Everybody gets junk mail—the exciting contests (“You already may have won the equivalent of the gross national product”), the thrilling insurance offers (“Even if you’re pushing 100 and are going away on a camping trip with Joan Collins, you’re still covered”) and the irresistible invitations to save such endangered species as the whale, the porpoise and the politician. Everybody gets that kind of mail, but only a few heroic Americans do anything about it.
Jim Di Maio is one such American. Di Maio, 47, is a landscaper who lives in Indianola, Iowa. He was driven to his lonely act of rebellion by the sheer volume of junk mail he was receiving—as much as 10 pounds a month. At first, Di Maio just tossed it out; then he tried burning it. “It doesn’t burn real well,” he says, “probably because of the inks. All it really does is smolder and pollute the air.”
Complaining to the mailman didn’t get Di Maio anywhere either, since, the mailman explained, he was only doing his job. Postal officials, who delivered more than 52 billion pieces of third class mail last year, gave Di Maio essentially the same answer. Eventually, he got his inspiration—from the syndicated cartoon, Shoe. The panel that sent Di Maio to the barricades showed the mailman delivering Shoe’s mail and discovering that the mailbox had been replaced by a trash can.
Di Maio decided it was time life imitated cartoon art. Three months ago he got rid of his old mailbox, which had become pretty battered from passing cars anyway, and replaced it with a shiny 20-gallon galvanized-steel garbage can. “I want to be a thorn in someone’s side,” says Di Maio, “but I don’t know whose, because junk mail is so widespread.”
Jim Di Maio’s revolution may be a modest one, but even the smallest uprising needs a slogan. How about The Junk Stops Here?