The little things mean a lot

We've all heard the story about the couple who divorced because one of them insisted on squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle. Little things do get under our skin. Others may share my annoyance with loose cards in magazines, inconvenient phone calls, and super packaging of products.

As a voracious reader, I subscribe to a variety of newspapers and magazines. I have a healthy respect for trees. Why, oh why, do the publishers not share my regard for the nation's forests? Surely hundreds of thousands of board feet of timber could be saved every year if Newsweek and The New Yorker would quit inserting annoying cards urging subscribers to subscribe. Do they just ignore their own mailing lists?

Then there are cards inserted for insurance agencies or some male-enhancing drug. Cards. Not ordinary ads, but cards. And doubled cards at that - just in case you missed it on page 10, you get the same card again on page 20. They serve to destroy one of life's little pleasures - leafing idly through a magazine.

Is it just me? Or don't most people, as prelude to a comfortable read, just rip those things out and toss them without even glancing at them? (I do the same with most of the ads inserted in my newspapers, but that is a whole new issue - no pun intended).

Telemarketers are almost a proverbial pain. "You've been chosen for ..." Insert wonderful prize here - a weekend in some hotel, a fantastic makeover of you or your home - but of course there is some sort of monetary catch to this freebie.

Mortgage and credit card companies are downright aggressive in pursuing prospective customers. You say "I'm not interested" and slam the phone down, but chances are that within a week you will hear from that same firm again. What part of NO is so difficult to understand?

True - I should be on the "no call" list, but that list provides precious little protection from annoying calls that are still allowed. Panhandlers on the street are easier to ignore than some solicitors for charities - they invariably call at dinner time or in the middle of your favorite TV program. Who among us has not been asked for "just a few minutes" for some commercial survey - which, often as not and a half hour later, mask a sales pitch? Nor does the no-call list preclude political polls which are often nothing more than oral ads for a candidate or an issue.

Finally, packaging. We Americans are so decidedly paranoid that everything we buy, from breakfast cereals to DVDs, must be encased in several layers of industrial-strength packaging. Drug manufacturers have been so stung by lawsuits that their products are impossible for anyone but a child to open with ease. God help the aged and the handicapped! Even something as innocuous as AA batteries for the TV remote control comes in a plastic bubble that needs aircraft shears to make them accessible.

OK, OK. I know these things are not as important as the latest death count from Iraq or the way Halliburton is ripping off the American taxpayer, but they are at least as significant for most of us as, say, who fathered Anna Nicole's baby or whether Britney Spears wears panties.

• Wilma Counts is a Dayton resident.

• Fresh Ideas: Starting conversations by sharing personal perspectives on timely and timeless issues.


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