Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Return to Sender

Although I really hate to do it, sooner or later it typically becomes necessary to pay the bills. God I hate to pay the bills. This is an activity with the tendency to bring out some of my more colorful language and best remnants of irritated adolescent sighs. And because I value my happy home, I'm not always sure it's the best thing in the world for me to publicize how easily I can slide into a fabulously realistic interpretation of a two year old. How dare those crooks at the electric company charge me a "system benefit charge"? I'm quite sure that there is no such thing. Yet I'm told I must pay or sit in the dark. Given the lack of reasonable options, I've decided to nurture my karma through the process of paying.

It is inevitable that once a week, a crinkly envelope will arrive in the mail chock full of colorful stickers and cheesily-themed return address labels. The most recent delivery consisted of cartoon-ish pastel animals prancing around my husband's name and address with italicized words lamenting, "wish you were here..." and "thinking of you..." One was even so bold as to warn, "PAWS OFF!!!" I cannot help but wondering what sort of man this pastel-animal-prancing organization thinks I've married.

So karma. Although I feel very strongly that my money would be better spent on prosciutto and cheese, I do enjoy packing up those little envelopes that mysteriously transport my money across the vast and varied world . I like all the peeling, sealing, sticking and stamping that's part and parcel to the process. Recently, though, it occurred to me how very boring those envelopes are. I think about the person whose job it is to open the envelopes. I bet he or she gets lots of paper cuts. I wonder if s/he ever accidentally rips the checks in the midst of his/her fervor. And if the check gets ripped, what happens then?

If I were a professional Envelope Opener, I think I'd want somebody to reach out to me. And so that's what I do. I don't let those prancing little puppies go to waste. I slap on a return address label and I don't stop there. They always give you stickers with the labels as well, and you might as well put them to use while you're at it. So I seal the envelope with a sticker embossed with "Pilamaya" which means "thank you" in a language that I do not speak. Or sometimes I'll get inspirational and add a sticker reminding the Envelope Opener that "Life is a song -- sing it" or "Life is a dream -- realize it" or "Life is love -- enjoy it." And if I suspect it's an Envelope Opener in particular need of cheer, I may include all three essential instructions on the proclivities of life. If I'm feeling chummy, I'll let that Envelope Opener know that although we've not met, we are still "Friends Forever." Yes, Envelope Opener, FOREVER.

And I rest easily at night, knowing the world is a better place.

Before I'm painted as a saint, I do need to make a confession. As I sit here and type, I'm sharing a Ben and Jerry's with the sweet and gentle soul who is my husband. I am stealing all the big and goopy chunks, and despite my deep and boundless love, I feel only mild guilt. Mostly I feel delight at the squish of cookie dough in my mouth. I'm a chunk whore.

At least I'm giving with my stickers.


Melissa said...

I also enjoy using stickers creatively in my bill paying - but less to cheer up the opener and more to express my feelings about the bill. Last week, the IRS was treated to my quarterly tax payment with a sticker that said "Amnesty" courtesy of amnesty international. Water company, trash collection, and electric bills all get an environmental reminder - Society for the Protection of forests, world wildlife fund, and sierra club are all good for freebies in this category. I also got some emoticon stickers somewhere, so parking tickets always get a sad face. Always sent me some free samples with "Have a Happy Period" stickers, so those get attached to the bills going to companies with particularly cranky customer service agents.

A related source of amusement is writing notes in the memo lines of the checks - again, the parking tickets always get these. Manchester was asked in the memo section of my last violation payment "what kind of city makes you pay for parking till 8 pm?" Verizon has been asked on numerous occassions, "could you possibly provide worse customer service?" I've never received an answer to any of these queries. I've also never had a check go uncashed as a result.

I think this is why I've been reluctant to switch to online bill pay. It's just not as exciting, and I definitely don't feel like I've expressed myself when I'm done.

Sadie said...

Who isn't a chunkwhore? In fact I think the only reason the ice-cream exists is to make you work for the chunks, and make them last longer. I for one, only eat the chunks, and let my husband, though slightly grudgingly, eat the ice-cream out of the way. It works quite well as long as you graciously offer up the biggest chunks when they appear!

As for the sticker idea, I'm an e-biller, but that sounds like a lot more fun.