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May 30, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Save the Postman

Once a week i get a letter from my Dad It contains a $20 note “as an incentive to open it,” he says. It usually also contains a short note detailing my sister’s latest wrongdoings, his newest flatmate’s peanut trick, or—on a slow week— the cat’s biggest killing spree.

Once a week I reply with a highlighter-covered masterpiece, usually written over the course of several slow management lectures. My letters usually contain intricate diagrams, bits of Post-It notes, and the odd drawing of the randomly- shaped head of the boy in front of me.

You may be thinking “wow, what an advert for the beauty of letters”. The truth is, there are many parent-spawn letter chains like this— they’re just not that exciting. However, let’s take a moment to really think about the joys of a handwritten letter, perhaps with a doodle on the side, a few swirly bits, the odd crossing out. Each letter is unique in a way that an email, text or (God forbid) Facebook post just is not.

When Harry Potter was accepted nto Hogwarts did he get an email fromumbledore_magicdude_01@hotmail.com? No. Don’t be stupid.

Ever heard of a love text as opposed to a love letter? The only thing that comes vaguely close is a sext. I guess some would happily receive “I luv u 2 now hury up im hornii”, but it would likely be a slightly different message in the mail—and I suspect they are in the minority.

Another problem with the fading out of letters is the lack of practice we get with writing. We probably spend more time communicating with our friends in text language than in actual English. Sure, it’s handy and quick, but a vocabulary made up of beauties like “nm atm tbh wbu” just isn’t going to cut it in the real world. And as for those annoying types that like to say “lol” instead of just actually laughing…

There are problems with snail mail, though— normally, its taking a week to get the damn thing. By the time someone replies with the appropriate advice pertaining to your latest romantic drama or essay topic concern, the event may well be over.

Of course, this is not a bad thing where parents are involved, if speaking to your beloved creators once a week is mint compared to having to phone them every couple of days or, lo and behold, even reply to their emails.
Then there’s the massive expense of stamps: they are now 60c each, though this can be overcome by the old dampen and re-use method for particularly stingy types.

Finally, there’s the irritating exercise factor of actually having to leave the house to put said letter into one of those curious red boxes on the side of the street. No, they are not mini TARDISes. They do serve a purpose.

Maybe this is a sign of changing times. Do letters belong in the days of our grandparents? We have swapped the village dance for a Saturday night spent at Hope Bros; the floor- length dresses for increasingly shrunken bits of spandex; and the Sunday roasts for Subway or Mi Goreng. But does this mean we should put Postman Pat out of a job, too?

Perhaps not. Perhaps the reason letters are clinging onto the edge of the communication landfill is that they have something special about them. Certainly, I’ve never been genuinely excited toseeIhaveanewpostonmyWallinthesame way I have to find an unopened letter in the mailbox.

Why is this? What mystical draw can bits of paper possibly hold that cannot be pulled off by a computer or cellphone screen?

Well, it’s the personalisation of the ole letter that really counts. That’s the problem with modern forms of communication these days—there’s no way you can draw a diagram to show exactly you mean by your flatmate’s famed peanut trick. There’s no doodle of a dead goldfish in the margins, or switch from black pen to blue pen when the ink ran out. You can’t ‘attach’ a cheeky $20 of beer money, or highlight the part asking for next week’s in advance because you need to buy your R&V ticket. So, students of Victoria University, I suggest we pick up our quills. Draw out the parchment. And write. Discover what our handwriting looks like; let vicbooks rip you off with a 60c stamp; and lug your ass up the hill and find that mini-TARDIS by Cotton building or the Kelburn Parade bus stop. Who knows—your custom might be feeding someones black and white cat.

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