For years, the greeting card industry has considered me an antagonist, and for years I have reiterated that I am not.
It has always been my position that it is a delight to receive cards from friends and relatives whom one does not see frequently. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, confirmations and similar occasions are always brightened by the arrival of greeting cards.
During the year-end holiday season, it can become more of a delight to receive the cards than to send them, especially for older people whose card lists grow longer with every passing year. Nevertheless, a touch of writer's cramp is a small price to pay for the enjoyment the card exchanges bring.
What has earned me a bad reputation among those who manufacture and sell cards for profit is the simple plan used in many government and private offices to raise money for Children's Hospital. Instead of a vast exchange of intramural cards among people who see each other at work every day, there is common agreement to extend good wishes in person and divert the money saved on cards and postage to poor children who need hospital care.
That idea was first put forward by a District Liner whose identity has, alas, been forgotten. The plan was so sensible that it won instant support, and it has been more productive in every year that has passed since its inception.
But the more the no-cards idea raises for the children, the more firmly it becomes fixed in everybody's mind that I hate greeting cards. A few days ago, for example, I wrote an appreciative column about the holiday cards I had been receiving, especially those from the fellows I grew up with in Cincinnati.
When my perceptive wife finished reading that column she said, "Hmph! I see you've finally changed your mind and admitted that greeting cards aren't all bad." Et tu, Bernice?
Greeting cards for the Americans being held hostage in Iran are very much in the news now. People keep asking how much postage to put on the envelope.
A clerk at our main post office says the correct rate is 21 cents for a postcard. For letters, the rate is 31 cents for the first half-ounce, which should be enough for an average-sized greeting card and envelope. If your letter is heavier, the extra postage is 31 cents for each of the next three half-ounces; thereafter it is 26 cents per half-ounce.
When Hildegards Redding asked for the new John Paul Jones stamps at the Glen Echo post office Thursday, a clerk asked, "Are you going to send some cards to the hostages?"
"I've already sent a card," Mrs. Redding replied, "but I'm curious as to why you thought I was going to use the John Paul Jones stamps on cards to the hostages."
"Because of the quotation he's so famous for. When the enemy thought they had done so much damage to our ships that it was time to demand our surrender, Jones replied, "I have not yet begun to flight.' I think that's a pretty good message to send to the ayatollah."
Another who would like to send a message to the Iranians -- and for that matter to every OPEX nation -- is Mrs. Walter Neumann. She wonders why the manufacturers of bumper stickers haven't brought some snappy slogans to market and made a lot of money out of them.
That's an interesting question, and I, too, would like to know the answer. Usually, Ameriacan ingenuity fills a breach of this kind quickly.
The best slogans I can devise at the moment are:
"The quickest way to send a message to OPEC is to SLOW DOWN."
"Remember when gas was 35 and you could drive 70?"
"A gallon saved is an ayatollah spurned."
If you can think of a slogan that is shorter and more clever than the samples above -- which shouldn't be very difficult -- please send it to me and I'll publish it.
Before space runs out, I must tell you about Dan Willingmyre of College Park. He's the only District Liner who is likely to be considered a worse subversive than Bill Gold by the greeting card industry.
Dan says: "I'm 72, and at my age (or at any age, for that matter) there is a possibility that I will never again hear the voices of some of my friends.
"So I have been spending the weekends, when rates are lowest, in calling all those to whom I used to send cards, I explain that the call is their card, and why I'm using this method, and they're all pleased. Some of the calls last 15 to 30 minutes. Sure, they cost more than cards and stamps, but it is worth it to hear voices I had not heard in a long time. I'm going to do it again next year if I'm still around."
Conflict of interest note: My wife the capitalist owns 100 shares of AT&T and hopes that Dan lives to be 120.