duck-shaped pain

9 January 2001
Sink The Mailing Process

S. and I have this thing sometimes where we like to mail each other random things we find at work. Cancelled receipts, mystery photos, interesting instructional manuals, stuff like that. The kinds of things you think, "Hey, what would someone's reaction be if they just received this in the mail one day?" If the answer is a) puzzlement, b) brow-furrowing, c) deep, deep thoughts or d) snarky laughter, then it goes in the mail. The desired goal is for it to be sent anonymously, but somehow whoever receives it always knows who sent it.

To be honest, I sent out a lot more things from work than S. does. I've had a long string of jobs where I've had access to the mail and plenty of unsupervised time, so I've tended to take the sending-out-crap initiative. I mean, when there's a "Electricity: Your Safety, Your Responsibility" pamphlet to be sent out, you just do what you have to do.

Admittedly, the stuff I send out is only mysterious and curious to a select few. It pales in comparison to things that other people I know have sent to people they know, and things they've received in turn: an eggplant, a candle, a big piece of cardboard, a 1948 farm yearbook that was glued and shellacked shut, things like that. But in these times, when you have to take all packages up to the counter for inspection, sending eggplants is not a great idea. So, pamphlets it is.

I mention this because today I am sending something off to S. I am not going to describe it in detail, in case he reads this, but it has all the classic elements: awkward, broken English, interesting illustrations, lots of safety warnings. I found it in behind the big TV at work, covered with years and years of dust, so I can rest assured that no one's going to come looking for it anytime soon or even remember that it exists.

This is my first missive from this job up until this point, there hasn't been too many interesting things laying around, things that needed immediate dissemination. But at my last job, the one at the photo company up in Oregon, I saw things everyday that fit the bill.

There, the conditions were right for mailing special packages. I had lots of time to myself, job duties which, according to the other people on my floor, were completely mysterious and could include anything, plenty of envelopes and stamps laying about, and messed-up photos crossing my desk on an hourly basis. Such things should be shared, and at that time, I was all about the sharing.

S. got many things in the mail pictures, interesting labels, pieces of string, etc. He got more than anyone else because I could remember his then-address off the top of my head and did not have to go rifling through my address book, an activity which could be seen as suspicious. However, I did manage to send some special items elsewhere.

One day, I was trying to correct some photos which had been given the wrong caption. This was my job, even though I was not responsible for the initial miscaptioning. The caption read, "THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT GLADSTONE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL." The picture was of a girls' soccer team, and they were understandably upset to be identified as football players. They had ordered umptillion team pictures. All had been returned. All were now sitting on my desk. The company policy for dealing with mistakes such as the above was to keep one picture as an example and discard the rest.

So I was sitting there thinking, "Who should I send one of these pictures to?" I had just sent S. a package earlier that day, so I wasn't sure I should send him another one. Yet, I could not think of any more addresses off the top of my head. Sure, I thought, I could just get some random local address out of the phone book and send them a picture, but there's always a chance that that person's niece or granddaughter or teenage crap-job employee is in the picture, so that might be a bad idea.

Tedious work needs a spaced-out, droning soundtrack, and that day, I had brought in The Evan Dando of Noise? by Alan Licht 40+ minutes of fuzzy guitars plus! some hog calling. So, I sat there, listening to the faint sounds of beepbeepbeepbeepwhirwhirwhirwhirplingplingplingpling in my headphones, trying to think of a worthy recipient for such a picture. To distract myself (I could have distracted myself with actual work, I guess) I rifled a bit through the CD case laying next to my computer.

Then I saw it Alan Licht's address. Dunno if it was his real address just a post office box in New York City somewhere, but it was good enough for me.

"We love your work," I signed on the back of the photo. Lip print for added effect. Then I sent it on its merry way. No return address, of course. No other identification.

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