Call me old-fashioned but I love getting mail, the kind now referred to as snail mail. If a day goes by that I don’t get a magazine or something personal in my mailbox, I can get downright cranky. Is it because my life is so utterly lacking in excitement that the mail is a big deal to me? Even my little dog jumps up and down spinning with excitement when I announce, “Let’s go get the mail”. She understands.
Yesterday I was thrilled to find my mailbox stuffed with magazines, mail order catalogues, a couple of personal envelopes and even (praise be!) an envelope that obviously had a cheque enclosed. But my joy soon turned to disappointment when, upon closer examination, I realized the mail carrier had mistakenly put our neighbour’s mail in our box. Our neighbour was the recipient of all this wonderful bounty. I was tempted to score a couple of the mail order catalogues for myself thinking she wouldn’t miss them, but honesty prevailed and I reluctantly stuffed them into her mailbox.
Remember when we used to regularly get newsy letters, written by hand in loving cursive with a fountain pen? As kids we had pen pals in England who sent us letters on those thin blue airmail forms, telling us all about their lives far across the ocean. Even Christmas and birthday cards are rare these days as people either don’t bother or they opt for e-cards. Email has totally replaced hand-written letters. Will the love letters from war veterans of today have the same cachet and impact when they’re lost in the ether of email or Skype? Somehow the old sentimental letters our fathers, uncles and grandfathers wrote home from overseas in fountain pen or scratchy pencil seem so much more meaningful, more enduring and more historically significant because they were written by hand, addressed, stuffed into an envelope with a stamp to be saved in a book, slipped into a mailbox, then bundled and tied with a ribbon to be saved by the recipient.
I was saddened and disappointed to learn that many people now object to “Amber Alerts” because they also land in the middle of the night. So many people now sleep with their phones by their bedside that it’s become impossible to even have a peaceful night’s sleep without feeling the need to be connected via electronic devices. Other than doctors and firefighters, who among us is so important that they need to be ‘on call’ during the night? If keeping your phone alive while you sleep means Amber Alerts disturb you, then shame on you.
Our addiction to personal electronic devices means we now get mail 24/7. That familiar ping announces the arrival of requests from friends to meet for lunch, a reminder that we have a dentist appointment at 2:15 tomorrow and less welcome notices such as bill payments due or worse, overdue. Mail is no longer fun. It’s something to be given the once-over, reviewed, culled, acted upon or dumped. Another time-consuming chore in an already busy day.
We have a “No Junk Mail” sign posted on the mailbox on our front porch which greatly lightens the load in our paper recycling bin each week. That means most of what lands in our mailbox is the real thing and I look forward to receiving it each day. Sometimes there’s a hand-written thank you note from a friend or a birthday card when it’s time for the annual celebration. Most often it’s statements, announcements, promotions and printed material that actually qualifies as junk mail but the marketers were able to circumvent immediate disposal by enclosing it in an envelope with a first class stamp. Their trickery works as I open each one and read it before tossing into recycling.
My passion for print publications like magazines ensures my mailbox has regular deposits of good stuff though. A couple of years ago I received a three-page hand-written letter from someone (another baby boomer) I stayed with on an American army base in Germany in 1968 when I was travelling around on a Eurail Pass. I’ve kept that letter in my desk ever since, a relic of times gone by when people actually hand-wrote letters. They’re so rare and so precious now, they’re like collectors’ items. I’m afraid to part with it in case I never get another one in this lifetime. Even wedding invitations are now getting the electronic treatment. No more embossed cards to be saved in a scrapbook.
I still buy little boxes of illustrated note cards at the stationery store in hopes that I’ll have an excuse to write and send one to a friend. I take special care when selecting and mailing (by snail mail) birthday and anniversary cards to the special people in my life. I can’t help feeling they enjoy receiving them as much as I do—a little ray of sunshine in a gloomy pile of flyers and junk. Much as I appreciate and enjoy receiving instant photos and news from friends by email, I’ll always save a little spot in my heart for the old-fashioned kind that the nice letter carrier from Canada Post drops into the mailbox on my front porch every day around noon. It could be a letter, a card or even a cheque. Whatever it is, it’s special because it was delivered personally, by hand. Still.