I have a copy of a letter from the spring of 1984 that was sent by an old man to the Mars Company, makers of M&Ms. After a “Dear Sir” opening, it reads:
Enclosed are the M&M wrappers I’ve been saving for your premium offer. I eat five packs a week, sometimes more! It’s hard to describe why I like them so much, but I sure do. My wife doesn’t eat candy, well maybe once in a while, but she says I eat enough of these peanut M&Ms for the both of us!
Keep making your fine candy, and I’ll keep buying it. Thanks for the refund offer, too. I’d buy them anyway, but this way I can buy some extras. Enclosed are 150 wrappers. They’re in bunches of twenty, except for one of ten.
The company sent all of the wrappers back to him with a form letter saying there was no current premium offer to which these wrappers corresponded.
I was in the process of packing up the Boston apartment and painting studio I’d lived in for seven years. In one corner stood a box into which I had been tossing M&M wrappers, as well as wrappers of other Mars confections, many of which I had purchased and consumed, others were wrappers I’d pick up off the ground. Cleaning up for the move to New York State, the time had come to deal with them. Not wanting to search through the multitude to ascertain whatever the promotional offering was, though surely long expired, I opted to create a fictional old man, hoping to prompt a sympathetic reply, signing the letter “D. Bernard Greenberger.” I felt certain that the company would respond to this kindly gentleman by sending, at the very least, a carton of peanut M&Ms. When they failed to do so, going a step further in incurring a shipping cost in the process, sending the entire package back to D. Bernard, I was offended that he’d been treated so shabbily.
Looking back on this letter now I’m not so convinced that I managed an authentic voice of an old man. I was a few months shy of my thirtieth birthday. I did like peanut M&Ms and I had worked for several years at a nursing home. I’d also gone to art school and had a history dating back to highschool of being a bit of a wise guy and a class clown.
I think I could write a better letter now, one that would really give pause to a Mars employee, as they pictured frail old D. Bernard making his way to the post office with the package of wrappers he’d carefully counted. That leads me to wonder if I used up my old man project ideas when I was too young to have truly excelled at them.
Artist David Greenberger lives in Greenwich, NY. His latest CD of monologues & music is My Thoughts Approximately. www.davidgreenberger.com @davidbg