As the Good Book says ‘to every thing there is a season, and a piece of merchandising for every purpose under Heaven.’ This point was really driven home for on this special day of February 14th, the day when guys all converge at a supermarket’s greeting card-and flower-displays to buy any card at all done in pinks or reds, any hunk of vegetation that could be construed as bouquet-like. I just saw one guy eyeing a bunch of broccoli, no word of a lie. I saw another slap down on the counter a bunch of roses so far past day-old they were brown at their every petal-edge. (“Hey, it’s the thought that counts!” he said to me, seeing me look first at his rusty bouquet, then up at him.)
“The Thought” is the part Americans evidently have trouble conveying – or so it would seem, judging by the sheer size of the greeting card industry.
What did we do before they had greeting cards to oil the social machinery? Can people even write letters anymore? If they could, they wouldn’t have on the shelves not just individual cards but a myriad categories for them, each set off with its own cardboard marker.
I visited four card shops this week. First off, there are categories within categories for birthdays, both the single digit, double digit and triple digit kind; also categories reading “29th,” “Brother-in-Law,” “Step Mom,” and the wonderfully convenient “Blank Inside.” Under the umbrella of cards meant to communicate general fondness, I found “You Are Perfection,” “I Want To Hold You Forever,” and “Suggestive” (sample card: a cartoon pig saying “Talk dirty to me” to another pig.) Also, “Hurry Home Tonight” (related to “Suggestive”) and “Keep Your Childish Wonder”
In a grouping I think of as “Troubled Waters,” you can find see “Let’s Work Things Out,” “I’m Sorry,” and “I Want You Back;” also “We’re Different but I Love You” (You Have a Tail?), “I Want to Know More” (Do You Have, Perhaps, an Udder?) and “Consider the Possibilities.” (The possibilities are clearly limitless.)
Equally, there were whole shelves devoted to Things Beginning: among them categories for cards dealing with “New Baby”,” “New Babies” “New Job,” and “New Venture;” also “New Home,” “Adoption,” “New Grandson,” and “Baby Boy Religious”.
There are categories called “Get Well”, “For Extended Illness” and “For Shaquille O’Neil” (No lie. And under this one was a lone card: “Shaq and I Heard You’re Not Feeling Well…..”) They also had “Extended Voyage,” “Encouragement,” and “Goodbye”; “Thank You”, “Cheer Up” and “Cope”; “Clean Your Room,” “You’re Feeling Yucky?,” and “God Bless Your Daughter”
I read lately of a service you can engage that will pick up your deceased in their van, treat him to a little hair gel and makeup, crate him up, and place him in a budget plot – all for a ‘mere’ $2,000. Pretty soon you’ll be able to avoid seeing the grieving family altogether. They’ll have drive-up windows where you can call up the dead person’s name electronically, view his casket and be home and in your pjs room in 15 minutes. Even now you can just send a card, and several categories suggest themselves for this purpose. “Goodbye”; “Extended Voyage” and “New Venture” all come to mind.
But the best category for all who think rented words are any substitute for face-to-facing it with another human being? “Blank Inside.” It works on every level.