Junk mail: that outpouring of paper that clogs our mailboxes almost daily. We all get it. Sometimes it’s pizza ads or sale fliers, sometimes it’s catalogs. Catalogs can take up an entire mailbox, and this is especially true during the two months before Christmas.
Of all the junk mail I get, catalogs are the least aggravating. Often they’re interesting enough to glance through before tossing, and occasionally I’ll even buy something.
One day last November, I picked up my daily mailbox-load of catalogs—it was prime catalog season because Christmas was a month away—and brought them into the house to start culling. This looked like a good batch, judging from the covers. One had a penguin holding a gift, one showed skis and a fireplace, and another featured a smiling Santa. Very good. Then I noticed something else. It was a small envelope with some writing on it that said—YIKES! This was most certainly not a Christmas message.
Among my catalogs, like a small Trojan Horse sent to infiltrate all the Christmas cheer, was an envelope—addressed to me, horribly enough, not even to “Dear Occupant”—on which was written in a jaunty font, “Free Pre-Paid Cremation! Details inside.”
Take a moment; I know I had to.
I said something that wasn’t pertinent to the holiday season, exactly, although it did have the word “holy” in it. After all, it is a bit jarring to retrieve from the mailbox images of home and hearth and smiling Santas and then be smacked in the face with: Death!
It turned out that this missive was from the Neptune Society; you know, the bury-your-ashes-at-sea people. What a surprise it was to hear from them, sort of an “Ahoy, Matey, yer gonna die!” kind of thing.
Once the thought of my newly powdery, feather-light remains slowly sinking under the waves had, well, sunk in, I thought about what it said on the envelope. “Free (and the “free” was underlined, in case I missed it the first time) Pre-Paid Cremation” was what it said. Free Pre-Paid? These folks had taken me from Santa and penguins to a quandary both philosophical and grammatical.
Can something be both free and pre-paid? Does one usually have to pay a fee to pre-pay for one’s watery disposition? What if I don’t pre-pay, I just leave instructions to contact them when necessary—is it cheaper because I have not pre-paid? And do I get just the cremation free with the pre-payment, but then have to pay again to be disposed of (splash!), or can I pre-pay for that too, and if so, is pre-payment free? Finally, what if this offer expires before I do?
You can see the difficulty I’m in, all because I went to get the mail last November.
I could possibly find out the answers to all of this if I would just open the envelope and read the contents. But I don’t think I will. Some things shouldn’t be looked at too closely or be taken too seriously. Kind of like junk mail.