“cancellation notice”

January 10, 2008
Going through the mail one afternoon, I come across a thick envelope splashed with bright shades of white and blue. My name and address appear across the front. After running my thumb under the crisp seal, I investigate the envelope’s contents. Among fifty or so useless stickers is the retail rewards card to American Eagle Outfitters I signed up for online about two months before. Scowling in disgust, I recollect how rarely I shop at that store anyway. But it had seemed like a pretty neat idea at the time.

Truthfully, the Mistake of the Very Blue Rewards Card is not the only one of its kind. Numerous mailing lists, freebies, store-issued credit cards, accounts, and email newsletters all have my name and address on file. Completing surveys, in addition to mandatory school and job forms, also bring me joy. Filling in blanks wherever I see them has become second nature to me. I drool over the opportunity to literally write my information on the straight black line.

More often than not, the forms I drift toward require my full name, where I live, contact information, gender, and birthday. Sometimes they ask about schooling, medical history, and my immediate family. My favorite forms to fill out are for store-issued credit cards. Those forms ask all the good questions. I become absolutely giddy over them, usually when shopping with my mother.

Typically, a woman behind the counter begins by saying, “Now we have a special offer going on. Create an account with us, and we can give you a card that provides you with a special discount on your purchase today. And all of your future purchases will contribute to point-based rewards. Would you like one?”

My mother pauses to think about how many she already has--probably a relatively unhealthy amount. “Okay,” she responds, and whispers to me, “Would you like to fill it out?” Would I ever! Stepping slyly over to the side, I indulge myself in the form like I would a guilty pleasure. Picking up the pen, I complete the application, savoring every bit of it.

What is so appealing about that? What causes me to take such satisfaction in filling out meaningless forms? Somehow, the superficiality and pointlessness may actually be the highlight of a form’s appeal. I find the meaninglessness of a form a rather attractive quality. Maybe it is a welcomed reprieve from the complications each day brings, as nothing is simple anymore. At least to me. I may be able to consider myself not quite past the whole idea of “growing up” and “leaving the age of utter ignorance.” Leaving the age where I did not stop to think about grades, or work, or future, or family, or sickness, or stress, or sadness, or pain. Now, as a young adult, these hover around me often. But no worry of mine can be held like a stuffed animal in my hands. Everyday concerns lack the concrete nature of forms and surveys. Most likely, completing forms serves as a way for me to retreat to a more simplistic past. Forms tell me what is sound in my world, my life. And they help me block out what is not. Filling in the blanks might just be my “outlet,” despite the craziness of it. The forms for retail cards operate just like a simple fill-in-the-blank test. The answer is either right or wrong and, as I admit to knowing myself fairly well, the forms consistently produce accurate results. No ambiguity exists.

My certainty, on the other hand, lies in this: answering forms creates a sense of precision and simplicity for me. And it also lies in the fact that the American Eagle Outfitters card I signed up for came with a two-for-one deal: I recently had a chance to submit the oh-so-enjoyable “cancellation notice” form.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Ren said...
Sept. 14, 2008 at 2:11 am
Nice. That was a lovely article thing you wrote! :)
Mary said...
Sept. 3, 2008 at 5:55 pm
We all have done this. Enjoyed reading and liked your sense of humor.
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