One of the great things about living in the suburbs is that we don’t waste our time with freedoms of expression.
In fact, for many of us, our subdivided, strip-mall paradises act as sort of a Witness Protection Program for our personalities. Sure, there may have been a time when we wanted to own subterranean, eco-friendly custom homes heated by moonlight. But then we grew up.
It takes a lot of energy to be individuals — energy that’s better spent making sure our kids have the same brands of clothes as their classmates. We find comfort in the fact that everyone in our neighborhood has a house in one of four styles. We appreciate our conformity — it helps us feel like we’re on the right track in life. And that’s why an individual form of expression — specifically a cat-shaped mailbox — threatens to breach our security and must be brought down, brought down hard.
So to preserve our beautifully bland existence, I hereby issue the following edict: all people with cat-shaped mailboxes (or other custom mailboxes) have 30 days to replace them with the standard metal canisters, complete with red, flag-shaped outgoing-mail flags.
I mean, who do you think you are, cat-shaped-mailbox person? What makes you think you can thrust your fondness for cats upon the rest of the neighborhood? Don’t you know there are dog lovers living around you? Why do your force them to drive by your house, constantly noticing that your mailbox uses the cat’s tail to cleverly double as the outgoing-mail flag? What gives you the right to come off like an individual with interests different from ours?
Person with a cat-shaped mailbox, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Don’t you know what you’re doing? The suburbs have a magical way of maintaining the status quo. If you persist in keeping your piece of personal flair, soon other neighbors will feel compelled to put up lighthouse-themed mailboxes, or even just paint daisies on the sides of their regular mailboxes. Before you know it, someone’s got a Model-T replica mailbox that, when you lift up the hood to deposit the mail, lets out a battery-powered honk.
This epidemic of mailbox expression must be stopped immediately or, before we know it, we’ll be able to tell our houses apart from each other. Gone will be the wonderful days of accidentally pulling into a neighbor’s garage because he’s got the same floor plan as you.
And finally, let me say that although the tyranny of cute, personalized mailboxes must be ruthlessly stamped out, we should not turn our suburban backs on all forms of art or expression. So long as it’s on public property, there’s nothing wrong with a cement cow statue, or a copper replica of an old man sitting on a bench.
In the right place, we should embrace art — so long as it isn’t too interesting or thought-provoking. If we wanted to think, we’d go to work. Time’s too valuable to just sit around and think for free.
Jeremy Greenberg is a writer, comedian and resident of Kirkland. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Relative Discomfort: The Family Survival Guide (Andrews McMeel). Learn more at www.jeremygreenberg.com.