I once heard someone object to the term as an insult, snails being associated with slime as well as slowness. But there had to be some way to differentiate between electronic missives and those send by pony express, er, post office.
I am becoming increasingly impatient with email. Of course, the novelty is long gone, but I find it easier faster to make plans, answer questions, and clear up misunderstandings on the phone. If I’m online and receive an email I want to answer, I often grab the receiver (yeah, yeah, it’s still a landline) and say, “Hello.” The real-time contact feels like a gift.
But that’s a little beside the point. The point being that my daughter’s boyfriend is in the military, deployed in Afghanistan, and the two of them are writing letters. By hand. On paper. Daily. They talk on the phone, too, but there’s little privacy for him and the connection isn’t reliable. Email access is limited.
And it turns out that the hand-written letter remains as powerful and romantic and consoling for 21st century twenty-somethings as it has always been for those sent to war and those waiting for their safe return. The daily rush to the mailbox, the tactile satisfaction of holding something that was recently touched by your beloved, and indeed a thing of his/her thinking and making: powerful magic.
Due to the way that the mail is dispatched and transported, E. and T. tend to receive letters in bulk. Two or four or seven envelopes arrive at once, which is a happy bonanza when it happens but a bummer on the days between. In the meanwhile, there is at least the pleasure of re-reading, of putting the letters aside for safe-keeping, a permanent record of separation and connection, longing and love.
The news that the US Postal Service may be ending Saturday delivery makes me even sadder now.