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Pushing the envelope through snail mail

I remember the first e-mail I ever sent. It went to a co-worker stationed 100 feet down the hall from me. I could hear him jump for joy when he received it, and he immediately replied. I cheered when it reached my inbox. We thought we were so cool using our brand-new desktop technology. Decades and thousands of messages later, I'm no longer impressed, and my cheers revert back to snail mail.

Our Pony Express forefathers would likely be mortified by that nickname. Although slower than e-mail, the post office is much more exciting when it comes to transporting information. However, due to our spoiled preference for quick electronic communication, cards and letters are rarely found stuffed between the bills and ads in the mailbox anymore. Which makes it all the more fun to send and receive them.

I have discovered a new joy in expressing myself through snail mail. This began a few years ago when I sent a note to a friend. After expressing thanks for the good wishes, she declared, "And snail mail, too!" Her enthusiastic reaction made an impression on me. Since then I have made it a habit to reach out more on paper, and found that I can communicate more genuinely through carefully handwritten notes than with ones quickly composed on a keyboard.

For snail mail I can create notepaper in different shapes, colors and forms. I throw in some bonuses like printed photos, T-shirts or small tokens of appreciation. Depending on my mood, I can insert a CD or DVD or lightly scent a letter with my favorite perfume.

For a small price, the post office takes it on a journey from my hand to that special recipient. It's nice to know I have created a smile when that person opens her mailbox to a pleasant surprise buried in the junk mail. And it's well worth the price of a stamp to mail something to those in my household to see the look of surprise on their face when they return from the mailbox.

When people receive a package or card via snail mail, they open it without ever having to log on or enter a password. They can take pleasure in knowing that the sender made a special effort to devote some extra time and attention to them.

They can read it anywhere, hold the tangible contents in their fingers and feast their eyes on the carefully scripted handwriting unique to the person in their life who sent it. This is so much more personal than a digital or printed out version of Arial or Verdana.

Not to mention, by mailing a letter you will never experience that panic-stricken feeling that comes with the realization that with one click of the wrong button, you just replied to all with a gushing message that was intended for one recipient. E-mail and text messages are immediate and convenient, but if you really want to get someone's attention, say it with cursive and stamps.

I'm glad that snail mail is still an option and that the post office is still providing a unique avenue for us to transport our thoughts, words and gifts to those we love.

Recently, I did take the quick way out and e-mail birthday wishes to a friend's daughter. Her mother later called me to tell me she was on her daughter's bad list because she had quickly texted a Happy Birthday and that my time-consuming e-mail meant more to her daughter. Next year, I'll blow her away with a snail mail card.

Mary Clista Dahl, who lives in East Amherst, prefers to correspond the old-fashioned way.

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