It's that time of year again. (I don't really need to describe it, do I?) And with all the shopping for presents and hubbub, there's the inevitable barrage of (ugh!) Christmas cards.
The problem with holiday cards can best be summed up this way: Suppose I want to send people cards. I make out a list of people to send cards to, and send them out, thinking that I'm doing something nice. But, without fail, there are always a few inconsiderate boobs who end up sending me a card when I didn't send them a card, making me look callous and insensitive to those nice people. Meanwhile, all those who received a card from me who didn't send me a card in return feel guilty due to the fact that I sent them a card, but didn't get one in return. It seems like the number of people who got cards from me but didn't reciprocate, and who sent me cards when I didn't send them one, always outnumbers the people who got cards from me and sent one in return! So, to those few friends of mine who were nice enough to NOT send me a Christmas card this year when I didn't send them one either, I decide to reward by sending a card next year!
You know what? Screw that. Now you all know why I don't bother with Christmas cards.
I don't much bother with cards in general, either. The people who send them mean well, I know they do. It's just that they think they're sending me a little piece of paper to let me know that they're thinking of me, when in reality they're sending a piece of paper to convince themselves they're doing something nice to a person they probably don't know very well and to whom they can't think of anything to say in a meaningful letter or e-mail. So, I get this sappy little message which I didn't ask for, and don't particularly want, which is supposed to make me all warm-and-fuzzy, when all it really does is put me in an ethical dilemma over whether or not I keep this useless item in permanent storage in a shoe-box, there to be toted by me from apartment to apartment and residence to residence for all eternity, or whether I have to subject myself to permanent guilt by throwing it in the trash. This is doing something nice for me? I didn't ask for this huge responsibility to be thrown upon my shoulders!
For this reason, I dispensed with the feeling of guilt over cards a long time ago. They go out with the sale ads, un-clippped coupons, and overdue tuition notices. If I get one, I smile, then throw it away without a second thought. The nice person who sent me one isn't really going to police what I do with it by stopping over and asking where on the mantle her card is being displayed (unless she's a Jewish grandmother), so why should I mind getting rid of it? For that matter, why should anyone else, especially the sender?
Not that I don't, at some level, appreciate getting a card. As I say, there is some genuine good feeling behind the act of sending one. But if it's going to make my friend feel guilty about eventually throwing it out, why send it in the first place? My more rational friends realize this. They never send me cards, and I gratefully show my appreciation of this by never sending them cards either. Not for birthdays, not for graduations, not for holidays. It's quite a relief, actually, to have such understanding friends who are so good as to be pleasant enough to spend time with, but who will never stuff my mailbox with clutter. Life is good.
Sometimes I rather like getting a card. For example, I got one recently from the National Center for Science Education, signed by Dr. Eugenie Scott and her wonderful staff. Now THAT'S a card I intend to keep in my files for all eternity, not just because such a prestigious organization would bother with me, but because those are all people I really love over there. And if some future biographers feel that I actually merit attention, and want to go through my things, they'll find that card, and know how genuinely close I felt to all those kindred souls. Beautiful! A card, when given in the right way, and given for the right reason, at the right time, can be a good thing!
Nevertheless, there are always people who think that giving a card is some ubiquitous thing that is to be done whenever one wants to give the appearance of being nice, and that's hardly being nice at all, in my estimation. Just yesterday I received a card from the office staff at work, most of whom go about their business in a different building from me, and who haven't seen me in a little over three years. They all signed it. I know that this was meant as a gesture to make me feel welcomed, part of the team, one of the family, etc. But really it's just a corporate gimmick designed to make me feel happier in a job that is far beneath my talents and abilities, and pays me according to that standard. I'm certainly not the only employee to receive such a card. Everyone, from the janitorial staff to the cafeteria cooks, got one. So how really special is it then? I honestly don't know which is worse: that this supposedly nice gesture came about as a result of corporate edict inflicted upon everyone by the boss from on-high, or that a percentage of resources, which at least included purchasing costs and the five or ten minutes (at least) of each staff member's hourly wage that everyone had to sacrifice in order to sign all these cards together. I could think of far better uses for their time, and considerably far better uses for the money! I'm thinking, just to get back at them, that I should send them a huge glossy saying "Merry Christmas!" with an overtly flamboyant flower bouquet. That would certainly serve them right, wouldn't it!
On second thought, nah. They wouldn't understand. They'd probably just send me an even bigger card next year.