Mail Call

Chaos in Print

Mr. Postman, look and see
Is there a letter in your bag for me?

– Traditional American folk song.

Living in a small town, there is a ritual my family goes through daily. Every morning, a member of my family has to go downtown to the post office and check the mail. We don’t live in a fancy big city with your home delivery. Nope! We have to do down to our local Canada Post post office, check our mailbox, and see if anyone has sent us anything today. And, ever since I was little kid, my heart always flutters when I open that mailbox.

People just like to get mail. Correction. People like to get mail that’s not bills. Sadly, that’s all the mail seems to be used for these days. When you check your mailbox, what do you have? Phone bill. Power bill. Water bill. Gas bill. Credit card bills. Nothing but bills! I remember a friend in university. Whenever he got no mail, he would proclaim, “I have escaped again!” He finally explained to me that he meant he escaped from the bill collectors. And that’s just not right. There’s no joy in going to the mailbox anymore.

So, I, personally, am doing my best to combat this. I thoroughly enjoy writing letters and sending them. When I have the time, I write to my friends. When I was in Japan, I wrote to my family. I wrote to my family constantly. And then, if I can’t write a letter, I write a postcard.

Now, I’ve been collecting postcards ever since I was in the fourth grade. I’ve got five photo albums full. They’re the usual sort. From my countless trips to Jasper, I’ve got countless ones of the Rocky Mountains. I’m sure I have a photo of every mountain this side of the B.C. border. I have prairie sunsets. I have about a zillion from West Edmonton Mall. I’ve got a dozen or so from Germany (thank you, German relatives). When my brother was working in Saskatchewan, he sent me a few from Saskatchewan. When my sister was backpacking across Europe, she brought me one from every country and city she visited. (She didn’t mail them because she didn’t want to waste her very limited budget on stamps.) I’ve enticed Mr. Anderson into sending me some from his travels to New Orleans, Hiroshima, and from his new residence in Vancouver. (But none from Nova Scotia. Hmm….) But I really got into the whole sending-postcards shtick when I was in Japan.

In Japan, every stationary store had a wide variety of postcards. I’m not talking the “greetings from Japan” variety. I’m talking about things like: simple “Thinking of you” cards. Cards with cute kittens on them. Cards with funky graphic designs. Cards with stylized drawings of women. Everything! In fact, the simple “greetings from Japan” variety were the most difficult to find. Until I found some gift shops in Tokyo, but I digress. I thought that this was the coolest thing ever. I immediately fell into this pattern of constantly buying the ones that remind me of people, and sending them to those people.

Let’s see here: Yves got the stylized drawings of women. (In fact, I just sent her another one that I found in the back of a Chapters.) And Trouble got some of those too, along with “greetings from Japan” ones and ones depicting anime characters. Mr. Anderson and Yves always jointly got one from every museum gift shop I visited. (I once asked Mr. Anderson what they did with those postcards. “Oh, they’re around…somewhere,” he said.) My grandmother, who always had a thing for cats, got the ones of cats doing cute things. (Not kittens, mind you, cats.) And, of course, the family always got the “greetings from Japan” ones. Kind of like the ones I got from my sister in Europe. Only, because I was working, I had the money to mail them home.

I definitely mailed one to my family members from every sight I saw in Japan. Kyoto…Nagano…Sapporo…Tokyo Disneyland…every place! I even sent one to one of my old aunts in Germany, and I dug into the deepest recesses of my mind, trying to remember the little bit of German I studied in university, just so I could write “Grüß aus Japan!” And when I returned home, every postcard I sent to my parents was still stuck to the fridge. Isn’t that cool?

But that’s just me. What about the rest of the world? Why has writing a letter or a postcard become such a lost form of communication? True, we have seen some marvellous technological developments in our time. The telephone, fax machines, e-mail. We’ve done a great deal seeing what we can do to speed up communication; make it more convenient. But has that been a good thing? Telephones begat telemarketers. E-mail begat spam.

And studies are already being conducted pointing out how Internet communication seems to be destroying the written word. Students are handing in essays typed in chat room shorthand, for Samantha’s sake! I guess, at the end of the day, it all depends on what you’d rather get. Buried among your spam, you could get this message:


Frank nertz at mtng



Or, buried among your bills, you could get this,

My dearest friend,

You won’t believe the craziest thing Frank did today! He wet himself in the big meeting! I was laughing out loud!

Your friend,


What would you rather get? The latter, correct? See, people love to get mail that’s not bills. So, I’m trying to send more letters. I haven’t sent one to Mr. Anderson in a while, but I’m going to. I have a few students in Japan who still get a prairie sunset postcard from me. And Trouble in China gets something almost daily. Apparently, her students love my postcards.

Whenever possible, I volunteer to do the daily ritual. I have my own mail key. I walk down to the post office. I place the key in the lock of old Box 311, and my heart flutters as open the box. And inside I find…nothing. Not many of my friends are following my example yet.

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