Words by Carly Heffernan
Remember when getting mail didn’t happen in front of a computer screen? Or when catching up with a friend didn’t involve 10 abbreviations and a dozen emoticons?
Remember when holiday greeting cards were hand-written and jokes had a punch line, not a hashtag? Remember when calligraphy was the coolest and carrier pigeons ruled the sky? OK, I only remember that last one from a dream I had after watching Game of Thrones, but you get what I mean. Somewhere between ICQ and Snapchat we lost some wonderful ways to connect. Today I pay tribute to those dying forms of communication.
The letter. What a simple thing, a blank page that you fill with your thoughts and queries and many, many spelling mistakes. Sure it’s environmentally unfriendly, and sure, if your penwomanship is as poor as mine the final product will only be half-legible. But what an exciting day for mailboxes! Think of all those craftspeople who toil day and night creating artisan mailboxes. Mailboxes shaped like houses, like boats, like centaurs! Their craft is dying and it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s fault; oh, if there was a “dislike” button, I’d hit it so hard!
Let’s not forget about the second and third cousins of the letter: the postcard and the telegraph. Nothing stirs my jealous nature like getting a postcard with palm trees and sun on the front with the impersonal scribble, “Wish you were here,” on the back. That may sound like a negative thing, but I rarely feel any emotion so it’s a great reminder that I’m still alive. The telegram—or more importantly, the singing telegram—is something we cannot afford to lose. What do you think happens to musical theatre school graduates when this industry dries up completely? Two words: Jack Astor’s.
What of the more historical forms of communiqu?? I’ve tried to catch and train many a pigeon, and it’s not easy. And I’ve completely forgotten how to read smoke signals. Well… OK, I never knew how but I’m a quick learner. I, for one, would love to get my morning headlines not from the National Post Twitter feed but from the sky! There’s something magical about these methods of messaging and they tell me you really put some time and effort into reaching out to me. Even a fax would be nice—I know figuring out how the love child of a toaster and a rotary phone work can be difficult and I appreciate you taking that time and putting up with that awful connection sound just for me.
But there’s a simpler, purer way to connect and I must be honest, I haven’t done it in ages: face-to-face contact. I haven’t spoken to another human being, in person, in years. That may be because I’m a germaphobe who refuses to leave the safety of my own home, but I like to blame technology. I can text you while wearing nothing but sweatpants and a salsa-stained Snuggie, but if I were to meet up with you for a $10 coffee I’d have to at least trade the sweatpants for jeggings and that’s not something I’m willing to do for you. (Unless you’re one of the two famous Hemsworth brothers—for you, I’d change anything).
We may just be a few years away from telepathy being an app on your iPhone, but remember: sometimes it’s nice to get a letter in the mail.
Carly Heffernan is an actor, writer, improviser and alumni of Second City Toronto. She was a member of the award winning Sketchersons and continues to party on-stage at various comedy venues.