Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Alien at your Mailbox

Let’s say – hypothetically, of course - an alien were to land on earth and the very first thing s/he were to see was you getting you mail out of your mailbox.  He asks you what the purpose of the mailbox is.

Interesting question, isn’t it?

Impartial, empirical observation of my interaction with my mailbox, speaking from purely personal anecdotal viewpoint would lead me to offer this answer:

“A mailbox is the termination of a large, complex and costly system of interconnected service providers whereby one person or group sends small pieces of trash or recycling materials to a distant second person or group.”

To which, of course the alien (fluent in English and our cultural norms) would squint and wince and ask you if what you really said was that you send each other trash.

To which, I would have to respond:  “Yes.” Which would be followed by a reflective pause, after which I would add:  “And other stuff.”

To which the alien would be begged to ask:  “What kinds of other stuff?”

The only answer to which would be:  “I guess other stuff that is slightly more significant than the original stuff I mentioned.  This stuff we would hold onto for a few days or maybe weeks before recycling.”

Totally perplexed, the alien would – after a long pause – ask:  “Does the mailbox serve any other purpose?”

“Nope.  Well, yes.  You have to take out the weedwacker if you want to finish the lawnmowing process.  I don’t know if that’s a purpose, but weedwacking is the second most useful thing that a mailbox demands.”

“Oh, thank goodness.”  The alien would say.  “For a minute there, I thought it was completely obsolete.  What is ‘lawnmowing’”?

“Ok, now, let’s not get into that.  If you can’t understand the mailbox, you’re never going to understand  the lawnmowing”.

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