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Nina In New York: Attack Of The Catalogs

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(credit: Lifehacker.com)

(credit: Lifehacker.com)

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A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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By Nina Pajak

One day not long ago, much like most days, I went to get my mail when I got home from work. Only on this particular day, I opened the mailbox to find an impenetrable wall of glossy pages. A multitude of thick catalogs had been crammed in so tightly that I could only begin to imagine how the mailwoman had achieved it. I shoved my hand in and attempted to pull them out at once. No luck. I dove in again, wrenched and twisted and finally came away with one—Pottery Barn. I began to claw desperately, tearing away scraps until another was dislodged. Hm, Pottery Barn, this one addressed to my husband. They began to come out more easily now, and I snatched a third. Pottery Barn Kids. And a fourth. Pottery Barn Easter! A fifth! Williams-Sonoma, which is owned by…? You guessed it. Same folks who brought me catalogs 1-4.

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By the time I’d finally managed to vacate my poor, abused mailbox, I was sweating and cursing and I’d scratched my hand and lost two fingernails. I walked in our door heaving with rage and slammed the catalogs down on the floor, at which point I burst into tears. I’m not proud, but I won’t lie about it.

The fact is, I’ve always looked forward to catalogs. I love leafing through the photos of rooms I could never put together on my own and peeking into the imaginary lives of families which have been constructed by someone whose vision of perfection rivals Daisy Buchanan’s. I look past the Armonk Brass Studded Leather Club Chair and scrutinize the impeccably-lettered family calendar on the wall. “Pick up Cassidy from horseback riding.” “Ballet 4 Sophia.” “Family Regatta!”

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I love these people. They don’t have a care in the world, and why should they? I’d be at peace if I had the time and money to furnish my house with authentic antique oars and artisan-made iron wall-art forged by a guild of noble blacksmiths who inhabit a tiny island in the Java Sea.

But this, this was too much to bear. Especially when you consider the fact that there was already a skyscraping stack of catalogs in our apartment that we’d been steadily collecting every week. No, this was something different. This was mailbox aggression and I called the phone number on the back of one of the books after I’d calmed a bit.

“You have to take me off your lists!” I exploded. “I got so many catalogs today that I truly don’t know what to do! I just…don’t know what to do.” My anger quickly ceded to a desperate whimpering.

I think she felt sorry for me, but I also don’t think this was the first time she’d had to manage a terrified customer buried alive in promotional material. She maintained a solid level of removed compassion as I went through the list of ways in which we ought to be removed from their databases. My husband and I were the same person, for their purposes. No, we have no children and don’t care to get a jump on nursery furnishing trends. We don’t decorate seasonally. We are not yachtsmen, equestrians, oenophiles or amateur Emu farmers. We don’t even have a stoop, let alone a need for cabana accessories. Our sconce needs are met, thank you. Thank you, thank you. Please, just leave us alone.

Of course, they didn’t really. And even if they did, who could tell? There are at least eight other companies who barrage us with paper every week. And they’ve worn me down. They win, I lose. I’m home today waiting for delivery of a headboard carved from the wood of a tree only found deep in the jungles of Brazil. It has been said to have magical properties and will go very nicely with my new wall-mountable decorative birdcage. After this, I’m saving up for some ornamental buoys! Precious.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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