand-addressed letters

By JIM BUSEK • Mar 5, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Searching for another 50th anniversary-of-my-association-with-this-newspaper column to share, I came across this one from 2008. It is about the U.S. mail. I have edited it a bit and added some comments for this week’s time capsule.

Remember how important the mail used to be?

You could feel genuine anticipation as you approached the mailbox. In it, you might find three or four items that had been posted specifically to you.

One of them might be the refund check from the box tops you had sent to Procter and Gamble.

Another might be the current Life Magazine or Saturday Evening Post which you would read and enjoy for a week or more.

But most prized of all, of course, would be one or two hand-addressed envelopes containing a letter from a friend or relative.

Yes, young readers, that’s how we used to communicate in the days before cell phones, text messages, Facebook and email: we wrote letters to each other.

This all occurred to me the other day after I collected my mail at the post office where it had been held during a 10-day trip we took.

The bundle they handed me was so substantial I took it home and weighed it. And now I know: 10 days’ of Busek Mail weighs 4 1/2 pounds. I have not tried this in 2019, but I am guessing that 10 days’ worth would weigh considerably less these days.

It was secured by a nice heavy, postal service-issued rubber band.

And, for some truly memorable reading, I will now — drum roll please — share the contents of my recent mail. There was:

One package of cleome seeds from a friend’s garden (accompanied by instructions for planting next spring and a smiley face).

One chain letter. I was supposed to send a favorite book and get 36 books back. I said no. When was the last time you saw a chain letter? Can you imagine, as with this one, packaging up a book, taking it to the post office to be weighed, and sending it to someone in a bogus 36 book scam? We apparently did things like that as recently as 2008.

One card from the Red Cross asking for a blood donation. The Red Cross is easily one of my most common phone and mail correspondents these days; they must be really desperate for blood. In the years since this story first appeared, I have had some surgical repairs to a major blood-pumping organ followed by medications that don’t allow me to donate blood. Thus, I no longer get all that mail from the Red Cross. But I would gladly resume receipt of all their letters in exchange for not having needed the surgery and medications.

Six bills. I still get plenty of bills, but most of them come electronically now.

One insurance refund check.

One insurance statement.

Two pitches for me to change internet providers.

Four appeals from different charities.

A note from my cousin. I wonder now which cousin and what that was about?

A hospital bill for services performed during September, 2007 for my aunt who died a year ago. She’s still gone, but fortunately the bills stopped.

Six mail order catalogs.

Newsweek magazine. Newsweek! Wow, as recently as 2008 I still got a magazine that only summarized the news once a week! Now a thing in my pocket dings several times a day to tell me something has happened.

Three credit card applications.

Eleven political flyers, postcards and mailers. I guess those things keep coming no matter what year it is.

A note from a realtor reminding me to turn my clocks back an hour. Please do not be confused and actually do this now. It was autumn when the column first ran. Next week we “spring forward” an hour.

Only three of the above items in my mail (weighing approximately four ounces out of the entire 4 1/2 pounds) were hand-addressed by an actual human being.

And only two of the things from that big bundle of mail had any lasting value to me:

1. The cleome seeds, of course. They’re still growing in my garden, 11 years after receipt. Apparently once you plant them, they can only be destroyed by thermo-nuclear action.

2. That nice, strong rubber band. Knowing me, I probably still have it around here somewhere.


Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.

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