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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reader's Indigestion

by Ken Craig (bio)

So I recently canceled my longtime subscription to Reader’s Digest. Originally we subscribed to this national treasure for two reasons. Katie grew up with it, so it was a bit of nostalgia for her, and I needed something to peruse whilst lounging in the bathroom.

I’m kidding of course. I haven’t lounged in a bathroom in ages. Not since I’ve had children old enough to recognize that when Dad is in the restroom, he is trapped. They have a captive audience, and it’s an opportunity to tell me the details of their day, get my opinion on their outfit, or – and I wish I were making this up – cram a drawing they made for me under the door so I can compliment their artistic abilities.

Kid 1: (Paper appearing as if printing off a dot matrix. being wedged between the door and the floor) Daddy, I made this for you while you were at work!

Me: If you’ll wait just a second, we can look at it together. Daddy just needs to finish reading about life-saving dental breakthroughs, and I’ll be right out.

Kid 2: Dad, look, I’m waving at you! (Little fingers sticking out from under the door.)

Me: Yes, mm-hm, I’m waving back! Why don’t you go see what your brother is doing?

Kid 3: (Faint knocking) Hi, Dad. I’m going to read you my book report on Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Me: Oh, why don’t you go practice first, and then when I’m done, you’ll be all ready.

Kid 4: Dad, can we play catch before dinner? I’ll leave your glove here by the door.

Me: Katieeeeeeeee!

Katie: Kids, leave Daddy alone and come help me with dinner.

At any rate, the love affair with Reader’s Digest has come to an end. It just sort of fizzled out. It seemed we had less and less in common. For example, “Life in These United States.” A Reader’s Digest feature where people write in little personal experiences, recounting amusing anecdotes or misunderstandings or sound bytes, so we can all chortle and say, “Oh, that is just like our little family/community/city/whatever. It sure is amusing, living in these United States.”

My submission would be like this true story that just happened on our last road trip.

Abbie: Dad, can you think of another word for ‘barf?’
Dad: Barf?
Abbie: Yeah, we have 9 already, and we need 10. We have vomit, upchuck, puke…
Connor: (Cutting Abbie off) Can we stop talking about barf….?
Katie: (Cutting Connor off) That sounds like a great idea.
Connor: (finishing)…and start talking about poop…?

My other observation is the celebrity interviews they do. Sweet, fancy Moses, these people suck up to every celebrity they interview. No matter how controversial, offensive, or worse – boring – these celebrities are, Reader’s Digest wants you to feel you can bring them home and introduce them to Mom.

If Charles Manson was on the cover, here are the questions you could expect to findReader’s Digest asking. “Of all the celebrities you’ve had the chance to meet and kill, which one impressed you the most?” “In between murders, aggravated assault, and larceny, you must have had a lot of down time. What kind of skills did you develop that have made you stronger today?” “You have claimed The Beatles were talking directly to you in their song Helter Skelter. What other musicians have influenced you since then?”

But what finally pushed me over the edge was when I called to cancel my subscription. They told me I couldn’t. “Oh, no. We’ve already sent you issues you haven’t paid for yet. You can’t cancel now.” That seemed a little dishonest to me. A little shady. A little “That’s Outrageous!”

I immediately packed a suitcase and hatched a plan to fly directly out to Chappaqua, New York, publishing headquarters for the Reader’s Digest. My plan was to march straight into to the president's office, knock on the door of his private bathroom, and cram a drawing under the door of what I was going to do to him if he didn’t cancel my subscription. Now that’s a ditty I’d like to see featured in “All In a Days Work.”

But instead I just called back, paid what I owed for the additional issues I had received, and canceled my subscription. Dear Reader’s Digest, notify me when you have an article on that 10th barf synonym. Maybe I’ll renew my subscription.

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