This week’s inductees into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” are … postcards.
Another summer is almost over and that sucks. But me being me, I always find the silver lining to any dark cloud. Don’t believe me? Just check the Ned Bitters archives, where you’ll find column after column oozing joy and uplift.
The silver lining to the end of summer is that post card season is about over, too. Oh sure, you might get the occasional mid-winter post card (more on that and the sonofabitch who sent it later), but most people still take their vacations in the summer, so we’re pretty much spared the 4×6 cardboard slap in the face for the other nine months of the year.
You – who might dabble in sanity – possibly enjoy the post card, seeing it a symbol of being remembered by a friend or relative who is far away. You, who knows inner peace and holds a certain degree of love for your fellow man, appreciate the fact that someone bought the card, wrote a message, addressed it, procured a stamp and found a mailbox.
But I, who has a master’s degree in illogical anger, sees it as a 29-cent “F-you” from someone who wants to stick in my face the fact that he is enjoying a vacation in some exotic spot on the planet, a spot where I am – unfortunately – not. I, who knows a gnawing, baseless contempt for my fellow planet-mates (based mainly on, I’ll admit, a searing self-loathing), see the post card as an act of spite sent by a Bermuda shorts-wearing, sunburned blob of passive aggression who deep down just wants to make my day a little more miserable.
Everything about the post card is disingenuous, starting with the scribbled exclamation point-filled message. Your friend (prick) or relative (also a prick) gushes, “This place is incredible!!! Having a great time!!! Wish you were here!!! Miss you!!!” I’ve gone on plenty of vacations, and I don’t once recall, while melting on a beach or getting plastered in New Orleans, wishing anyone who was not with me was, in fact, with me. The whole damn point of a vacation is to get away from your everyday life, and friends and family are, alas, part of everyday life. And don’t make me feel even worse about my regular, not-on-vacation ass by telling me how great things are in sunny Cancun. I’ve never been there, but I can say with great certainty that it’s a damn sight better than the shithole town where I spend 50 mundane weeks out of the year. I don’t need a breathless, taunting reminder of this sad fact in my mailbox.
Some messages are not so peppy. Instead, the writer, confident he’s just one Lorne Michaels sit-down away from joining the SNL writing crew, pens what he thinks is a tweet-like morsel of vacationland wit. If there’s a picture of an unscalable snow-capped mountain, he’ll go all Algonquin on your ass and write, “We climbed this yesterday!!! Before lunch!!!!” (This is considered even more sidesplitting if the writer or his traveling companion is enfeebled in some way.)
(The preponderance of exclamation points belies the writer’s belief in his wit, and a Yale study proved that the number of “!!!!!!’s” rises exponentially with the unfunniness factor of the message.)
(I lied about the Yale study.)
Or perhaps the card contains a shot of bikini-clad women with perfectly toned and bronzed bodies. The writer, a woman, will write, “I had my picture taken for this post card.” Because the woman writer is of rather doughy proportions and because the joke is of the unfunny variety, she will feel compelled to add not only a string of Bic-draining exclamation points but also a very bold, very all-capped “LOL”. You know, to show a little self-deprecation and, more importantly, self-awareness. (“LOL” = “I know I’m fat.”) If a man sends this same post card, he will write a rollicking “Nuff said!” in an attempt to maintain the bro-ness factor from 800 miles away. My, but the nation’s mailmen must suffer laugh-induced hernias at epidemic rates each August as they read these Oscar Wilde-like quips.
Then there are those travelers who believe that we, the non-travelers who are stuck in our non-vacationing lives, are actually interested in hearing as many on-holiday details as can be crammed into a 4 x 6 post card. They fill every bit of white space on the card with mind-numbing minutia (“… then we visited the Ministry of the Interior building, a 17th century landmark commissioned by …”) in an infinitesimal handwriting that requires the services of a National Institutes Of Health microscope to read. That is, if one were actually going to read the scintillating details your cousin’s five-day trip to Copenhagen. But one is not then nor is one ever going to actually read said card. Instead, you’ll pop it under a refrigerator magnet until said cousin comes to visit and sees said card properly displayed, after which it can be ripped with extreme prejudice into 20 pieces and thrown into the trash as soon as said cousin departs the premises with his 400 Copenhagen pictures in tow. (But that’s another column.)
But the real slap of a post card is in the very act of sending the card itself. Ostensibly, the post card says, “I’m thinking about you and wishing you were here.” But the message that the sender is really trying to convey, in my batshit crazy interpretation, is: “Look where I am, sucker! You’re sweating your balls off in evening rush hour traffic on a sweltering July evening, or you’re freezing your ass off in six inches of northern snow and contending with a wind chill that would shrivel an Eskimo’s nuts, but I’m luxuriating under palm trees and a warming, restorative sun, just like the ones you see on the flip side of this post card, and tomorrow, instead of heading to work in a frozen car that takes 13 minutes to warm up, I’ll once again be lying on a beach just like the one on this post card, sweating out last night’s margaritas and watching sweet, tight, almost naked island bodies stroll by.”
This might be a new low – or high? – in my irrational irritability department, but I don’t like phoniness, and I just don’t see genuine geniality in the sending of a post card. A person has to have a lot of anger issues to rub their good time into the faces of those not having the same good time. You have to be a master of passive aggression. A post card sender must possess the inner desire to make others as miserable as he is for the rest of the year. In other words, you gotta be real prick to send post cards.
I sent ten from Paris this summer.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.