07 May 2008

Tearin' it up

Tuesday passed without me getting a chance to write my usual Tuesday post this week. Sorry about that. I've actually written about 8 posts in the last three days and not a one has made it to the Publish button. Mostly because they're still in my head, but there is a draft or two on my dashboard that just aren't ready.

Therefore, I declare today that this post of Wednesday May 7th is really a Tuesday Brain Dump.

I like to write letters. Long, handwritten missives, on real stationery. I buy stationery whenever the urge strikes me, and there are boxes of them stored with all of my letter-writing supplies. I also own several sets of personalized stationery, that I use for formal occasions; some of which, when written out, are going to sound beyond bizarre, but I already know that I'm strange.

I use the formal stationery for thank-you letters to potential employers after a job interview, something that few people bother to do, but you should do that for EVERY. SINGLE. JOB. INTERVIEW. YOU. HAVE.

(Uh-oh, wait a tic while I shove the manners queen back in her box.)

I also have used my formal stationery to write letters to people I have met at a few events; once, when working for the non-profit, I met a man who owns not one, but two race car teams, and his philanthropy of choice was literacy and education. He spoke to the entire assemblage; but before he got up and spoke, he had been sitting next to me, and we'd had a congenial chat. I had no idea who he was, and when they announced him, he was shuffling papers and his briefcase like he was going to leave before the speaker started. Imagine my surprise when instead he walked to the microphone and took over. His ideas about the ways that the educational system in this country should be fixed made a big impression on me. Before he left, he handed me one of his business cards, and after the event, I wrote him a letter to tell him how much I enjoyed his speech, and to ask for clarification on how he would fund some of his ideas. He sent me back a book, a nice letter, and a scholarly journal about education. Not a bad contact to have, y'know?

Another time, around Veteran's Day, I heard a speech given by a man who is the director of a veteran's organization. Another speech I enjoyed, and when I spoke to him after the event was over, he handed me a business card too. I wrote him a letter because I'd love to work for him someday, and believe me, that one took me a while to figure out what to say other than, "Hey, buddy, gimme a job!" He's based in Washington DC, so heaven only knows if I'll ever see him again here in my little bit of suburbia, but I bet that if I do run into him again, he will remember me.

The formal stationery is a heavy white paper, smaller than a sheet of paper you use in your printer. I believe the paper size is called 'executive.' My full name is spelled out at the top in a curly cursive, in a dark blue ink. The envelopes are half the size of the paper, so a sheet is folded in half only once to fit inside the envelopes, which are lined with gold foil. I ordered it the year DH and I got married, and have used it sparingly and when the time calls for it in the nearly eight years since.

I'd been running low on the formal stuff; not to worry, for thank-you notes of other varieties (gifts, hostess thank-yous, whatev) I have lots of other stationery I could use. Last week, though, after another job interview, I used the last two pieces of the paper that were usable in the box. Accordingly, I took myself off to the same store where I'd purchased it in the first place, along with the last sheet in the box. That last sheet is creased oddly, and has a few marks on it from Goddess only knows what, and thus could never be used for a potential employer thank-you note.

Being the obsessive that I am, I wanted something similar to what I had previously. The last go-round with stationery ordering, I'd only wanted my name on it, and not my address. Because we were living in an apartment that was supposed to be temporary. It turned out to be a temporary of the FOUR FREAKING YEARS variety. This time, I want the address. Dammed to the consequences if we end up moving.

I puzzled over font styles (in the end, choosing one that looks a hellava lot like the one I had before) and worried about what color ink (a subtle, subdued grey that shimmers a bit when the light hits it right was the final decision, soy-based, of course) and debated about how many pages of "second sheets" I should order. I hadn't had second sheets last time around, because I foolishly didn't think that I'd ever need to use the formals for any letters that would be more than one page. Live and learn.

The clerk and I chose a design for the first sheets, with my name gracefully down the left side of the paper, and the address scrolling across the top of the page in a smaller type. I thought it looked elegant, and signed the order form, after making sure my odd street name was spelled correctly, and that my long first name didn't have the addition of a letter "s" which happens all the time for some reason. I'd blame poor diction, but we all know that it ain't me who's got poor diction!

Order placed and paid for, I waited for the store to call me and let me know it was in.

When they called me yesterday (yes, that would be TUESDAY) I wasted no time in getting there to pick it up. The clerk opened the box, and there was the sprarkly grey ink, the envelopes with the return address, boxed nicely into gold boxes, orderly and neat. Beautiful, until I noticed that DH's last name, which I have taken as the hyphenated part of my last name eg., Smith-Jones, DH's part of the last name was spelled wrong. Missing a letter. The clerk pulled out the order form, and sure enough, there's my signature, and there's DH's last name spelled incorrectly. I never noticed when I proofed the order form.

Essentially, the store said, "Sorry, sweetie. Your fault. You signed it." And that's true. I had, however, handed her the piece of the old stationery, and she copied it from there. The old stationery isn't spelled wrong. They asked me what I wanted to do, by which they meant, "Give us another $90 and we will order you some more and try to not fuck it up this time."

Well, I don't have another $90 to spare right this instant, and I wouldn't have spent the money to order it in the first place if it was not for the fact that I'm trying to find another job, and I like using that formal stationery for the interview thank-yous. My current employer told me that I was the only one of 30+ people they interviewed who sent any acknowledgment of thanks for the interview.

I say all the time, you can teach manners, but you can't teach style and class. I think those notes make the proper impression. "Need," of course, is a relative term. I don't 'need' that paper to continue job hunting. I don't 'need' that paper to get another job. I certainly didn't 'need' to spend $90 when one of the reasons I'm job-hunting is that I'm not making enough money.

I wanted to scream and rage and cry in the store. But I couldn't. Didn't. I told the clerk I'd take the blank second sheets, and all of the envelopes with the address properly printed on them, but I certainly wasn't going to use stationery with my name spelled wrong, nor was I taking it with me. I also snidely remarked that I did not have another $90 to spend. The store is a little boutique, they specialize in wedding invitations, sell greeting cards and other tchokes, dust collectors like frames, knick-knacks, figurines. They're used to snooty and snide, I promise. So they bagged up the second sheets and the envelopes and handed them to me, and I stormed out.

I'm angry at myself for not noticing. I'm angry at the store for not caring, and being unwilling to work with me on a solution, like perhaps paying shipping themselves for the new (correct) stuff, instead of charging me. Although, why should they eat the costs for MY mistake? (As they pointed out to me, of course.) There are other stores in the area that carry the line of stationery, and what I will probably end up doing is going to another store, replicating the order minus the second sheets and envelopes. Next time, though, they're sending the old stationery with the new order, along with a copy of my driver's license and anything else I can think of with my freaking name spelled correctly.

Didn't I say a few weeks ago that dumb blonde sorts of things weren't happening to me so much any more? Joke's on me.


John said...

GAH! I hate, HATE, it when I screw something up. I am feeling your pain here.

And on the other side of the hand-written note...

I somehow knew you sent "real mail" to people. I am one of those anachronisms that similarly believes that being polite costs me nothing (although, if my math is right, it's going to wind up costing you a smooth $180 - Geez! that's two-and-a-half tanks of gas!). I send regular "real" missives to my sister, my Beloved, and to various others who cross my radar. I ALWAYS send a hand written birthday card (of the post variety) to my flock. I also send large numbers of thank yous and "nice to meet yous" to various folks.

At some point we may have to exchange snail addys and have a good old fashioned exchange of ideas by parcel post.

You've inspired to grab pen and stationery - TTFN



Lucy Arin said...

Thankfully, round 2 will only end up costing me around $35. Another store, a much more helpful and sympathetic clerk, and only the 1st sheets ordered, as I've got the blank 2nd pages and envelopes. Shoulda gone to the other store in the first place.....they discount 10% off of list price.

So being polite will cost me $125, roughly. The ONLY consolation I have is that the last box took me 8 years to use. I won't need to order more 6 months from now.

I love, love, love, to write letters. It is so nice to get something in the snail-mailbox that isn't a bill, direct marketing, or garbage.