Thursday, January 17, 2008

BEST OF: Type casting

This column ran in The Cambrian in the late 1980s.

We went away for a few days and came home to six bills, two letters, five solicitations and a stack of catalogs thick enough to challenge the phone books from all five New York boroughs … including Yellow Pages.

I understand about mailing lists. I know catalog folks get my name from various sources. The most common seem to be based on zip code, phone exchange, the credit cards I use, the magazines and newspapers I read and what I‘ve ordered from companies whose catalogs I got last year.

It may sound rational (if invasive), but in actual practice, something gets lost in the translation.

For instance, I once ordered a military-issue coverlet called a “poncho liner.” It only weighs a few ounces, it folds up to almost nothing, it’s got a nice smooth surface and it’s very warm ... great for traveling or those cold-toes days.

The firm from which I got the poncho liner obviously blabbed about it to the entire free world. So now my mailbox is overstuffed with everything from survival catalogs to a sample subscription to “Soldier of Fortune” magazine.

They must have a different me in mind than the one I see in the mirror every morning.

And that wildly colored jacket I bought, the one that looks like the remains of a religious stained-glass window after an earthquake?

I didn’t get the matching outfit ... pants, top and vest ... because the effect of the entire, intense package undoubtedly could louse up color-TV resolution for miles and would probably cause planes heading for LAX to set down somewhere near the Grand Canyon.

No, I only bought the jacket, which I wear with basic black when I need to feel really bright.

However, somebody may have misread those retailing signals, too. I now regularly receive a “Fashion Catalog for Today’s Black Woman.”

We obviously have a failure in communication here.

Catalogs aren’t the only printed matter that proliferates without regard to public need or wants, or the amount of space in my mailbox. How about the limited magazine racks at the drug store?

Obviously, magazine publishers have been watching the catalog companies and have now gone and done likewise.

“W” and “GQ” spawned a rampaging alphabet of single- and double-letter magazines, all of which should have a cheat sheet for those of us who do not instantly recognize what the letter(s) stand for.

Then “Vanity Fair” led to “Lears,” a magazine for us middle-aged baby-boomettes. “Lears” got imitated by “Moxie.”

For the career gal, there is “Woman,” “Working Woman,” “Working Parent,” “Pregnant Working Woman” and “Working Family.” (Blogger's note: Some of these magazines are no longer published.)

There are stacks of magazines for people who diet, use computers, surf or hot-air-balloon. On and on and on … and all I really wanted was a TV guide to replace the one the dog ate.

Any day now, I expect to see a magazine expressly for the pregnant 45-year-old single blonde roller-skating water skier who raises dogs and snakes, plays “Jeopardy” in her nightgown, lives in a 75-year-old renovated grain silo in Omaha and has kinky ideas about popcorn.

Whoever she is, I hope she likes catalogs, because a whole bunch of those people are going to find out about her, real soon.

She’s just their type.

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