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Essay

To: Co-Workers Subject: Postcard From the Edge

By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 6, 2004; Page C01

So you've tweaked your automatic e-mail response to let me know that you are not just out of the office, but out of the office on vacation. Until Sept. 7. Thanks for the extra information. We're all just so dee-lighted to know that you're on vacation.

Funny you never bother to let me know when you're out of the office getting a root canal, or pumping water out of your basement, or on jury duty. Guess you didn't think it was relevant. I'm glad you suddenly feel this connection, this need to keep me up to date with all the fascinating details of your life now, as you sit in a Parisian cafe, worrying not at all about the reports you promised to get to me last Friday. Before you went on vacation.


Hope those hands that didn't send the reports you promised to get to me before you went on that skiing vacation don't get too cold -- not that I care. (Photodisc)


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I suppose you send me this information to let me know that you're not just on vacation, but on vacation and not checking e-mail. When you go on vacation, you cut off all contact. Not like those of us who vacation with the BlackBerry and the laptop, and call in twice a day just to be sure there's no one new answering our telephone like she owned the place. You don't worry about the interns taking over, do you?

No, when you vacation, you clear your mind. You're not even thinking about work. The ropes are slapping gently against the mast of that boat you've rented and you're getting very sleepy, in the late morning sun, as the sloop rocks gently, gently, gently off the coast of Maine. Not even thinking of checking that e-mail. Not worrying one bit about those layoffs that are rumored to be coming sometime later this summer.

Ooooh. Sorry -- wouldn't want to stress you out while you're on vacation.

I guess this means I'm not getting a postcard. No, no -- no guilt. I know how difficult it is, while on vacation, to send a postcard. It's almost impossible to find a postcard in most vacation spots, isn't it?

And don't tell me about stamps. Wouldn't want you to strain your tongue licking a half-inch-square piece of paper. Not when you need your tongue fresh and supple, to swish great swigs of fine cabernet around in your mouth and crush little fish eggs against the palate, in that little house you've rented on the Aegean coast.

Postcards. They're all lies. Beautiful photographic lies on one side, vulgar baldfaced lies on the other. Wish you were here. Sure. You're lying on a beach towel, your head cradled in someone's lap while they dangle grapes above your mouth and you pluck them off with that precious tongue of yours, using those grapes to mop up that cabernet and caviar that is sloshing around inside that freshly tanned torso of yours, and you wish I were there. So I could remind you, when you're done sucking grapes like a satyr, that you still haven't sent me those reports I needed. Last Friday. Oh, and have you heard about the layoffs?

Bet you don't wish I were there enough to give me your frequent-flier miles. Bet you don't wish I were there enough to tend the kids so I could vacation in Tuscany, instead of a string of cheap roadside motor inns with bedding that reeks of stale cigarette smoke.

You wish I were there, so much that when you get back you'll tell me all about it, all those silly little things that happen on vacation, like forgetting your mittens in the mountaintop bar in the Andes and having to ski all the way down without them. Never thought your hands could be so cold in August, did you? Well, listen up. On my last vacation -- when was that? -- the kids decided to roll out the Slip 'N Slide, indoors, in a Motel 6, and then for kicks they slathered it with vegetable oil. Yes, my hands were a little raw, too, after cleaning up that one.

Want to hear more? Of course you don't. So don't take pictures. Don't drop by to tell me your fascinating little anecdotes. Just do one thing, would you? Just get me the reports you promised me, three weeks ago, before you went on vacation.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company