By Hardy Jackson
This is the catalog season.
The days get shorter, the nights cooler, the leaves turn, the catalogs arrive.
They seem to increase with each year, a testament to marketing efficiency and the ability of companies to identify customers and reach out to them.
I recall once, back in the 1970s, listening to an end time preacher going on about how something in Revelation said that one day the Antichrist would be able to learn all about you from what you buy. Although he went out on a limb and said Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist (he missed that one, but at the time I wasn’t so sure) his prediction that records of what we purchase would be collected and made available to folks who did not have our best interests at heart continues to ring true.
I think of this when the catalogs arrive.
The fact that over half of these catalogs deal with home decorating and women’s clothing leads me to believe that my wife and daughter are the ones being tracked. Some of these also include gadgets to make life easier (my lovely loves those) and stuff for the dogs, which in time, I am sure they will be receiving catalogs of their own.
However, the biggest batch of catalogs have to do with Halloween.
Halloween, in case you did not know, is a big money maker. Not as big as Christmas, or even Mother’s Day, but at $5 billion in annual retail sales, “Ghosties, Ghoulies, and Longlegged Beasties” make the cash registers ring. So it is not surprising that a company that sells such would market big-time as All Hallows’ Eve approaches.
In the pile was only one that was obviously sent to me, a catalog that advertises itself as being just loaded with “Ideas For Active, Healthy Living.”
Which means, simply put, “Ideas For Old Folks.”
Other catalogs may sprinkle among its items stuff for the geriatric set – comfy shoes, pistachios without shells (you know how hard it is for old fingers to open those things) – but those are mainly something for the folks for whom the catalog is intended to buy for Me-Maw or PaPa.
This catalog, however, was full of old people stuff – or so I thought.
On the cover was advertised a complete DVD set of “The Dean Martin Variety Show” while over further on was the King James Bible, also on DVD. Starts out with man and woman in a garden and ends with revelations (a beginning and end that I always found as amusing as it is accurate).
Included were conveniences for all the afflictions of aging.
Disposable Adult Bibs for those who dribble when they eat or drink.
Other disposable products for those who dribble when they do other things – a lot of products address that issue.
All sorts of “sound amplifiers” for those who need hearing aids but are too cheap or vain to get one.
Clocks and caller IDs with big numbers.
Protection against the things that scare old folks – identity theft, home security and stray dogs.
And things to help you sleep. One of these was advertised right next to an “inspirational clock” that plays “Amazing Grace” every hour. The message, I suppose, is that if you take the sleep aid that we advertise then that clock won’t keep you awake.
But let me warn you folks, if one of these comes to your home, don’t leave it out where the kids can see it. In between the sections advertising solutions to urinary problems and a host of back-pain-relief doo-dads are a couple of pages featuring things you wouldn’t expect to find in an old folks catalog.
Yep, there they are, living color and vibrating, and (thank the Lord) non-returnable.
Included is a four-hour DVD titled “A Lifetime of Better Sex” – I suppose it takes four hours to get the message across if you have to repeat yourself (“What did he say honey?” “Shut up and listen. He’s gonna say it again, just for you.”)
Which got me to thinking about how, back a while ago, our legislators, our protectors of public morals, our defenders of us from ourselves, passed legislation that naughty objects such as these could not be sold in Alabama stores.
A dumb law, someone pointed out, because you could get them through the mail.
And sure enough, here they are.
I wonder how many legislators are on this mailing list?
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.