The Lost Art of the Postcard

In this age of instant messaging, e-mail, twitter and other ways to communicate at the speed of light it may come as a shock to some of the younger Triple B readers that there was once a time when correspondence was not handled as quickly.

Before the days of Facebook, it was not possible to post a status while on vacation to all of your friends to let them know that you were “Having a great time exploring the world’s largest ball of twine.”

Instead, when you were at that ball of twine, and you wanted to let your friends know how much fun it was, you had to buy a postcard and actually place it in something called a mailbox.  Your friends would than receive the postcard, and your thoughts on the ball of twine in a few days.

One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.

One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.

Yes, I know mailboxes still exist and based on what comes in mine they tend to be a conduit for junk mail and bills alone.

As such I now only check my mail a couple times a month since there really isn’t anything worth reading that would require me to check it any more frequently.

Still, I find myself feeling a bit of nostalgia for the written word and the simple act of receiving a post card through the mail.

Part of this nostalgia was the result of looking through my postcard collection the other day to help remember the name of somewhere that I went on vacation many years ago.

I ended up finding that postcard and my memory was jogged.  Looking through the box other memories were jogged as well.

Many of the postcards in my collection were sent to other family members before I was born and were just passed down to me but several are actually addressed to me as well. One particular series of cards was the result of a chance encounter.

When I was in the second or third grade my mom and I were on a flight from Washington D.C. to Orlando. There was an older gentleman in the row with us (of course when I was that age everyone was older so my memory of how old he really was may be warped).

As it was a relatively long flight we ended up making conversation with him and he mentioned that he did a lot of traveling as part of his work with the Army.

I do not recall the whole scenario of how it occurred but addresses were exchanged and he mentioned that he would write me.

The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.

The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.

Now, in this more jaded world that we find ourselves in now the chances of a stranger getting the address of a young child under the guise of sending correspondence would probably be less likely to occur.

I for one have become way more suspicious of people’s intentions the older I get.  While it is certainly good to be skeptical and careful of surroundings and those that enter them, I sometimes wish that I could see the world through younger me’s eyes where the world was a far less scary place and the only thing I needed to worry about was which pair of pajamas to wear.

A few weeks after returning home I got my first postcard from the man on the plane.  The postcards continued for several years and always included a short note about the destination included on the front.

The cards stopped one day which could have been the result of many factors including the forwarding address feature no longer working or perhaps the man behind them was no longer able to send the cards for whatever reason.

While I do not remember his name, I do remember the simple act of sharing postcards with a wide eyed child and the affect that had and continues to have.  I have no way of knowing if that man on the plane is even still with us.

If he is, I hope that he is well and is still able to take those wonderful trips that sparked my imagination.

But those postcards, as well as the others I received from friends and family,  helped me see parts of the world that were harder to see in the pre internet days and certainly helped nurture my love of traveling.

I often think about other chance encounters and people who come into our lives for a brief moment and the affect that they have on us.  Had my mom and I been seated in any other row on that airplane I would not have received the postcards.

Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.

Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.

When I was in Journalism School I had a professor that assigned us a project to go to the food court at the mall and people watch.  The point behind the assignment was to observe the various interactions of people and imagine various scenarios as to what brought them there. To this day I still enjoy people watching.

The next week the same professor assigned us to go back to the same food court and find a stranger to interview. The point of the exercise being that everyone of us has  a story to tell.  The trick is to know the right questions to ask to get the ball rolling.

While the memory of the man on the plane will probably not make me any less cautious than I am since the world today is so much different than it was all those decades ago it is still a nice memory and shows that we all do have stories and the key is to just be open to hear them.

Of course a healthy filter and the ability to know when people are being sincere versus when they are blowing smoke never hurts.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think I am going to find a food court and see if my interview skills are still as sharp as they once were.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson