While growing up in Manhattan, I had always heard about this type of thing, but had never seen it in person. I had seen references to it in movies and on TV, and friends and acquaintances swear it’s happened to them, but I had always thought that they made it up as sort of practical joke on a city kid. I had dismissed it as a myth or an urban legend — like unicorns, alligators in the sewers, or that girl that had to go to the hospital because she got a frozen hot dog stuck somewhere.
The other day, when I got home and picked up my mail, I saw an odd looking envelope mixed in with a magazine and another envelope containing local coupons. This envelope caught my attention because it was a first-class letter sized envelope with both my address and the return address handwritten on the front. It looked like something that a friend would send me, except that I knew of no friends with the return name or at the return address. Additionally, it was addressed to “Joshua Madison”, and about the only people who use that form of my name are my parents and the I.R.S., neither of whom this envelope came from.
I was intrigued, but also weary. Visions of some long lost relative who left me a million dollars danced in my head; so did anthrax.
I slowly and carefully opened it. Inside was what appeared to be a pamphlet that had been folded to fit inside an envelope, and wrapped around it was a handwritten note. I was so focused on whether or not the note was really handwritten, or just printed to look handwritten, that I actually didn’t read it at first. I just felt it to see if I could feel the handwriting…and I could. It was a real handwritten note from a stranger, addressed to me.
I started to read a bit. The person who wrote it wanted to tell me that they were a volunteer in my area, that they were unable to reach me in person, and “was hoping to share some positive thoughts with you.”
I could see where this was going, so I decided to finish the rest of it while sitting on the throne dropping some kids off at the pool.
I continued to read about how life may feel like a hamster wheel, and how you can be famous or wealthy one day and lose it all the next, but luckily, the enclosed magazine could make me feel truly successful, so successful that even if I were to lose everything I wouldn’t feel as though I’ve somehow failed.
I opened the little magazine and it was called “Awake!”. I looked at the table of contents and noticed a very slight religious tone to the articles, such as “How Does God View Aids to Worship?”, and “Was It Designed? The Navigational System of the Butterfly”, and “Young People Ask How Can I Improve in My Prayers?”
Oh, this is so not for me.
But before I threw it out, I was curious about who really sent it. I figured it would be the Mormons, or maybe that Scientology thing. I looked around the table of contents but couldn’t find anything that obviously spelled out who was responsible. I flipped the pages a bit and found the publishing information. It was published by some outfit called, “The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society”.
“Wait, that sounds familiar,” I thought. “Where do I know that name from?”
My mind started accessing information pathways that hadn’t been used in some time. For some reason, the Brooklyn Bridge popped into my head, followed by a building in Brooklyn, then…
“Oh my god! Could it be?! Is this them?!!” I ejaculated.
As quick as I could, I got to my computer and looked it up. It was.
It was published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and this letter and magazine must be the Manhattan equivalent of them knocking on doors. It’s really real. Perhaps everything everyone told me, and what I had seen in movies and on TV, were real as well? It took 35 years, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses finally made contact.
I just hope I don’t get more of this crap.