Monday, September 14, 2009

Goin' Green

When I was a kid I used to write away for stuff. Sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning I would get bombarded by advertisements. After a few years it sank in that my parents weren't going to buy me everything I saw. But beneath the candy coating there was something more.

It started with a class project in fifth grade. Each of us had to write away to the chamber of commerce in two states and write a report based on what we received. I don't remember what the first one was but I do remember that Alaska didn't respond so I got off on that one. The seed was planted.

I collected proofs of purchase from the non-sugar, non-red-dye-number-two, non-interesting breakfast cereals my parents stocked the kitchen with. I got stickers, scratch off board games, plastic knick-knacks made in China.

I wrote away for the no purchase necessary to win contests on food products we didn't buy. Game pieces came in the mail. I didn't win. But I did get something in the mail and that was pretty cool. There was no internet, there were no video games at our house, it kept me occupied. I thought about writing to Pueblo, Colorado for pamphlets on subjects I had no earthly interest in. I very nearly wrote away for information on diseases I didn't have. When I found out I had asthma I thought, "Huh, now I can write away for that."

The one that stands out in my mind to this day was toward the end of my writing away days. I was about thirteen and my science teachers were filling me with environmental awareness. GE or the power company or somebody had a commercial on TV about a package on saving energy that you could write away for. So I licked a stamp and made my request.

Four to six weeks later a large-ish padded envelope arrived at my house with no return address on it. Inside was a night light with a photo cell on it. Plug it in, turn out the light, it comes on. It took me two hours to figure out why the hell it had come. I was pretty bummed that it hadn't come with anything else. Not one single shred of information. Apparently the power company was pretty interested in saving trees as well as watts.

I was so perplexed that I wrote away again from my friend's address and four to six weeks later an identical package showed up. Just a light in a padded envelope. No return address. No reading material. Such a perplexing event it was that it took nearly a decade to top it. In college in the dawn of the internet era my friend Milo used his dial-up connection to surf to the No-Doze website and click a button for a free sample. I watched him do it. Three months later a padded envelope showed up at my apartment with my name on it. There was nothing inside but two No-Doze in a single serve packet. I kept them for years.



Irish Gumbo said...

There is an interesting sociological experiment in there could write a white paper on it.

I often had the urge to write to Pueblo too, just to get something in the mail. I also once wrote a letter to George Bush Sr., and I got a signed pic of the Prez in response.

I didn't even really like him...

Pamela said...

I just had the Trojan company send Hanna free condoms.