Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
When I was 17, a conversation about curfews and drinking with my dad effectively ended when he said, “I’m glad I don’t think like you.” My instinct was to reply along the lines of, “Life’s a two-way street,” but opted to keep my mouth shut, so close to physical confrontation were we. He’d have kicked my ass, not because he was so tough, but because I’d have let him. He was, after all, my father.
A civilized society needs rules, for anarchy isn’t very appealing, but by the same token we’ve managed to hamstring autonomy, “freedom of action,” if you will, by becoming a society of too many regulations and overly concerned neighbors and government officials. As a matter of fact, “autonomy” is more often defined by governments and constitutions than it is by dictionaries, and by so doing, governments have realistically snuffed the very notion of the word, which in its original incarnation means “personal independence.” From its Greek origins, autonomy consists of: auto meaning “self” and nomos meaning “law.”
Some years ago, I sold my business interests and took to the world as a ski bum, writer and a cowboy. My needs were simple and there was little from the outside world that I was dependent upon. United States Postal mail should have shrunk to almost nothing in reflection of my dismal position in society, but it didn’t. I’d arrive home from skiing or working cows to find my rural mailbox stuffed, its door wide open, having been left that way by an overzealous delivery person, calling attention to my dereliction of duty. Begging the post office to have the glad-handed offers halted, the inane catalogs stopped, went nowhere. It was like talking to the back-end of a slow moving bull.
In protest, I quit pulling the mail from its box and eventually, out of interest in my well-being, the USPS delivered not one, but two large boxes of mail to my doorstep with a note threatening that further mail would be “returned to sender” if I didn’t clean out my mailbox on a regular basis.
That sounded like a good solution and I continued to let the mail accumulate until once again I got a nasty note, another large box, and another threat. Whereupon, I removed my overflowing mailbox from the post upon which it sat and threw it in the garbage.
I hired a post office box with a private company, giving that new address to only those who sent money and a close personal friend or two. The relief from outside stress was instantaneous – I picked up my sparse mail once or twice a month, which consisted only of checks or personal correspondence. My few bills were paid online or I wrote checks to those who weren’t so equipped, and life became far less cluttered.
After about a year, a couple of curious things happened. First, the mail held by the post office actually got returned to the senders, which prompted some vendors to become nervous. The utility companies (whom I always paid in advance) insisted I have a mailing address on file. Sweet Jen at the bank was at least clever about it – she sexily requested a mailing address so she could invite me to a party.
The reprieve from junk was brief, for someone soon sold my name and address to an advertising company, and I am now back to the same amount of ridiculous, unwanted and invasive mail that was previously getting delivered to my house. It’s time to “change my address” again.
To further limit unwanted intrusions, I disconnected my land-line answering machine a couple of years ago and I’m still surprised at the number of people who tell me there’s something wrong with my phone, so entrenched is the idea that we should all be available, all the time.
It may seem an odd concept, but if I’m paying the freight, I should be the arbiter of who can contact me and how. It’s impossible, I know, but at least I’m trying.
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