Letters, the best kind of delayed gratification

It's lonely these days....

These days it has to be lonely to be a letter box.  Oh, I’m sure the average letterbox, mailbox or post office box is still filled with sales brochures, credit card offer, and junk mail. What isn’t there very much anymore is a letter.  A few “thank you” notes  still arrive.  Birthday cards with a check are still found.  Valentine’s Day still makes Hallmark rich.  Real letters with news of friends and family, and even questions waiting for reply “how is your back?” or “Are you still dating that guy with the car that smells weird?” (Yes, I actually asked that in a letter once) are long gone.  If you want to know how someone’s back is, or if your friends taste in dates has improved, you simply write an email.  Checking a Facebook status is even quicker.  Recently, I wanted to check to see if two friends were still an “item.”  Did I write either of them?  No, I simply looked at their Facebook status. They both not only have the same dating status, they have posted photographs from their most recent date.  Things appear to be going well, and I didn’t even have to ask them to find out.

When I was dating my husband, we sent each other at least two letters a week, even though we saw each other most weekends.  When I was first married, I probably wrote 5-8 letters a week. That was because calling on the phone was expensive.  You just didn’t pick up the phone and call on a whim.  It has to be something serious.  A more mature generation is out there, that still worry when they get a long distance phone call. “You are just calling? For no reason?” Long distance phone calls were never “just to say hi.”  If it wasn’t life or death, you wrote a letter.  The letter wasn’t just what was new with you, it was also filled with questions you wanted answered.  You helped the person you were writing to write you back.  They would likewise include, in their letter to you, what they wanted to know about.  Letter writing wasn’t as hard as one might imagine.  Plus, if  you only wrote someone once a week, things happened in that week.  A letter writer could fill a couple of pages.

Email and Facebook make it easier to keep updated.  You don’t need to write more than a line or two.  Twitter, in fact, insists you keep it short.  But now, it’s all about YOU.  The “please update me about your grades” or “so how is that new kiwi juice diet working out?” is missing when it’s just an update to the world about YOU.  You haven’t room or time to find out specifics about THEM.  If  you want to know about someone you just “follow” them.  Still, it would be nice to know how that kiwi diet is working out, in a way that wouldn’t tell the entire world. The return letter about the kiwi diet I received said “it’s not going well at all.” The details of the frequent bathroom visits were fit for a letter, but not for the world consumption of the internet.

I have to admit, I enjoy Facebook and email.  I have friends I keep up with that I had lost track of years ago.  I have friends around the world, that I keep close via the internet.  I have just one friend I write letters to.  I write letters to Joe Nickell.  Joe is a wonderful old-fashioned private eye.  He’s a full-time investigator of the paranormal, a writer, a historian and a friend.  You’ll find his books in most libraries, and can order them from Amazon.  I highly recommend all of his work.  I often give his books out as “primers” on how to investigate the paranormal to beginner skeptics.  His friendly non-confrontational methods are the ones I try to emulate in my own investigative work.  The one thing is,  Joe doesn’t have email.  He likes to investigate in real life.  Too many skeptics and paranormal investigators like typing on a computer keyboard and using Google to investigate. These armchair investigators think they can always find an answer “online.” That’s not investigation. Far too few get up from behind the screen, and truly investigate.  Joe is a hands on type of guy.  Someone that is not only an inspiration, but also now a friend. He is well worth the few moments it take to write a letter.  Sometimes I include some photographs of my most recent skeptic activity.  I once sent him a sea monster of some sort. (I bought it at a Mexican flea market, my cat thought it smelled fishy and would gnaw on it.  I decided it would be happier living with Joe.)  When I get a return letter from Joe, it’s like finding a present in the mailbox.

Joe Nickell at the 14th European Skeptics Cong...

Joe Nickell at the 14th European Skeptics Congress in Budapest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t wait to see what he’s written.  The waiting is part what makes his letters so special.  Instant gratification is lovely, but having to wait for the pleasure of a letter from a friend is a unique reward fewer and fewer of us will ever know.



Categories: Friends, James Randi Educational Foundatioin - JREF, Skeptic

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. http://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/my-baby-she-wrote-me-a-letter/

    Hope you don’t mind a link…I love getting real mail and have a great collection of stationery, including personalized stationery, for that purpose. No one is going to sift through a shoebox of old emails 60 years from now.

    • Thanks for the comment.You are right.We won’t have all three great letters from our leaders, authors, we won’t have diaries. I found out recently that my mother SHREDDED all the correspondence that she and my dad exchanged when they were dating, and in the early years of their marriage when my dad was overseas, in the military. She said “I don’t want people reading all my personal stuff.” YIKES!

  2. I have a friend who FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR wrote a letter daily to a friend or family member. Not only did he enjoy it, he ended up with a lot of return, real letters. I LOVE real letters!! Thanks for including a link to my post about Hand Written Letters!

  3. love this story! when someone receives a letter they are actually physically holding your words in their hands,it has special meaning and it is an art form that should not be lost. with the expense of my phone bill i think i will go back to letter writing! great, thoughtful story!!!

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