Tuesday, August 23, 2016


I’m a big greeting card person.

Christmas. St. Patrick’s Day. Birthdays. Baby. Get Well. Sympathy. Thanksgiving. Easter. Halloween. Valentine’s Day.

Other than at Christmas, these aren’t mass mailings. But I do send out a lot of cards. Sometimes I send an e-card, but mostly I send something physical – personal note, signature, address, stamp and all.

And I like getting cards back. It’s nice when my birthday rolls around, and Christmas, and there’s something in the mail besides a bill or a tin cut letter from some outfit that I don’t actually owe anything to asking for money. Since so many of my bills are sent and paid electronically, I don’t even get that many bills these days. At least bills are somewhat personal… Not so the letters asking for donations, even if they have some kind of fake “Dear Maureen” in them, or are addressed using a faux penmanship font.

So I was interested in a recent article on Slate, by June Thomas, that clued me in on Postable. June checked Postable out when she got a birthday card that was a bit “off”. Sure, it was personal – she knew the sender, and he wasn’t asking for money – but what was up with the handwriting. So she followed the URL on the return address.

Over at Postable, I learned that the site bills itself as “snail mail heaven.” It notes that postal mail seems special and surprising these days precisely because “it’s a pain in the ass to send.” We’re all familiar with that particular PITA. In the case of a friend’s birthday, you have to remember the date, acquire a card, find the time to compose a message—if I’ve spent money on a card, I generally want to write more than “Happy birthday”—dig up an appropriate stamp, and take it out to the mailbox. Postable claims it was “created to alleviate that ass pain. We make sending seriously stylish snail mail as easy as sending an email. You type it and we handle all the annoying stuff. We print, stuff, stamp, address and mail all of your cards directly to everyone for you.” (Source: Slate)

I followed June’s trail over to see for myself, and I have to admit that most of the card designs are pretty good. They didn’t make the egregious “Happy St. Patty’s Day” error. (It’s St. Paddy’s Day, yez amadan, yez.) But there were some under the Sympathy section that were a tad bit questionable. Would you send someone a sympathy card that had a picture of a sheep on it, and the words “Thinking of ewe”? Or one that read “Ugh! This sucks.” Not me. (It does remind me of a group card signed by the office mates and sent to someone in my sister’s office who’d just lost her husband. One of Trish’s colleagues – apparently unfamiliar with normal expressions of sympathy – wrote “Bummer!” and then signed his name.)

For whatever reason, I send a fair number of sympathy cards. (What do I mean “for whatever reason”. I know exactly what the reason is. I’m getting to the age when the few people I know who still have parents are losing them, Greeting cardand when my friends are starting to lose their spouses, sibs, and friends.) Lately, I’ve mostly been sending the same card, which has the words of James Joyce on the cover: “They lived and laughed and loved and left.” Given that a lot of my friends and family members have a bit o’ the Irish in them, the Joyce quote makes sense. And I like the fact that the quote well may be the only words in Finnegan’s Wake that actually make sense.

Anyway, the Postable cards are also reasonably priced – especially when compared to what cards cost at the pricey card stores that I tend to drift into. (I do save on Christmas cards, however, in that I buy them for the next year on the day after Christmas, for half price. And I definitely try to avoid the cards that require extra postage. Recently, I did make a poor card choice when I bought a b-day card for my niece Caroline that I didn’t notice had a black envelope and black paper on the inside. Alas, I did not have any silver ink. Since I gave her the card in person, however, I was able to narrate what I’d written in invisible black ink on it.)

While the Postable cards look nice, and the price is right, I think I’ll keep with my practice of sending real physical cards, personally signed, personally addressed, personally stamped by me. In my personal, not so great, Palmer Penmanship handwriting. I like sending them, and I like receiving them. Sure, it may be a PITA to take care of all this, but I’ll take a page from my 91 year old Aunt Mary. Mary has a booklet where she has written down all the birthdays she observes, by month. Each month, she buys cards for the birthdays-of-the-month. My niece Caroline was a recent recipient. We were all thrilled, and getting my birthday card from Mary is an annual highlight. Nothing from Postable will ever do quite the same trick.

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