Monday, September 04, 2006

Card shark

Time for a little tip for your next vacation:

Send someone a post card.

Mailing a post card is something of a lost art. Not too many people even know how many cents a post-card stamp costs these days. Yet what's better than receiving a post card in the mail? I guess a letter might qualify, but relatively no one (especially of those used to sending e-mails) sends letters any more. A post card, though, takes about as long as an e-mail to send, provided you have a stamp (plan ahead on that one, potential mailers).

I mail out post cards to friends and family with stunning regularity. I've been doing it for years, and I have accumulated a few tips:

1. There's no cheaper way to score points. Some places will sell them for something 25 to 30 cents each. And then there's Las Vegas, which does things like sell them at 7 for a dollar. No better bargain.

2. Don't buy a boring card if you can avoid it. If you find yourself in Albany, for example, don't get a card that has a picture of downtown Albany. Get the card that has a picture of Uncle Sam, who lived in nearby Troy and is buried there. (I have visited the grave, but that's another topic.) Of course, if you are in a national park, you certainly should send a picture of some breathtaking site that you have visited. A little jealousy never hurt.

2a. On the other hand, if you can find a REALLY boring post card, get it. I'm particularly fond of photos of airports and roads, but that's just me.

3. Don't mention the weather in the note on the back. No one wants to hear about the sun shining five days ago in another location. (Exception: talking about warm weather when writing to a cold-weather location is almost required once in a while.)

4. Be funny, or at least clever. It takes a little practice, but after a while you too can crack one-liners on a post card with the best of them. If you have a post card of an alligator, write on the back that the animal in question is always hungry and is particularly fond of (insert recipient's job here).

5. Be prepared to be surprised at how many places sell post cards. You may not get many of them, but somebody is buying them apparently. Just look around a little.

6. Be prepared to be delighted when you visit the house of a friend on your mailing list. Odds are good that your cards might turn up on their refrigerator. One friend of mine does that. When I called her one time when she had company, she explained that the guy on the phone was "the post card guy." High praise indeed.

Head for those racks, boys and girls. Admiration awaits.

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