Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The daily ritual of Opening The Mail

Opening The Mail is a ritual we perform every afternoon when I arrive home.
The letters are neatly stacked on the dining room table in two piles, his and hers. Or, if you prefer, hers and his.
The start of the process, of course, is having the mail get to the dining room table in the first place.
It is not easy. And I am not usually home when Dave, the mailman, arrives. On those occasions when I am home, extreme care must be exercised not to announce his arrival.
One dare not say, “The mailman is here.” Our two puppies have rather extensive vocabularies, and both of them know the word “mailman,” just as they know, “out” and “go potty” and similar useful expressions that deal with their personal habits, hygiene and other necessary functions.
So the word “mailman” is forbidden at our house, as is “Danny,” because that would refer to the man from Lew’s Reliable who checks the furnace or air conditioning every six months.
Danny’s arrival also sets off a semi-annual furor, so we close off the puppies in the den until he is safely at work in the basement.
But I digress.
We prepare for the afternoon Mail Opening Ritual after I retrieve my letter opener from the room which we call the den, my office, the library, the sewing room and other descriptive names which allude to its many functions.
Actually, it is just one room.
I bring the letter opener to the dining room, sit down with the lady of the house, and proceed to slit open the mail.
However, there are occasions when merely “sitting down” requires a game of musical chairs, because one of our two kittens (always Ruby, never Angel) often sleeps in my chair.
“Often” in this context means every afternoon. Where she sleeps when the lady is taking her nap is another story.
I was going to leave out this part of the story, but I will tell it to you anyway, because insofar as I am aware, it is unique.
When the lady is sleeping on her back, Ruby sleeps on her stomach.
I used the word “unique” because I don’t know of any other kitten who sleeps on the stomach of her mistress.
But we must get back to the Mail Opening Process, because that is what I started out telling you about, and I haven’t even introduced the first item of mail yet.
To begin with, I slit open all of the mail, most of which I would describe as “junk.” Let me explain why I even bother with it. There are a good many charitable, non-profit organizations to which I send checks every December – because I believe in them and in their missions.
But there is no way I am going to send any of them two checks in a single year, even if Hell freezes over – which I am not ruling out this winter. One check per year is my limit.
Doesn’t matter to them. Most of them send me what I call “tin cup” requests about every other week. They are wasting their postage, because I will not communicate with them until December.
However, I don’t perfunctorily throw out their requests without looking at them. No. Never. I open them, look at them, and then throw them away.
Why do I do this? I don’t know. I have no idea. I just do it. There are a great many things I “just do” without knowing why.
It is just the way I am, and I am probably not going to change.
Well, we have gotten this far and I haven’t even told you yet about the first piece of mail to go into the trash after being opened and checked out.
It was from Tom Brokaw, who used to be on TV every day. I don’t even like Tom Brokaw. But I looked at his junk mail anyway.
He began: “I am sending you this letter based on a hunch. Namely, that at least one member of the Collins family helped win World War II.”
Let’s see: My father worked in a shipyard in Tampa during the big war. But he was the only one I can think of. My brother and I both served during the Korean Conflict, as they called it.
Oh, I almost forgot. My grandmother inspected artillery shells at the Case Plant in Euclid during World War II. I’m sure that helped stifle some of Hitler’s advances into France, distracted Mussolini from his schemes in Europe and let the air out of some of Hirohito’s grand plans in the Pacific Theater.
You are all familiar with Rosie the Riveter. Grandma was probably Mabel the Marauder when those artillery shells were being launched.
But that’s about it for our involvement. So no, Tom, I will not be a charter member of your honor roll. But keep those letters coming, and I will keep sending them along to Waste Management, which knows what to do with them.


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