Mojo Sez: What's Legal Ain't Necessarily Moral, Part 473...

This will be explained in the end.So Mojo's been going through some minor ordeals lately. To be blunt, an elderly relative is now in hospice, and taking their sweet time about it all. I don't begrudge him that, though the strain on his nearest and dearest after more than a MONTH of this waiting stuff is becoming quite palpable. He just turned 95 this weekend, but I can't say it was really enthusiastically celebrated. He's not eating anything, so there was no cake or ice cream, and two seconds after opening his cards he demanded we take them back home lest the many BIRTHDAY CARD THIEVES at the care facility ply their lucrative trade at his expense.

This is not so much about the whole situation, which is not particularly pleasant, but about one tiny aspect in which Mojo has become involved in an effort to make herself Useful and Productive so that others may do what they wish to do in peace. My job is to go through this person's mail once a week, and sort through the many, many pieces of utter GARBAGE to find things that need to be addressed, like utility bills and tax papers.

This relative has not made this job any easier, because he's apparently been suffering from a slight but growing dementia over the past five years or so, manifesting in his belief that anything advertised on television MUST BE TRUE because otherwise "the government wouldn't allow people to air the ads". So for the past five or six years we've been subject to various lectures about the latest MIRACLE CURE via some Obscure Weed Extract, among other things. Things like the INCREDIBLE HOME GYM which seems to be a pair of those rubber stretching tubes with the handles on all four ends, held in the middle with another rubber band. You can pick up similar things at discount stores for maybe three or five bucks; but since it was marketed on TV as some sort of MIRACLE GYM!!! he probably paid anywhere from $20-50 for it. Or those dreadful cheap flashlights with various colored lenses on each surface and the ability to pulse-flash the LED light--you know, for SAFETY during a POWER OUTAGE or a HOME INVASION!!! Every month for the past several years he's been buying this crap off the television and/or through decidedly "iffy" magazine ads, and then promptly forgetting what he's purchased. His poor beleaguered wife has been hiding things as they've come in and giving them to the local Senior Center to sell at their tag sales. He doesn't remember buying them once the check is in the mail.

Consequently this poor elderly person is on just about every single shyster mailing list one can imagine. (A couple of years ago they had to change their telephone number because they were getting bullying calls from hard-sell boiler rooms trying to get him to buy Lord Knows What.) I'm sure these things skate just barely on the side of legality, and I don't have the time or the inclination to spend the rest of my life tracking down these manipulative vultures and figuring out how to put them out of business. Reading these things has been a real education in just how cruelly and systematically certain merchandise hawkers, magazine "sweepstakes" contests and, ahem, "lobbying groups", prey on the elderly and their many fears, weaknesses and, yes, I dare say, even their dementia. Whatever it takes to get those ten bucks out of them, they consider legitimate. I'd ask them how they sleep at night, but I'm pretty sure their answer will be "on a big pile of money bullied from the elderly. Why?"

(Incidentally, in case you care, Mojo has pretty much lived a comfortable and privileged life from birth, and thinks nothing but Kind Thoughts when it comes to money and finances, be they hers or other people's. I don't have a giant problem with capitalism. I enjoy making money, myself. I have fairly healthy self esteem and I'm not all that consumed with jealousy when others claim they make more than me. My issue is not People Who Make Money, nor Money Itself. My issue was, is and always will be SLEAZY PARASITICAL PREDATORY LIARS who make money by PREYING on the gullible, the uninformed and the elderly. The world would be a MUCH NICER PLACE if such hosebags all died in a fire tomorrow. But I digress.)

Luckily for all concerned (well, except maybe HER), the wife of said elderly relative is pretty much on the ball, and has been dealing with most of the mail herself. But every week there are at least five or six pieces that look "official" enough that she feels more comfortable setting aside for the younger, hipper folks to look at. At first I was surreptitiously writing "DECEASED" on the reply cards and throwing them in the envelopes before she saw what I was doing--I thought it might upset her that I was already proclaiming her partner of 65 years gone before his time--but while casually discussing it she admitted she was doing that herself.

So now I am brazenly scrawling DECEASED several times a week in bright red pen, and reeeeealllllyyy ignoring my impulse to add certain other bits to their money-grubbing materials. Nothing particularly NASTY, of course. But I want to add snarky little things like, "You'll have to find some OTHER elderly person to steal money from" or "You should be grateful I don't come after you with my coterie of high-priced lawyers" or some other thing. I don't because it's pointless; I'm quite certain these scum-suckers are operating just BARELY on this side of the law, so they'll just laugh at any lame legal threats. Plus, the poor schmoe whose job it is to rip open these stacks and stacks of replies aren't going to care. When cash or a check or loose change doesn't come spilling out of the envelope they're not going to bother reading or caring any further. Heck, they might just trash everything that's not money and not even bother taking the "deceased"'s  name off the mailing list. It's not THEIR money.

I also occasionally think of stuffing the envelope with other crap so the company will be paying those extra few cents for another ounce or so of returned matter. This has long been a fantasy of mine (yep, Mojo's a weirdo) and a quick Google search shows me there are many a like-minded disliker of junk mail, going back at least to Abbie Hoffman & Co. Apparently in the good ol' days you could actually glue the business reply envelope to a BRICK, but the Powers That Be have long wised up to that. Still, I recall from my old paper manuscript days that six sheets of 8.5X11 paper is an ounce of weight, and each extra ounce costs... well, however much it costs. Nickels and dimes aren't much, but they would make Mojo feel better knowing they were being charged to her latest objet d' hatred.

I have also considered, in my weakest moments, of pouring a small amount of sand into the envelope, and including a nice short note along the lines of HERE IS SOME SAND. FEEL FREE TO POUND IT. But I have not done so, nor shall I. For starters, that opens the door for said weasels to start claiming I'm sending them FRIGHTENING POWDERS THROUGH THE MAIL, possibly combined with VEILED THREATS, and that would not go over well. Especially since the apparent "sender", should it be investigated, would wind up being a very nice 90-year-old lady who wouldn't have a CLUE what was happening in her name.

Besides, I wouldn't tell them to pound sand. Mojo is WAY TOO CLASSY for that. No, I'd gift each and every one of them with a precious tablespoon or so of my hopelessly yuppie artisanal gourmet pink Himalayan rock salt, and tell them to pound THAT.

But.... *sigh*, it's not my fight, and it's not my address, and it can be argued that an elderly man with dementia is perfectly entitled to send a "lobbying group" (as far as I can tell the only people actually being lobbied is their mailing list of donors) ten or fifteen dollars a year so they can continue to FIGHT to make sure our American elderly are not FORCED BY THE GOVERNMENT TO LIVE UNDER BRIDGES AND EAT GENERIC CANNED DOG FOOD. And clearly, Mojo complaining about such tactics pretty much means she WANTS our elderly to be treated thusly. THESE YOUNG KNOW-IT-ALL WHIPPERSNAPPERS TRYING TO ROB YOU OF YOUR RIGHTS ARE THE VERY SCUM WE ARE FIGHTING AGAINST!!! YOUR TEN DOLLARS WILL HELP ASSURE YOU SHE WILL NOT PREVAIL!!!!

Again, I scrawl DECEASED across all the exclamation marks. And hope this time it gets through.