Location: marengo, il, United States

Friday, July 21, 2006

To Plug or Not to Plug

Strange days. This one even more strange.

An old friend of mine sent out an original letter to fifty of his friends on this day, including one original copy to myself.

My own dear mother used to do something sort of similar. She typed all of her correspondence, using a brown, standard Royal typewriter, which she then sent via the post office to her geographically-scattered children. But rather than send each offspring a separately-written letter, we each received a carbon copy of her filled-with-horrible-typos and laced-with-rip-roaring-gossips-styled epistles. The contents were usually wild and hilarious. Mom shot from the hip and could care less where her bullets landed. I think she got drunk from the joy of sitting down to think of life while she typed, but it became a splendid thing for us to read and talk about afterwards.

During a sibling-to-sibling telephone call, one would often hear, “I got mom’s onion-skin letter in the mail today. You get yours?”

That was the era of stamps to lick and letters to tear open. In those days, you savored any hand-written mail addressed to you personally. Most often you waited until the proper moment before stopping to sit and read, and thereby enjoy the focused attention of another.

We live in very strange times now. I get e-mails. Most are what we call forwards -- you must be familiar with the abbreviated term. A lot of those I automatically delete. I get great delight from this small act. It is like some lone vigil I have taken up to keep the world around me from going madder faster. Sometimes the little Dutch boy comes to mind, and I want to hug that historic child, just to encourage his vain attempts to plug a leaking dike.

Today, some things out of the ordinary took place when my friend sent out his fifty original letters. First of all, the subject matter he wrote about captured my interest. Secondly, I could not help but answer his letter right after reading his account. Thirdly, as I sat and (slowly) typed out a personal response, this amazing typewriter of mine told me I had fresh mail to read. And then it informed me I had another, the instant the second one arrived here.

I am not an extremely popular person, nor do I ever want to be, but I do admit to being curious. Who are these people, and how did their mail find its way into my well-guarded letter-box?

As it turned out, they were his other friends, responding back on their own magical typewriters, just as I was doing. What a strange thing to witness -- people actually responding to e-mails of others. I think I might have to reexamine this whole dam business again.

The Little Dutch Boy originates from the American writer Mary Mapes Dodge and is in fact not a real myth, although many people believe it is. She published this tale in 'Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates' in 1865. The Little Dutch Boy is a very popular myth in the United States (and other countries), but is not well known in the Netherlands and has probably been imported there by American tourists.

Source: Encyclopedia Mythica


Anonymous Ned said...

I agree, getting a letter by snail mail is a very exciting thing that is very rare these days.

And now, getting even a personal email is rare as so many are forwarded jokes, stories and worse - chain emails, hoax emails, etc.

I love personal correspondence. It's better even than instant messages because you have time to explore your subject and time to read at leisure.

And to think, there was no Little Dutch Boy. Who made all that paint then?

8:00 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Laughing is so much fun, and you cause me to do so almost always, Ned.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Funnily enough, I remember reading something about the Little Dutch Boy just recently on the net. This was to the effect that the story is unknown in Holland and probably myth, therefore. And now you have completed my education by telling me of Mary Mapes Dodge. Everything falls into place.

I think we go through stages with email. I can remember the excitement of first having it and even becoming one of those who sent out fifty copies of every internet joke I came across. Then, as the mailbox fills with fifty copies of each copy that was sent out, the novelty wears off and we start to delete. By our email maturity we are ferocious deleters, banishing all but the really-wanted to outer darkness and complaining of spam and junk mail. Ultimately, I suppose we may even go back to snail mail, if only to get a little peace...

9:00 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Gone, I expect you will be able to relate to the way my pappy put it, regarding peace: "I want to live miles away from any hard road."

11:23 AM  

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