Friday, 25 September 2020 13:45

COLUMN: I'm a lousy pen pal

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The other night, after dinner, my wife pointed to a small stack of mail on my desk. She had noticed it getting a little taller and eventually it caught her attention. She picked it up and dropped it on the keyboard of my laptop. 

“Don't type another word until you answer these letters.”

I told her I would get to it as soon as I could and I had reminded myself I needed to answer my correspondence. I even wrote a note on the dry erase board on the fridge to remind me. I didn't need my wife reminding me every few months to do it. I wasn't not going to do it, mind you, I just kept forgetting to. 

A lot of the time, I get letters from readers. Some go to the paper and some come right to the house. If you are thinking I am just going to give out my home address, think again. There are a few longtime readers who have become friends that will send a letter or a card or a clipping of something they think I would like. A lot of the time they are right and I do like what they have taken the time to clip out and send to me. This being 2020, the majority of readers reach out to me by social media or email, but there are still a few that like to send the occasional letter. 

I have a confession to make: I am terrible at correspondence. 

I take forever to respond. I have tried to be more organized when tending to things like this. I don't need a secretary, though a lot of my social media stuff relating to the column is handled by my wife. In a roundabout way,  I guess you could say I have a secretary. I really don't mean to be this horrid when it comes to responding to everyone. I mean, it's not like I am some big celebrity that can't find the time. I'm just a guy who writes dumb things in the paper and I can't find the time. 

When responding to a reader, you can't be too familiar. You have to take a step back and remember you are writing to a person who took the time to write to you, but is a stranger. You don't want to bore them, but they don't need to hear about every aspect of your life either. 

This is the tough part. What to write to the folks who have written to you? Well, you don't want to be boring. Sometimes folks will send something and you don't want to simply say, “Thank you,” but you don't want to say, “Thank you for the awful cookies that taste like they were made from sawdust” either. You want to be polite and a little charming. That's where the tough part comes in. I am not so popular that I have form letters ready to be signed. 

It's not just the readers who suffer from my procrastination. I had promised to send a unique and rare wristwatch to my nephew. He's a really cool guy who could use a really cool watch and I told him I would send him one a few months ago. It went out in the mail yesterday. I had actually reminded myself that I needed to do it. I reminded my sister to remind her son that I was sending one out. When I actually did, I wrote a little note explaining the history of the watch. I'm hoping it gets to him quickly so he doesn't think I am a big heel for not sending him the watch I was supposed to send him a month or two — or three — ago.

A great guy and friend of the column, Billy Lamm, sent me a letter a few weeks ago. I promise I will respond to it in short order, my friend. I will actually sit down and write something in my own handwriting and get it out in the mail. In the meantime, I'll put your name in print. That said, I will also treat you to a cup of coffee the next time I am in your area. If I feel especially remorseful, I might spring for a piece of pie as well. You know what? I'll spring for the pie anyway. You can't really have coffee without a piece of pie. 

To those of you who have sent me letters, I promise I will respond. I have put it at the top of my to-do list. It took me forever to get the to-do list together, but I did. I have gotten one letter completed, and enveloped and stamped and ready to be mailed.

“You can't send that letter.” my wife told me.

One minute she is telling me I have to respond to all the letters. Now she is telling me otherwise. I ask why.

“I don't think he will get the letter.” she said.

“The post office isn't that slow.”

“No, they aren't,” she said, “but the guy you just wrote to died in 1979.”

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.