“Here’s the mail, it never fails.
It makes me want to wag my tail.
When it comes I want to wail – Mail!”
Did you ever wonder why Steve, the guy from Blue’s Clues, got so excited about getting the mail? Well for one thing, I’m pretty sure his caffeine levels were out of whack, but also because mail is awesome!
In this era of instant information, instant communication, instant mail, the anticipation that comes with waiting for your letter to arrive is pure agony. Which makes it worth it.
I’ll start by saying that I am a huge fan of email and texting. I am certainly guilty of flooding the inboxes of my closest friends with links to interesting news articles, funny pictures, and party invitations. But when it comes down to it, there’s nothing like a handwritten note.
I, like many other ex-teenage girls, still have a box of notes under my bed. I’m talking about notebook paper folded in half 100 times until each little corner was tucked safely into the other. It was pertinent that the square became small enough to slide into the textbook of your best friend during social studies class without the teacher noticing. As you slowly unwrapped this little treasure box of gossip, the anticipation was almost as exciting as the juicy news you were about to read.
“Did you hear? Danny likes Heather! Oh my gosh, I can’t even believe it. What do you think Julie will do when she finds out??”
Of course each and every letter was written in a different color of gel pen and took 20 minutes to write. This was all part of the experience. The font, the fold, the colors, the doodles, and of course the scent. That’s right, I said scent. If the note was important enough, and especially if it was going to a boy, it would be sprayed with far too much Tommy Girl perfume.
As I occasionally come across this box of notes, it’s like going back in time. I can remember where I was when they were handed to me. I remember what class I was in when I wrote my reply. Most of all, I can remember the exact emotions I felt as I read these little confessions of friendship and romance and jealousy and excitement.
As much as I tout technology, I am thankful that I grew up in a time when email was rare and cell phones were “just for emergencies.” I have to believe a text that says “will you go to the dance with me on Friday?” is just not as special as a note that someone had to carry around with them for a whole school day until they worked up the courage to give it to you. You could picture them sitting at their desk the night before mulling over the perfect combination of words and how to sign it at the end. “Should I write ‘love’? No, that’s too much. ‘Best’? Too impersonal.” I always settled on a little heart filled in with pink marker.
Although middle school is long gone, I still have the same level of excitement when I open the mail box and find my name and address in ballpoint pen. Even magazines, coupons, bills and advertisements provide some level of expectancy. You can feel the glossy paper and take in the exquisite combination of font, colors and images similar to those old notes. Mail will never go unopened on my kitchen table the way email piles up in my inbox. Despite being dubbed “snail mail,” an unopened envelope plants in us a sense of urgency and curiosity, which is why 85% of people open select pieces of mail every single day.
If Ben Franklin could hear the complaints being hurled at the USPS he would be rolling over in his grave. Or maybe he would be writing a blog post about it and blasting it out from FoundingFather@email.com, I guess we’ll never know. Both sides of the “snail mail vs. email” debate have their valid arguments regarding spam and green living. And then throw today’s teenagers into the mix and 14% will tell you that email and postal mail are basically the same thing. They have already moved on to communicating through social media which is like instant gratification on steroids.
New technology may beat out mail in terms of efficiency, but how often do you print out an email and save it in a box under your bed? I suggest mailing a letter to your best friend and see what kind reaction you get. It will be 45 cents well spent!