It has been a long week or two here in the nation’s tender midsection.
As noted in the previous post, the issues that have further greyed my remaining hair are generally things I am not at liberty to discuss with the world at large, but they are there and they are grating, aggravating, nasty things that make me doubt the existence of decency, common sense and barbecue sauce.
But sometimes you find in the strangest of places a reminder that there is hope yet left for this tired old world. I would not have imagined that this would be the United States Postal Service.
When I went to the post office yesterday to drop off my monthly offerings to the various providers of services that fill my life with electricity, internet access and consumer credit, the guy behind the counter asked me if I wanted to buy any stamps. Perhaps it was the fact that all of my bills had Christmas stamps on them that tipped him off. “Yes,” I told him. “Actually, I would like to get some stamps.”
There was a short pause while he registered this amazing fact. I’m not sure they sell too many of those anymore, here in the internet age, and please don’t suggest that I start paying my bills online because I’ve heard all those arguments and I reject them out of hand. I like the mail. Eventually the guy recovered from his shock and showed me the different varieties of stamps that he had on hand.
It must be said that the Post Office has made amazing strides in stamp design in the last couple of decades.
When I was younger my dad got me into stamp collecting for a while. It was something of a natural extension of our joint efforts at coin collecting, I suppose. He signed up for some First Day of Issue covers, and I spent many happy hours ripping the Bicentennial stamps off of the mail that came in every day. We even got a few panes of unused stamps once in a while that I still have around the place.
Those stamps were all uniformly drab.
Oh, they had a few colors here and there, and once in a while you’d get some interesting designs – the state flag series, for example. But mostly they were utilitarian things designed to be little more than receipts. “I have paid my thirteen cents to the federal government and thus I expect this letter to be delivered.” They were nicely engraved things, but about as stylish as a Soviet tractor.
Somewhere along the line the Post Office stopped requiring stamps to be engraved and simply let them be printed. This may have been around the time they stopped asking you to lick them and just made them stickers. I like stickers, even though they were somewhat complicated to explain when the girls were little (“Why can I play with these stickers and not those stickers, daddy?”). It was certainly about the time that they stopped trying to be dignified and started having a bit of fun with them.
I still have a keychain with an old stamp with a quizzical-looking cartoon cat on it. I just loved the expression on its face, which reminded me of how I spent most of my life.
Apparently this stamp was unique and valuable, as images of it are nowhere to be found on the internet. You’ll just have to imagine it, I guess. I’m glad I saved it.
Today when the guy showed me the stamp selection, there in the middle was a pane of stamps with Pixar characters on it.
Remy from Ratatouille.
Carl and Dug from Up!
I love Up! In the first fourteen minutes of that movie, largely without dialogue, Pixar put together a profound story of love and loss that has no equal in modern cinema, and they did it as a prologue.
What could I do but buy a pane of them?
I don’t know if I’ll use them or frame them. I’m sure the Post Office would prefer the latter, since they already have my money and wouldn’t have to deliver any actual mail for it. Part of me wants to make them work for my money, but part of me just says they already have. They have provided me with art, art that brightened my world after a dreary couple of weeks.
And that’s got to be worth the price of a pane of stamps.