Snail Mail

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I was in Boston a few months ago visiting old college friends. On the last leg of our visit, we stopped at Harvard’s campus to get one final glimpse of the Bostonian culture. We stumbled into a bookstore, where I found myself impulsively buying a Harvard shirt as a memento of the trip. I picked one out and gave it to the cashier to ring it up.

Before I inserted my chip card (which — don’t get me started: I know they are more secure and everything, but swiping > inserting. It’s kind of inconvenient too. I ejected my card too fast once, then the Walgreens lady got mad and it was awkward.), I grabbed a Boston postcard. A few days later, I mailed it to my parents from a hypothetical Harvard student’s point of view.

Here’s what he wrote:

Hi Mom & Dad,

Half of a semester in and I’m already loving Boston. School is going well, all of the intro classes are pretty easy here at Harvard. Midterms are next week, so I’m at the public library studying calc. I’m meeting a lot of friends here, I just joined the club water polo team. My roommate, Dinesh, is the one who got me started doing it. He’s also a biochem major, so we share a lot of the same classes.

Anyway, hope all is well in Michigan and looking forward to being back for thanksgiving.


Retracing the postcard’s steps

First things first, I want to articulate how unnatural it is for a cellphone-driven youth like me to have accomplished this feat. The journey of my postcard goes as follows:

  • Sunday 11:45am EST: Bought at a store in Boston by a new owner.
  • Sunday 7:47pm EST: Flys home with owner.
  • Sunday – Thursday: Gets forgotten about by owner.
  • Thursday, 6:23pm CST: Found while owner unpacks his things.
  • Thursday 6:24pm CST: Owner asks himself: “If I were a pen (or any writing utensil, for that matter) in my apartment, where would I be?”
  • Friday 8:45am CST: No pen in owner’s apartment. Now at work, owner gets a pen from his office.
  • Friday – Saturday: Neglected by owner.
  • Sunday 3:05pm CST: Owner thinks of something clever to write on me.
  • Sunday 3:30pm CST: Carried to post office by owner.
  • Sunday 3:40pm CST: Owner buys a stamp to put on me, and sent into the mailroom for delivery.
  • Tuesday 2:02pm EST: Arrives in Michigan and put on the owner’s parents’ refrigerator.
Charles River in Boston, MA (Carl Johnson)

Did you hear that? It was the sound of hundreds of millennials closing this tab. They couldn’t even finish reading this 600-word post, better yet, mail a letter. Snail mail is obviously one of the least efficient ways of getting a hold of someone, marginally beating sending Paul Revere off on his horse. Then again, that is why it makes it special to people. It’s comparatively more time consuming than blasting a snapchat of your breakfast to twenty of your closest friends. Plus, it’s unexpected.

So unexpected, that the grammar plugin I use gets confused that I am even mentioning the word mail in 2016, insisting that I replace it with the modern version.


Also so unexpected, that your mother might ask if everyone that you were with also sent postcards to their parents (cc: @mom). It’s like I’ve never had an original idea in my life.

A Spotted Imperfection with Mail

But, there is a flaw that gives me a reason to believe that, maybe the creators of the telephone, the internet, etc. were actually onto something. The thing is, my mental yellow pages doesn’t extend much further than the address of my parents, which I have known since I was roughly six. I could just ask, but like I said earlier, the unexpectedness is over half of the fun.

So, what is the best way around that? I have not yet ironed out a solution.

In the meantime, I hope my snapchat friends were wondering about this bacon I’m eating.

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