I have come to the conclusion I don’t see things quite the way most folks do.
This morning I wrote a “chin up” kind of card to a friend whose long-term relationship recently ended. The front of the card had a yellow sunshine and an orange flower, and both of them had beaming smiley faces. Cards are odd. Happy occasion cards often feature the reason a person is joyful; companies print cosy little homes on housewarming cards and cakes on birthday cards and beaming, waltzing brides and grooms on wedding cards. Browse the new baby section, and most of them feature beaming infants or teddy bears wearing gingham overalls. Reality says these things are highly unlikely. Babies cry a lot. Bears prefer slimming vertical stripes.
Negative occasion cards never have anything beyond a vague symbol. Check out the sympathy section if you don’t believe me. I dare you to find one card with a coffin, or even a quarter of a bad egg salad sandwich and red fruit punch, on it.
I didn’t have a “sorry to hear you’re single card,” much less a card with a broken heart or a moving van on it, so I went with the grinning sunshine card. I think my friend will know what I mean. Also, there was only one flower on the front, and it was a picture of floral health, and excellent dental hygiene; it really said, “Hey, single life could be just fine. You can do it, and you look good in orange.” I wrote a heartfelt message, signed my name with a little heart in the way I only do in greeting cards, and reached for my postage stamps.
There was a problem. Behold:
The problem, clearly, is not that I couldn’t get a square shot with my point and shoot camera this close to the subject. I want to know why on earth Canada Post finds it necessary to print a stamp with images of a ship that never made a single successful trip. The stupid thing went down and took more than 1500 people with it for crying out loud! Truthfully, I just took the packet of stamps the guy at the post office handed me when I requested ten domestic stamps a few weeks ago, and I didn’t give much thought to the picture on them.
Are there any social occasions for which one could safely use one of these things without committing a serious postal faux pas? I thought hard about it, and I even asked some of my kids at school today (we are talking about connotations and symbolism, you know). We could come up with nothing, short of requesting a divorce, for which these things are appropriate. All kinds of problems arise when a person starts trying to use these bad boys to send correspondence, because mixed messages will abound.
The card says: Congratulations on your engagement. The stamp says: Your relationship won’t survive your first trip together. Good luck with that.
The card says: Best of luck as man and wife. The stamp says: Get off that boat before you’re any farther from the shore. Anything with that much pomp and advertising can’t be what it’s cracked up to be.
The card says: Congratulations on your graduation! The stamp says: Please, please don’t go into engineering, travel agencying, or anything that requires large quantities of ice.
The card says: Enjoy your cruise! The stamp says: I secretly hate you and wish for you a watery grave.
The card says: Happy Valentine’s Day! The stamp says: You are not nearly as wonderful (or impressive) as you think you are.
The card says: Congratulations on your baby! The stamp says: –Wait. I need to just stop there. I was about to write a cynical comment relating episiotomies to grievous iceberg damage, and I decided I might be venturing from mild rant into something people might send me angry emails over. I apologize. Although I’ve never had one personally, I expect there is nothing at all funny about episiotomies. Please, don’t tear me a new one. I’ll behave.
After humming and hawing about whether I should purchase new stamps and delay sending my note, or simply writing a small side comment to soften the sting of such a stamp, I wrote this on the upper flap of the card:
Seriously, though, for what occasion is a Titanic memorial stamp appropriate? I rather feel sticking an image of a sunk boat on a “sorry about your breakup” card is the equivalent of a bubonic plague memorial stamp on a wedding invitation. (What colours are you using for the wedding? Pus and agony. They’re very spring.)
Where are the stamps with the puppies or baby giraffes?
My friend knows me well enough to appreciate the sidebar as part of the twisted products of my addled brain. It’s June and I am surrounded by teenagers, people.
In all, the Titanic memorial stamp makes me highly peevy. I am all for commemorating the tragic loss of hundreds of innocent people with some sort of federal recognition. I do, however, take serious issue with the federal government making a profit off this kind of crap. Seriously, have another good look at that stamp. The stamp on the right has a star on the map marking Southampton (the departure point of the ill-fated voyage) and the one on the left has a star for Halifax. Does it not strike anyone else as incredibly freaking morbid to include a destination many of the people on that boat never saw because they were sewn up in body bags?
It would be like putting a cow and a Big Mac on the same stamp.
I welcome a commemorative stamp that mentions something about the bravery of the people who sacrificed themselves to save others aboard the vessel, or the selflessness of the residents of Halifax who opened their city to comfort survivors and to give the dead a respectful, peaceful burial. Canada Post, why can’t you recognize the people who were involved in the incident? Instead, you print images of a big hunk of metal that’s slowly rusting away under a great deal of cold salt water.
Maybe I should forward a copy of this to the federal government.
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