Snail mail. Sloppy and slow. Letters lost. The perpetually imperfect. An archaic relic to the days when words were limited to geography. And if communication is a race, the postal service is doomed. But if conversation is like a meal, I’ll take a slow-cooked dinner over fast food fare on almost any evening. Online messages are cheap. This isn’t to say that the conversation isn’t meaningful, but the medium itself costs little to the user. A simple glimpse at my Spam file suggests that there’s either an online conspiracy to enlarge my privates or just about anyone can instantly contact just about anyone else with little effort.
I’m a quick thinker and a fast typer, so the instant connection of social media feeds this sense of urgency in conveying ideas. Better post to the blog, update the Facebook status, send out a tweet, respond to the e-mail and check the Google Reader so that I don’t miss anything.
I sketch out a cartoon of Jesus and principal with the caption, “Son of Man or not, you need to do a word wall.” Then, I begin hand-writing a note, Facebook-style, with a few people I’m going to “tag.” I start with Alan, because he’s Canadian and Canada tends to get left out of things. The letters look sloppy. Imperfect. Slow. I can’t tip-tap my way through my thoughts.
I’m thinking differently now, more fluidly with each word. I’m more careful about my mistakes, knowing that it’s sealed in ink. I’m guessing the spelling sucks. There aren’t any red lines warning me that I sound illiterate at the moment. See that right there? I wouldn’t be able to pull off a word like “illiterate” in writing without second-guessing how it’s spelled.
I fold the paper into thirds, place it into the envelope and lick the enveloping, sealing its fate with my saliva. I forgot about the ritual of letters. I forgot about the steps required in a world with no send button. And that’s the magic of it. Whether it’s the sloppy handwriting or the slippy ineffeciency of postal service, it’s the slow, imperfect experience that makes it feel authentic.