Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Ever Happened to the Thank You Card?

During one of our "on the road" conversations the other morning, my sister Sheryl and I remarked to each other about how not many people take the time to write out a thank you card anymore. Now I am not talking about the verbal expression, although that has fallen into disuse as well these days. A verbal thank you is better of course than nothing. I am talking about the written expression of thank you. In our increasingly instant messaging society, written thank yous are a dying breed. They are going the way of birthday cards, holiday cards, and telephone landlines. People have stopped sending cards and instead Twitter or Facebook “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas."  When it comes to the Facebook "Happy Birthday," I admit it; I am guilty as charged. We, as a society, have become so wrapped up in our own lives, that the quick electronic greeting is now becoming acceptable! Also, people no longer call each other for Sunday evening calls to find out how the extended family is doing. It is far easier to email, “Hey, we are all OK, how ‘bout you?”

When I was a young boy, my mother and father instilled unto me the art of the thank you.  Every time I received a gift from someone or, say a birthday card with $5.00 in it (That was a lot back then!), I would make a handmade thank you card, or as I got older, grabbed a card from my mom’s never ending supply of various all-occasion cards. These days, I go out of my way to find the perfect thank you card. I have to laugh because it probably means more to me than the person I sent it to. Sometimes, embarrassingly, I don't even want to send the card because I like it so much and want to keep it for myself.  Hopefully I am not the only one!

Sending thank yous is definitely a family trait, or perhaps a generational trait, as I remember getting thank yous from my Nana, my Aunt Janet and Aunt Emmy, and my Grandparents Leslie and Lavina. I have kept special ones from childhood reminding me of those loved ones that have passed on and certain thank yous from friends who have taken the time to write something in the card.

My brother has been very good about passing this family tradition on to his kids. I have been on the phone with him after Christmas morning and he thrusts the phone into his kids' hands, commanding them to “THANK UNCLE MARC FOR THE CHRISTMAS GIFT HE SENT YOU!” It was all I could do to stifle my laughter. A quiet meek voice gets on the phone, “Thank you Uncle Marc for the Christmas gift you sent me.” When my niece Angelica and nephew Johnny were younger, their voices were so similar that I couldn’t tell them apart, so I would stumble through “Oh, your welcome … Angelica.” “It’s JOHNNY!” the voice would yell. “Oh I know, I was just pulling your leg … ha ha, now put your Dad back on the phone!” I would hear Johnny in the background, “Uncle Marc called me 'Angelica' again Dad!” Adam would just laugh “Well that’s because Uncle Marc is crazy.” Yes, brother dear, I have heard you say that! The kids also send me the same type of homemade wonderful thank you cards, which of course I keep. I am very proud of my brother for carrying on this family tradition.

I am often disappointed when supposedly close friends and family do not send thank yous. There, I said it! I am putting everyone on notice! Although I prefer a written thank you as I am "old school" like that, I will even (gasp) accept an email or verbal thank you and I will be just as satisfied. It shows to me that you, as a means of courtesy and respect, are acknowledging something that I sent to you. That’s all. It takes less than a minute to call or email. Send me a thank you card and count me impressed for life by your superior etiquette standards!  And don't forget, it truly means the world to the person receiving the thank you.

Sigh … it just seems sad that we have moved away from these rich expressions of formal and informal etiquette. And I am not talking about going overboard with a FTD floral thank you bouquet! Just a little personally scribed note to say “Thanks, I appreciated that.”

“THANKS” by the way, for reading.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Embarrassing Jury Duty Story

I have only ever been summoned for jury duty once while living in Pennsylvania. Everyone can now let out their collective groans and say "Ugh!" I know that’s just what I did. For years, I had avoided jury duty by not being in the right place at the right time. My number just didn’t “come up.” I was moving every other year from apartment to apartment in different neighborhoods in Philly. I moved from Society Hill to Graduate Hospital to Rittenhouse Square to Olde City to the Art Museum neighborhood. And I am  thankful that the wonderfully "slow on jury duty paperwork" City of Philadelphia just never pegged me down for the time honored tradition of jury duty.

It was June of 1998 when I moved out to Media, PA in Delware County and I loved it. I was living there happily for a couple years in suburban bliss when one day I received that letter marked JURY DUTY that everyone hates to get! I was to report to the court house in one month's time and take my medicine with the rest of tax paying society! And oh great, I was to be paid $10.00. Gee, I thought with obvious sarcasm, that will more than make up for the day of work lost!

The Spring day came for jury duty and I made my way down to the county court house early. I got a nice cup of coffee, brought a magazine, a book, and reported to a large beige sterile room for my civic duty. I was put in a room with about 40 other folks of varying shapes, sizes, ethnicities, financial means, and ages. The one thing we all had in common was that we didn’t want to be there and it showed on our faces. The jury duty courthouse representative started off our welcome by stating, “Now I you all don’t want to be here because it shows on your faces.” We all smiled and nodded. Yes Gladys, I thought, is it that obvious? After she ran through the “rules", we were left to wallow away the next 8 hours by watching bad daytime TV aka Jerry Springer, reading, or numerous trips to the bathroom thanks to a nasty coffee vending machine.

After a heavy lunch, I just couldn't bear any more coffee so I settled for a Diet Coke and the book I brought. It was just SO interesting, I can't even remember the name. Well I must have dozed off and was suddenly woken up by the prodding of the juror to my right. "Stop snoring!" he exclaimed. WELL EXCUSE ME! I CAN'T HELP THAT I HAVE ALLERGIES AND CAN'T BREATHE PROPERLY!  OK, I thought that in my head, but I DID stare down that 80 year old man.

I went back to my book and must have fallen asleep again. In my dream, I heard someone say "Marc Haynes" and then much louder "MARC HAYNES!" I immediately woke with a start. Stand up you idiot! I thought. Stand up before they think you split the joint! I sprung to attention like a pogo stick exclaiming, "HERE I AM!"

I then noticed that a large, rotund, bespeckled woman in her 60's wearing a garish tangerine polyester outfit, two seats up and over from me, was standing up as well. I looked over at her, thinking, Well what is SHE standing up for ... IDIOT!  She then glanced over to me with a look as if conveying the same thought, "What is he standing up for ... IDIOT!"  I turned to the woman running jury duty in the front of the room, and put my hands up in the air stating flatly, "I dunno why she is standing up."

The woman in the front looked down her nose and over her glasses at me, "MABLE GAINES ... are you MABLE GAINES ... SIR?"  I turned 3 shades of red with that hot flash of embarrassment creeping up from my toes over my entire body to the top of my head. "I thought you said Marc Haynes," I stuttered quietly. I then proceeded to explain this to the rest of the 40 potential jurors in the room. I turned to the bespeckled woman in the garish tangerine polyester outfit, "I thought she said Marc Haynes, it does sound similar!" She scoffed at me in contempt, turning her head away exclaiming, "Well I'm Mable Gaines!"  I turned to the people to my left whispering, "I thought she said Marc Haynes." I nervously laughed, "Heh heh heh." They turned away in social disgust except for one twenty-something punk laughing at me. I turned to my right! "I really thought they said Marc Haynes, anyone can make the same mistake! I was SLEEPING people!" Everywhere I looked, people turned away or laughed at me as the juror persona non grata! Except for a sharp prod from my right, "Sit the hell down you dang fool!" It was the 80 year old man. I slumped down into my cold hard plastic seat withering in embarrassment.

Thankfully, I was not picked for jury duty that day.