Paperless World, My Ass

What happened to the paperless world I’m supposed to be living in? I’ve been through hell and back breaking my addiction to paper lists and day planners. I stopped making print-outs of all my emails, I have many of my bills auto-paid, and I’ve saved at least 14 rainforest trees just by online banking.

So why do I still have stacks of papers on my kitchen counter that are like a living, breathing, pulsating mess that will cook us dinner any day now?

I’ve tried to pinpoint how that could be, since I don’t have little third-graders bringing Thursday Folders home full of PTA notices and wrapping paper sales anymore. And I toss my junk mail in the recycling bin before it can even get a toe in the door.

The culprit is shopping. In these difficult recessionary times (sorry Ellen, I know you hate that phrase), retailers are peeing their pants trying to come up with ways to make us forget that we’re broke and spend money anyway. And it would be nice if we liked them, too. So they give us stuff - on paper - and in that needy, clingy, zero-self-esteem way, keep asking us to if we like them and if we’ll please come back again.

Shopping has become full of red tape. And I’m not talking about when the register receipt roll starts to run low and you get that red streak on your curly print-out. Try to buy a pack of gum at CVS and they’ll ask you for your phone number or your zip code or your email address and they’ll want your frequent buyer card so they can send you coupons in the mail for more gum.

Coupons. I fight with myself every Sunday over whether I should cut the coupons out of the newspaper inserts or use that time to watch James Bond marathons, something I personally am pretty sure Sundays are made for. Sundays are not made for cutting out coupons to save 25 cents on three boxes of cereal. Cutting out coupons puts me in a slightly irritated mood. Why should I have to buy three boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats just to save a quarter? Why should I have to check the ounces to see if I’m buying a big enough jug of Joy to save such a tiny amount? What are the chances that I’m ever going to use this coupon for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter before September 30, 2010? Do I even eat I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter? Might I start eating it if it costs 35 cents less? Why am I even doing this? Do I need to save 35 cents? Am I poor now?

I lose the fight almost every week and cut out the coupons, ruining my Sunday and adding to the papers on my kitchen counter. I can’t bring myself to throw away the Bed Bath and Beyond coupons when they come in the mail or in my newspaper, even though each coupon is the size and weight of my college diploma, in its frame. The only way they could make their coupons more imposing is if they carved “20% OFF” into a slab of limestone, forcing you to carry it into the store in the Ark of the Covenant. I haven’t paid full price for anything for my bedroom, my bathroom or my beyond rooms since 1990 and I’m not going to start now, even if it strains a bicep.

Leaving the store, having turning over all those carefully clipped, Sunday-ruining coupons, doesn’t rid me of papers, however. The 8-foot-long receipt I get when I’m done has more coupons, sale notices, and survey phone numbers that if I choose to call and tell them how my experience was, I could qualify for a free eight-pack of AA batteries or a box of Polident.

I never call the surveys. I get enough unsolicited surveys from the Republican party on a weekly basis. (Honestly, what do I have to do to convince them that I’m not a conservative, that I’m not gripped in fear of the direction “Mr. Obama,” as they call him, is leading my country. Don’t make me get out my hammer and sickle stickers.)

I gave up paper checks when I became a Woman of the New Millennium and started using my debit card for everything, including to pay for gasoline via a toothless redneck in rural Georgia. (I know some people are too suspicious to hand over sensitive financial information to Deliverance cast members, but here’s what I figure: If anyone can figure out how to steal my identity and/or my bank balance by having just my credit card info, it’s not going to be Bubba. It’s going to be that snippy little bulimic that works at American Eagle. So I freely hand out personal information at the gas station and everywhere else and hope for the best.)

I’ve done my part and have cut back on my use of paper when shopping. Now it’s time the stores did the same thing. I need my kitchen counter back. Somebody has to cook dinner around here and the coupons are just not pulling their weight.

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