I get anonymous letters all the time. Why would anybody think I would waste my time reading his or her opinion, knowing I could never reply to it?
For the record, I'm not anonymous. Wes Browning is my real name. The picture that comes with the column is a real picture of me, and I really do get mail at the Real Change office, address on page 2. As Jennifer Lopez says, "I'm real." If I can put myself out there, so can my pen pals.
Trust me, I will not publish your letters to me if you ask me not to share them. But if I can't respond to a letter to me, it usually goes unread into the round file.
It's different if someone else in the office gets anonymous mail. That's entertainment. The other day a letter was addressed to "'Real Change' Mgmt," and passed to me. It wasn't really a letter; it was cheap postcard. It was so cheap it didn't even have a glossy picture. The return address was "RCW 17.160: Follow the law or lose R.C. vending privileges."
My natural reaction was, "Oh boy, Real Change got a cheap anonymous postcard. Let's make fun of it!"
Our new postcard-sending buddy tells us our vendors need to obey the law about not smoking within 25 feet of doorways. He/she then goes on to say: "Not only is their cigarette smoke stinking and poisonous ... [it is] a hard addictive drug ... If they can afford cigarettes, they DISPROVE they are poor: they have big $$ to waste on their drug habit. Educate them or they will lose still more sales."
Without a way to contact the writer, I've no choice but to print my reply here.
"Dear Phantom of the postcard: Your cowardly anonymous missive makes an excellent point. Unfortunately, it makes two stupid points simultaneously. I'd apologize for not responding to you in private to discuss your stupid points, but I couldn't find a return address to mail the apology.
First, let me thank you for informing us that we should remind our vendors they ought to obey rcw 17.160.075. Indeed, they should obey all state and local laws, and we, the 'mgmt' of Real Change, should, like good daddies everywhere, remind them of their obligation to do so every single day.
I am especially concerned about your implication that our vendors are not appearing poor enough for you. I agree that is serious. It would be a shame if they were to earn enough money selling our paper that they would fail to be demonstrably poor. It would represent a complete failure of our mission, namely to keep our vendors so abjectly poor that they can't buy cigarettes, go to movies or afford shoes.
If our vendors were to stop looking poor, we'd have to start issuing them rags to wear.
That could get expensive. By springing for rags, we would also prove we had funds to buy them and blow our whole 'poor nonprofit' act.
But your cheap postcard, with your points, 'tobacco is a hard addictive drug' and 'they have big $$ to waste on their drug habit,' is lame.
Tobacco is indeed addictive. Chances are that our addicted vendors didn't become addicted when they were poor and homeless. They brought their addiction with them when they lost jobs and housing. Now you want them to stop even though you yourself call it a 'hard addictive drug?' Do you know what the word 'addictive' means?
Did you know that smoking costs slightly less than eating? One pack of cigarettes can kill the average galloping appetite of a bull vendor for 12 hours straight -- long enough to spare him the cost of two orders of quarter pounders with fries, for a net saving of two to three dollars.
Thank you again, postcard-sender, for your concern that we educate our poor people to be obedient citizens and especially for reminding us that they have to remain visibly poor, because you say so, whoever you are.