Friday, April 04, 2008

Letters mingle souls...

Dear Readers,

How are you? I am fine. I'm in the middle of my morning blog fix...

This is off in a rush, which I know one should never do. And one should never write something for publish when one is irked.

So, [deep breath] [deep breath].

On March 31st, in preparation for this month, I searched hither and yon for quotes that might be useful (about letters.) (see title, for which I don't have time to look up author...)

One of the things I love about letters is the stationery. Now, I am a sucker for good stationery. And pens.

I remember once telling someone that I had re-written a letter five times before I sent it. And that person said, wow, you must not know that person [getting the letter] really well. Which was in fact true. I thought I did, but the fact that I had to self-censor and be sure the letter wouldn't offend was telling. While I'm no longer in contact with either party, I am grateful for the insight I gained both from the exercise and the conversation.

I often find with email that if someone writes in red (to me it feels like the English teacher correcting me) or in all bold, I get tense. And while email is short, quick, there is no way to get tone of voice. So the only way to get sense is from the words themselves--so if someone is flip, you have no idea if they're

a) being flip
b) mad at you but not saying it aloud
c) rushed and trying to get this email out.

At least with a letter, you get a sense of penmanship or stationery. There are none of those buffers with email. Which makes it hard to email with someone you don't know if you are emailing about time-sensitive issues--often the person's quick reply comes off as a rebuff when they honestly just had three seconds to dash off an answer to your email. And I generally answer time-sensitive email right away, as I know it will get buried in the onslaught of the next day's email.

So I try to remember to address the person I'm writing to. And to "sign" my name at the end. Those two things at least personalize an email that might just be, "I need a meeting room for x day." ("Try" is in bold because I often forget.)

The fact that it is so easy to send email makes it more dangerous. And the fact that you can send it to multiple people, even adding blind carbon of my bosses actually writes: Dear Marian (cc to Julie, Ann, "x" dept. staff.) So right away, the person knows who the email is going to--there's no confusion that this is a private memo, or who the other recipients are.

I have been at the butt end of too many emails--and even though I've received many more "nice" emails, the memory of the bad ones sometimes makes me flinch when I get an email from someone that doesn't often send me emails--I'm afraid I've said something and they're about to lambast me. Which makes me ever more grateful for nice emails that are like mini-letters -- recently on our neighborhood list-serv, someone said, reminder: street cleaning starts this week. And at the end, he added something about how he liked to move his truck and sweep the street on the days the street cleaners came--and the way he said it, it was like a little window into his life. It had gone beyond mere information to a moment shared among friends, a moment that stayed with me yesterday, as I walked to my car that was parked on the other side of the street and half way down (because of street cleaning).

Ah, the foibles we get into electronically. Yes, I am self-censoring--because, dear reader, I don't know you THAT well. And, because this has a million "blind cc's" -- it's called the world wide web.

Oh look at at the time. I'm off to the last Summer Reading Club training--this summer our theme is "Catch the Reading Bug!"

Have a great day, and tomorrow meet me here, we'll talk some more about my favorite things: letters!

yours til Niagara falls,



Helen said...

I once was a letter writer. I took great pains about stationery and pens and my thoughts. It was exciting to see the mailman come! I still have one person I letter-write to, but I find I rarely write actual letters. It feels like I have lost. Overall, our entire culture has lost that intimacy of a letter. Sad.

Melissa said...

Letters! :D

Glad you like the badge. Good luck with this month, and thank you for stopping by my blog! :)