By Amy J. Barry Special to Living
Publication: The Sound
Don’t Write Off the Art of Letter Writing
Call me a word nerd, a hopeless romantic, a dinosaur among the techie crowd, a person who, 10 years in, is still kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but by golly I love ink, I love paper, and I love the thought and care that goes into a letter written to me, only me, signed, sealed, and delivered by my mailman. Yes, I know I’m not being P.C.-postal carrier-but he happens to be a man and that’s what we dinosaurs grew up calling the males who delivered our mail.
So that’s why I’m so upset about the demise of the U.S. Postal Service. As emails replace letter writing; as packages can be sent with the click of a mouse via online shopping sites; as even wedding presents can be selected from online registries, never examined, touched, or wrapped by the giver, and shipped with a computer-generated card directly from the source; the post office is becoming increasingly obsolete.
Now, I’m not defending the bureaucratic, less-than-efficient management of the postal service, but my experience is not that of waiting in long lines to be greeted by an indifferent individual behind the desk.
I live in a little village where everyone knows your name, including the post mistress (is that still a word?), Karen, who gives my dog the peanut butter biscuits she loves, and our mailman Bruce, who brings our mail to the door, rings the bell, and hands it to me when it’s too big to fit in the box, a biscuit at the ready to feed my dog. Being at the end of his route, when I told Bruce I was expecting something important, he would make special trips to get me my mail earlier in the day. And now, since he went to bat for our street, we get our mail at the beginning of his route.
Unlike Bruce, my email provider doesn’t have a name and when I have a problem with my connection, I have to talk to five different anonymous people all over the world before the problem is solved-if it is. Bruce solves the problem immediately.
And, I haven’t even gotten to all the benefits of writing real letters that keep the written word alive and flourishing and is such an important language-expanding exercise for kids.
Sadly, our children-and certainly grandchildren-will most likely not be sitting down in a quiet technology-free space, reflecting on their lives while composing a letter to someone special, complete with adjectives and adverbs and proper spelling-and personal thoughts versus generic blah-blah hideously signed off with a “C U later!” to several hundred Facebook “friends” (and I use that term loosely).
I am lucky to still receive letters neatly handwritten in beautiful script on attractive stationary from my mother and mother-in-law and hand-selected birthday cards from my Great Uncle Bob, who still keeps a birthday book. I have a box in which, over the years, I’ve saved cards and letters (remember love letters?) that hold special significance to me. I can’t name too many emails that have been worth saving in my “saved emails.”
And speaking of which, it’s not like our communications are more evolved because of technology. I cannot tell you how many emails I send that are barely read, if at all-my questions rarely answered. I’ve come to realize everything of importance must be in the first two sentences of an email or I’m just going to have to send another one asking the same things all over again. And that’s because we have the capability to type and send volumes of correspondence in a day, but we don’t have the attention span or the time to communicate our thoughts clearly in an email or actually read and intelligently comment on those we receive.
I can’t imagine not walking to the post office with my dog to buy some stamps or send my imaginary future grandchildren packages of goodies lovingly wrapped by me, including little notes and interesting articles that I clip out of real newspapers and magazines, like I send my sons now. I can’t imagine the art of letter writing becoming a lost art-something people of the future puzzle over as they circumvent even email and go straight to reading each others minds. Ah, well hopefully not in my lifetime.
And in the meantime, the U.S. Postal Service is offering an incentive to help keep people writing letters and post offices from closing down. You can buy books of 20 “Forever Stamps” for $8.80 (44 cents a stamp) until Jan. 1, 2011, when the prices go up again, and use them forever with no additional postage, no matter how much higher the price of a stamp goes.
And if years from now you have no one left to send a letter to…well, you can always send one to me.
Amy J. Barry lives and writes in Stony Creek, CT, USA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of her Parent’s Eye View columns on www.zip06.com; select Parent’s Eye View from the Living pull-down menu.
Reprinted with the Author’s permission. All Rights Reserved.