[Ed. note] I have a lot more pressing business here on this blog (i.e. two first days of school and all the accompanying stories that go with them) but I thought it might be better to break my accidental blog neglect with an unrelated, funny story before I forget it. Back-to-school stories are coming... but first, the story of my new BFF.
So. Last week Ted Kennedy died. Ted Kennedy has always existed firmly planted in the category labeled "ambivalent" in my brain. I've always struggled with the bad personal life decisions of very public people coloring my opinion of them and their legacy, and as far as bad decisions go... well, Ted Kennedy made a big one in 1969. But this particular story isn't about the late Senator Kennedy's mistakes or gifts. It just serves to point out that I was in an ambivalent state of mind to begin with when I clicked on my weekly Life.com pictures of the week email last week. Life Magazine has always existed firmly planted in the "not ambivalent" category. I've always loved Life Magazine, and miss the old magazine a lot.
The first picture I looked at was one of Ted, John, Bobby, and their sister Eunice, who also died in August. (Definitely not ambivalent about Eunice). The picture annoyed me, though, because while the brothers were named in the caption, Eunice was not. (?) Whatever. I clicked to the next picture, and suddenly one of those ANNOYING flash ads started flashing in the corner of the screen. You know the ones, right? Like, click-on-the-number-and-you-win-a-prize type ads? I really don't like those ads. And this one kind of shocked me with its inappropriateness: it featured the chance to slap Susan Boyle, who had fake little computer-animated tears flashing down her cheeks. I truly have no feelings one way or another about Susan Boyle, the Cinderella tale from Great Britain's talent show... not a fan, not a not-fan, she just doesn't exist on my radar much. But really, slapping her? That was completely inappropriate. SUPER-inappropriate, as my dear friend Susan (another Susan) would say. Annoying. Whatever. I clicked to the next photo.
Now the ad changed, and this time it was a chance to punch Barack Obama with boxing gloves. YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME. Who picks these ads for LIFE MAGAZINE, bastion of gorgeous American photojournalism for generations? Have we sunk so low? (I am totally going to be the lady who yells at kids who step on my yard when I'm 85, aren't I?)
This is probably where I should have walked away from the computer and done something else. But then I wouldn't have a new BFF story, would I?
Everyone's familiar with the Legendary Willis Family Crazy Consumer Gene, yes? Ranks right up there with the Legendary Willis Family Startle Reflex? Well. I'm already conflicted about Ted Kennedy, they didn't give Eunice the time of day, and now I'm supposed to slap Susan Boyle and punch President Obama? I looked up the "contact us" form so I could tell them just how I felt about their ridiculous, low-class ads.
I don't have a copy of the email, because it was submitted through their online contact form. But it might have ended with me saying "Shame on you."
With that, I got up and did something else, happy that while my tiny little protest would surely reach someone who would promptly eye-roll, I at least felt a little better. But then, I came back a little while later and found an email from Bill Shapiro, editor-in-chief of Life Magazine, thanking me personally for pointing out their ridiculous low-class ads. He agreed with me, promised they'd be taken down immediately, and signed his email "in your debt, Bill Shapiro."
So I emailed back, suddenly sheepish for my little consumer tantrum, and thanked him for his prompt reply. I apologized for sounding so snappy. I signed my email "Elizabeth."
He emailed back, and said I was not to apologize, sometimes you have to pound your fist on the table once in a while to get someone's attention, and thank you again. Bill.
The conversation felt open to me still, as if we had not reached proper closure, so I emailed back "OK. Friends". With a smilie. (What, am I now 15? Emailing a smilie to the editor-in-chief of Life Magazine? Who, during this exchange, I googled to learn was a former senior editor at Parenting magazine, Maxim, Jungle, managing editor of Time Magazine, and editor of the book Other People's Love Letters?)
And that's when he emailed back:
I kid you not.