Some of the most interesting events in my life were the result of my asking one simple question: “What happens when I do this?”
Sometimes my random experiments yield positive results — e.g., my 2004-2005 diet; home ownership; trying salt and malt vinegar on French fries; wedded bliss to an awesome woman; this blog. Sometimes my ventures turn into cautionary tales — e.g., my first marriage; ghetto apartment living; turnip greens; watching Constantine. Simple, earnest curiosity without an agenda or an expectation has been responsible for more than a few odd occurrences in my life.
Last March I received a random mail offer for a multi-issue subscription to Forbes Magazine for a mere pittance of ten dollars. I’d never flipped through an issue at a newsstand, let alone purchased or even read one. At the time, all I knew was that they publish articles about upper-class people, and they like writing lists of billionaires. Otherwise, I was clueless as to their content or nature. At a retail price of $4.99 per issue, ten dollars seemed like a bargain. In my mind, that meant it was time for an experiment.
So far, my subscription has been a mixed bag. Most of each issue is, as I suspected, devoted to investment advice for people who wear ties on vacation. I don’t begrudge them the opportunity to advise and learn from each other, but I’m nowhere near enough to those brackets to implement or in some cases even comprehend their suggestions. The most intriguing material has been write-ups about tech start-ups and feature pieces about major players in assorted industries — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; David Green, owner of Hobby Lobby; restaurant magnate Tilman Fertitta; and Matt Mullenweg, founder of a promising venture called WordPress. I plan to keep a close eye on that last one, because I predict someday that up-‘n’-comer is bound to explode.
A few months into my subscription, some of my junk mail began taking on new forms. I’m receiving more subscription offers from other publications in similar veins — Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and a few other major names in fields that don’t entertain me or cover my interests. Then came the political fundraiser ads. When those started to trickle into the mail flow, that’s when my slow, uninformed mind finally realized that Forbes is the eponymous ward of one-time Republican Presidential candidate Steve Forbes. I’d seriously never made the connection before. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d known next to nothing about it.
It’s not as though I’ve never received monetary pleas from unusual sources before, but after the Forbes subscription began, the demographics of my hard-copy spam changed in a very noticeable fashion. It could be mere coincidence, but the volume and slant of this new rash of ads are hard to overlook.
That brings me to today’s prime example of mass-mailing clutter: my third fundraiser solicitation from the camp of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Understand, first and foremost: I don’t vote across party lines. I explained my iconoclastic approach to voting in a previous entry of zero repute. The short version is, I have no use for straight-ticket approaches to my important multiple-choice Election Day questionnaire. I’ve voted for candidates of either of the Big Two, I’m fairly certain I’ve voted for a Libertarian on rare occasion, and I may even have voted for one or two of the miscellaneous parties that almost never rate a slot on the Indiana ballot.
For value-added confusion about the subject, please allow me to re-present a photo I took at this year’s Indiana State Fair of my unapologetically Republican wife hanging out with TV’s Rupert Boneham, our state’s 2012 Libertarian candidate for governor. If we can all just get along at his autograph table, I like to think there’s hope for my decision-making methods yet.
That being said: my intent here is not to climb aboard the Romney-bashing bandwagon and dangle my head over the side while my hair gets tousled in the wind. You can also be certain that I’m not intentionally advocating him here, either. If you can find it within your heart to send him a check for the maximum contribution limit of $75,800.00 (per the form that was enclosed) so that he can facilitate your goals, that’s up to you. If you’d rather cut a check for that amount to the incumbent, in case you think he needs further assistance at this point, that’s also up to you. If you’d like to take pity on the Libertarians, I imagine their man Gary Johnson won’t decline your generosity.
(Okay, just one sidebar, while I’m on the subject: one of the previous mailings from Romney’s campaign actually described their efforts as “grassroots”. If a five-figure sum is your idea of underground activism, then let it be known for the record that the author of this “grassroots” blog would also cheerfully accept your PayPal donations and use them to buy really, really cool things to write about, rather than running for office and meddling with tax laws. And don’t forget, “grassroots” blogs have no maximum contribution limit. Think about it, won’t you?)
More than partisan stumping or upper-class charity requests, what bothered me the most about this mailing was the opening sentence:
Dear Mr. Golden,
I am running for President of the United States and because you are one of America’s most notable Republicans, I want to personally let you know why.
I’m at a loss to pin down exactly when I became a notable Republican. Or a Republican. Or notable.
To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never signed a scrap of paper, petition, or legal form attesting as such. Yes, full disclosure, my wife and I once attended a large charity fundraiser at which ex-President George W. Bush was a keynote speaker, but I’m confident I left no explicit paper trail for his people to follow. Likewise, beyond my initial voter registration and participation in primaries, I don’t go out of my way to earn a “Democrat” label, either.
For this, as with all the other aforementioned out-of-left-field mailbox filler, I’m blaming Forbes. If you insist in selling my name to other mailing lists, or if you actually don’t engage in that practice and have simply jinxed me unknowingly in a most peculiar manner, could you at least help the recipients of my info get to know me first? Ask them to look me up on Facebook, send them the link to this blog, look up my various Internet message-board posts, whatever. Your attempt to help others target my personal demographic categories has failed. I’d already planned to let my subscription lapse purely because I don’t expect an encore of the initial ten-dollar offer, but now I’m also tempted to indulge in six months’ worth of Mother Jones just to restore balance to my mail.
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Department of Irrelevant, Puzzling Postscripts:
Please disregard the following nonsensical character string, which is an integral element for another little experiment. Thank you, enjoy your day, and let’s see what happens when I do this: