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Hide the Catalogs

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Help! I’m a serial 1-800 dialer and there’s no stopping me. A couple of dozen catalogs arrive at our house daily, and unlike you steely-eyed people, I’m easily beguiled. If it’s a sales catalog, I’m beyond beguiled, but it has to be at least 50 percent off before I spring. If it’s 65 percent off, I buy, no matter what. If I can’t use it, someone else can.

My wife thinks this is a problem and she’s right. The mail comes, I see the catalogs, my hands get clammy, I can’t breathe and my extremities throb. I take cold showers but the relief is temporary, and it’s hard to turn wet pages in there.

Mind you, this is not all bad. There are some good things to be said about my addiction, and I find myself saying them all the time. I point with pride, for example, to the money I’ve saved on gas and parking meters. Now that I consort with amiable mail-order clerks instead of sullen local store personnel, there are significant medical savings, too—lower blood pressure and what have you. I’ve gained such renown in mail-order circles that most of the folks I deal with routinely waive shipping and handling charges, which over the course of a year can add up to a bundle.

I’ve got future Christmas gifts stuffed in the dark recesses behind future birthday gifts. My intent is to match the right recipient with the odor-free compost pail, the U of M sweatpants, and the size 12 waterproof chukka boots with compass and cookie pockets.

I tend to order things when I get happy. Last week my next-door neighbor said she would never speak to me again, so I promptly ordered a Swiss military camouflage outfit, plus a 42-inch cedar chip dog bed, completely washable.

I also order when I’m depressed. When my Congressman announced that he was thinking of running again, I sent for a black velveteen sleep mask and joined the Creme-Donut-of-the-Month Club.

I usually forget what I’ve done, so whenever the delivery truck comes rolling down our driveway, I don’t have a clue what’s inside. I become very excited. It’s like a constant birthday party. But I’m also crestfallen and defensive, because I know what my wife is going to say. “A camouflage outfit?” she said. “You don’t hunt.”

“I’ve always wanted to be invisible. Even deer can’t see me.”

“Why the dog bed? We don’t have a dog.”

“No, but there are dogs everywhere. Sooner or later we’ll need a gift for some friend with a mutt.”

When I corner her like that, my wife just stares at me thoughtfully, then turns and walks away. It’s a talent she has.

Recently the whole family sat me down. While it was agreed that most catalogs are packed with nifty products, it was also agreed that I was out of control. Even I had to go along with that. The upshot is that I’ve grudgingly consented to become a member of Catalog Patsies Anonymous, on the condition that all meetings will come down my driveway to me in a delivery truck.

By Gerald Dumas

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