Imagine my surprise to see a handwritten thank-you note this week.
Alas, it was stapled to my receipt at Stein Mart. It was from my dear friend Jay Stein.
If you think that’s a sad state of affairs, imagine this: All the people who deserve a thank-you note from me in this season of extravagant giving are more likely to hear from Jay Stein than me.
Is it just me?
Not if you believe the U.S. Postal Service. It says the volume of first-class, single-piece mail (which it calls “mail bearing postage stamps — bill payments, personal correspondence, cards, letters, etc.”) is down by 54 percent over the past decade.
I’m no expert, but I’d give that an “I’m shocked!” emoticon. Or should it be “I’m crying”?
So the mail’s a sinking ship, and I think Emily Post just slid under.
Those of you old enough to remember Emily Post have probably actually mailed a personal thank-you note. She was the maven of good taste back before society advanced to having a former nude model as our first lady.
I do not know what all Emily Post had to say about writing personal thank-you notes. It was sacrosanct for wedding gifts, that’s for sure. And she set up quaint little rules, like the three-month drop-dead date to get those thank-you notes in the mail after the wedding.
All other thank-you notes had to be mailed much sooner. It was considered gauche to be late with a personal thank-you note, written by hand on paper and sent in the mail, with a classy stamp and a subtle message that really was “forever.”
I can say this with authority. My mama taught me better. And she still teaches by example, sometimes even writing her arthritic thank-you notes in calligraphy.
Somewhere in there, probably hovered over a burning bra, we threw out the rules.
Most of us now communicate through email with butchered spelling and participles that have quit dangling and fallen off the cliff. Or we punch the “like” button. We may gush with an emoticon. And then we move on to the next generic meme, personally selected for our enjoyment along life’s freeway called Facebook.
At work, we have a mail room, and I have a little wooden mail slot with my name on it. The last time I checked it, the only thing in it was a dead lizard.
Yet, I get many notes of thanks through email, text and Facebook, or that other anachronism, the telephone.
In truth, with all due respect to Emily Post, we’re communicating with each other more than we ever have. And we’re doing it well within the three-month drop-dead date.
So why do we still treasure a handwritten thank-you note mailed in an envelope?
Because it’s better. It’s closer to the truth.
And the truth is that papyrus comes and papyrus goes, and so does the pony express, the telegraph, the fax machine and someday, yes Lord, the emoticon.
But as our mothers tried to teach us, the value of expressing thanks has never changed and never will.
Thx a lot.