How much attention do you pay to your mail?

Do you look to make sure every envelope has a return address? Do you look at the amount of postage? Do you look for foreign postmarks? Misspelled words?

Do you smell your mail? Feel your mail? Listen to your mail?

I didn’t used to. But I do now.

I was in the mailroom on the Portland campus last week waiting to get postage stamped on some packages I had to send out.

I was interested in how people who work in the mailroom feel about the recent anthrax scares.

As he was weighing my packages I asked the guy if he thought about it.

“Of course we think about it,” he said. “But I don’t worry.”

I asked him why.

“Because what can I do about it?” he responded matter-of-factly.

In the previous week I had seen what some people do about it.

From the back porch of my apartment I had watched the Forest Avenue post office get evacuated twice in 24 hours. I saw dozens of post office employees put on buses to be shipped off to “an undisclosed location” to be decontaminated.

It scared me.

It made me start to look at my mail a little differently. I started to feel the credit card offers before I opened them. I became suspicious of letters to the editor. I verified names and addresses.

But the guy in the mailroom got me thinking.

Because really, what can I do about it?

I started to weigh the facts.

The reality is that of the 285 million people in this country, only dozens have been exposed to anthrax spores. One man has died. As of Saturday, eight actual cases of infection were confirmed. They are all being treated and are expected to fully recover. And the closest anthrax has come to my Bedford Street office is Manhattan.

I realized a couple of things:

I am not Tom Brokaw. I live in Maine. And there is a cure just in case.

This knowledge will not keep me from looking over my mail a little more carefully than I did before Sept. 11, but it should keep me sane.

Taking a stand

I don’t like television.

But I love sports.

I’ll admit I went through a stage earlier in my life when I’d spend countless hours watching whatever sporting event I could find on TV. I’d prefer sports like baseball and basketball, but I’d settle for golf and bowling if I really had to.

Nowadays I barely have time for Monday Night Football. But as long as I can remember I’ve made it a priority to watch baseball playoffs.

I don’t have cable. I haven’t had cable for years. I’d rather not rot my brain flipping through all the HBOs and music channels.

I’ve been using rabbit ears for a while and I haven’t had any problems.

Until this year.

Earlier in the month, our local affiliate replaced FOX with WB. I didn’t think it would really matter until someone said this year’s baseball playoffs are on FOX.

I remember thinking to myself there must be some mistake. There’s no way I’d need to have cable to watch the ALCS or, god forbid, the World Series.

But that’s exactly what’s happened.

I’d have to pay at least $10.50 a month plus a $20.77 installation fee to get FOX.

That might not sound so bad. “What’s $30?” you might ask.

It might not be much, but I refuse to pay to watch the World Series.

It’s a matter of principle.

Being able to watch the World Series for free isn’t a right guaranteed by the Constitution. I don’t delude myself.

But I’ve been given the message my entire life that baseball is America’s pastime. The president has wiffle ball games on the White House lawn.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that now it’s just as American to be a slave to Time-Warner. Who am I to think that I should be able to watch America’s most popular game for free on public airwaves?

I’m sure I’ll cave in soon enough. But until then I’ll have to be satisfied with Joe and Jerry’s radio broadcasts and day old newspaper headlines.

I will not pay $30 to watch the world series on TV. Not this year anyway.


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