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Humor October 2015

The Hippocratic Oaf

Who Gets the Most Mail -- Seniors or Seniors?

By Daniel Crantz

You see, these colleges are interested in these young students’ intellect (tuition money) and insurance carriers are interested in seniors’ well-being (premiums), both exceeding thousands of dollars per year, for multiple years.

Yes, it’s that magical time of year again – Medicare open enrollment. A time when seniors are no longer ignored but suddenly become of great interest (mostly to insurance carriers). Companies will spend millions, mostly on television ads followed by that ancient form of advertising going back to the ancient Greeks – direct mail.

Not many are aware but the first piece of direct mail was delivered in September 490 BC (2,504 years ago this week!) by a Greek named Pheidippides who ran over 26 miles from the city of Marathon to Athens to deliver the message that the Greeks had defeated the Persians. This event has created our fascination with a grueling 26-mile race we now call the “marathon.”

Many mail carriers today seem overweight and ride about in goofy looking vehicles that could be a car or a truck. No one knows. But, in a mail carrier’s overweight defense, Pheidippides dropped dead after delivering the first piece of direct mail, and who wants tattered and sweaty mail or the coroner involved?

So the main question is why are Greek names so hard to pronounce? I went to a cocktail party in Greece where an encounter went something like this. This guy extended his hand and said, “Good evening my name is Pheidippides Anagnostopolou-Banakas Stanopopolous.”

I shook his hand and unable to think of a longer name, responded with the one syllable, “Dan,” then added, “nice to meet you, Stan.”

But I digress. Today only two marketing groups still exist for this expensive direct mail approach. And by expensive I mean slick glossy multiple-page brochures with vivid photos each costing a dollar or more before mailing. So who are the two groups you ask? One you know -- seniors; the second are the other seniors –  that is18-year-old high schoolers. These diverse age groups have mailboxes stuffed with expensive brochures. Seniors get Medicare Supplement, Advantage and Medicare Part D Rx brochures, and 18 years olds receive dozens of brochures from colleges and universities across the country.

Ten percent of these brochures are on target, that is, they have credibility due to a recognizable name (Notre Dame or Blue Cross) and geographic proximity. The other 90 percent have little or no chance of getting the business and have wasted the time of dead trees, photographers, models and copywriters. A kid is not going to attend a faraway, unheard-of college like the Wyoming branch of the Southwest College of Eastern North Dakota.

Medicare-eligible seniors get brochures from unheard-of, non-recognizable insurance carriers like the National Life Underwriters of Delaware, and names so boring that men named John Smith or Bob Jones must be in charge. (If your name is Bob Jones or John Smith please do not write to me, I am sure you are quite interesting. If we meet at a cocktail party I will be happy to introduce you to Pheidippides Anagnostopolou-Banakas Stanopopolous.)

You see, these colleges are interested in these young students’ intellect (tuition money) and insurance carriers are interested in seniors’ well-being (premiums), both exceeding thousands of dollars per year, for multiple years.

Most interesting are the choice of models for these brochures. Lots of time and money goes into the model selection process. (Check them out before you toss the brochure in the trash without a glance). Models must meet a minimal yet maximum attractive scale. What does that mean? Well, they cannot be too attractive, otherwise the general public may feel that they do not or could not belong to this dazzling group (or product). Consequently, models cannot be too unattractive, like the average person at the Golden Corral buffet (or even most of our relatives) because let’s face it, we would never join a group that would have us as a member. So it is a fine line.

College brochures do not have the super attractive girl or buff guy on the cover, but display the boy or girl next door; a person that might be your friend, but attractive enough so, who knows? Senior brochures too have the attractive stately man or woman you might meet in a respiratory clinic or dialysis unit, someone you might want to share a cup a coffee with and discuss diabetes medication, oxygen tanks and, who knows?

Our young college-bound children and grandchildren never consider that the older generation has many of the same feelings they experience. (Although they experience these feelings at 70 miles per hour, where seniors experience these feelings at about 15 miles per hour with hazard lights flashing.) The young do not even notice that seniors also get a lot of mail. The young think the world revolves around them. They think they own the mailbox and all lines of communication. They have their own language and text in abbreviations like: LOL – laugh out loud; OMG – oh my God; TTYL – talk to you later; BFF – best friend forever.

But seniors, too, have their own texting codes. Studies show that seniors actually text more than teenagers as they have more spare time sitting idly in physician office waiting rooms. Not to be outdone, seniors use the following texting codes. I wish I could provide comic credit, but these lists do not identify any author. See this link for even more codes –


ATD – At the Doctor

BFF – Best Friend’s Funeral

BTW – Bring the Wheelchair

BYOT – Bring your Own Teeth

DWI – Driving While Incontinent

FWIW – Forgot Where I Was

FYI – Found Your Insulin

GGPBL – Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low

GHA – Got Heartburn Again

LOL – Living on Lipitor

TOT – Texting on Toilet

TTYL – Talk to You Louder

WATP – Where Are the Prunes?

Who needs direct mail? Medicare marketers better learn how to text!


Laughter is the Best Medicine, unless you’re asthmatic!


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