My Grandfather's Mail: On the Art of Dignity

A promotional circular arrived in the mail today. It's addressed: "Informed Consumer."
Now I have to wonder... if they really think I'm informed, then why are they still sending me mail? Logically, I think they should be sending this stuff to the uninformed consumers. I don't suppose that would look good on the envelope though.
If I'm going to receive junk mail, I prefer the kind that says "Current Resident." At least it's honest in its anonymity. "Current Resident" says "Look, we don't know you. This harassment isn't personal. We're bombarding everyone." In the electronic age, when even identity is for sale, anonymity is a rare thing. It makes me realize how much the world has changed since my grandfather's generation.
When my grandfather lived with us--this is a while back now, somewhere circa 1980--one of his habits that I found to be rather eccentric was his daily routine of answering all his mail personally. Even the junk mail.
Letters from Sears would receive a polite, hand-written note in return. "Dear Sirs: Thank you for your kind offer dated Wednesday, April 24. Fortunately, our dishwasher is in excellent condition and is serving our needs quite adequately. However, should we find ourselves in need of such an appliance in the future, we will be sure to consider your fine products."
Needless to say, my grandfather was on every mailing list in the country. He passed away over twenty years ago, and mail still shows up for him from time to time at the family household.
I like to think of these straggling missives as more personal, somehow, than the junk mail I get myself. I think of some hopeful soul somewhere wondering why they never hear from him anymore, sending out one more letter or catalog on the off chance that they might be able to spark up that old dialog again.
There was a certain politeness in my grandfather's day that we have lost utterly as a country. Mail was really intended for people back then. It wasn't just scatter shot across the suburban bow.
Of course a lot of other things have changed too, and many of them for the better. I love my computer. I love my cell phone. I love the Civil Rights Act of 1965. But I don't like the fact that businesses have stopped worrying about annoying people. What's the world coming to when we stop being concerned about each other?
Believe it or not, I wish I had the time to answer all my own junk mail personally. I'd still know it was junk mail, but at least I'd have the luxury of behaving otherwise. In the end, my grandfather had it right. The world may have become anonymous around him, but he never gave in to it. To his dying day, he still treated every soul with dignity.
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