Monday, December 20, 2010

A Seasonal Greeting for All Denominations (this means you)

Send Pointless Greeting Cards Day!
© John Yohalem, Yule 2010

As you will no doubt recall, Send Pointless Greeting Cards Day, a moveable but semi-constant Feast of the Consumerist faith, commemorates the time when H.M. King Whicheversoever Ist sought the hand of Queen Comesedice in marriage. From afar – her throne in a neighboring kingdom – she had spurned earlier offers of matrimony and his various showy and expensive gifts, and he was at his wits’ end.

“What words could pierce the hard heart of this obdurate female!” he cried out (in apostrophe, hence no question mark required). And at that instant it came to him that if he sent her an elegant and distinctive seasonal card (by the public mails instead of in an all-too-traceable embassy communiqué), it might (if sufficiently eloquent and attractive) do the trick and win the lady.

Accordingly, equipped with calligraphic pens, colored pencils, a dab of glue, a few pots of espresso (with alcoholic addenda inmixed) and hardly any kibitzing by the Royal Ghostwriter, who merely held the king’s wavery hand over the card stock and whispered encouraging “Hmm’s” and “Err’s” and the odd “Meh,” by the following morning, H.M. had achieved the ideal seasonal card, expressing wishes of Joy, Health, Prosperity, Fine Weather and other January unlikeliness, plus his shy request for an intimate interview at the lady’s earliest convenience, and after searching high and low about the palace in a caffeinated and sleep-deprived dither for both (a) a passably clean envelope, and (b) the lady’s address (both having been misplaced by the housemaid repairing the all-night kaffee-klatch – or so the king alleged at the time), he then (to preserve face against any possibility of unsuccess) secretly and incognito departed the palace by a side door and hasted him to the Royal Post Office to mail the thing unbeknownst to any other parties.

At the said P.O., lines not being interminable due to the not-yet-existent nature of the Holiday Season that his actions were about (in fact) to inaugurate, H.M. soon found himself confronted at the window, by an appropriately cool public servant, a certain Madamigella Posta Restante by name (as our painstaking research has discovered).

“We, I mean, that is to say, I,” said the king, recollecting that he was supposedly incognito, “wish to send this missive, by the quickest possible method, return receipt requested.”

“Is it ‘We’ or is it ‘I’?” the postmistress enquired.

“Does it make the slightest difference?” asked the king, impatiently.

“We have a special rate for royals – note that by ‘We’ I mean the Post Office,” she remarked – without the least little jot of unbecoming deference. To the ideal public servant, the public are all equal. It is the rate card that adjusts matters.

“Well, I wouldn’t mind saving some change, so yes, I admit it, I’m royal – in fact, in this country, I’m the royal. So do I get a discount?” said the king.

“You have, I suppose, the proper identification papers about you?” Miss Restante countered. (This was when they still had counters at the Post Office, and she was at one, but it was before “Ms.” came into general use as a form of address.)

“Really, Miss – what’s the name? Restante? – my identity should be quite obvious,” said the king. “I am none other than King Whicheversoever,” and he gestured at his royal portrait, which naturally hung on the wall of every governmental office in the land. To his dismay and annoyance, he saw that this office displayed an old portrait, with a beard – in fact, it depicted his father, gone, lo, these seventeen years come April. “That’s not my portrait!” cried the king. “That’s Dad! King Whoseywhatsis IVth. He’s dead!”

“Looks a heckuva lot more regal than you do,” the postal clerk retorted. “We gave the new official portrait a gander and decided not to hang it. We’ll try again when you grow a beard. Now, if you have no personal identification about you, I’ll have to be asking you to shove off. There’s a whole raft of genuine customers behind you.”

“There is not any such thing!”

“But there might be customers at any time. I have to be ready for them – no pointless delays. This is the Post Office,” she said, a pleasant smile playing – well, nowhere near her lips, actually. It was as if it occurred to her to smile, but the expression had been discarded as unprofessional. Sensitive visitors might interpret it as a sneer, which would never do. So she never smiled. But her pencil tapped impatiently.

“Oh, look at a stamp!” cried the king. “My face is all over those! In uniform and several colors! It’s said to be an acceptable, not too flattering likeness!”

“It does resemble you, now that I study it,” she admitted at long last, having finally found a three-quarter profile (14 simoleons, carmine lake, watermarked) under a bunch of sports commemoratives and a set featuring colorful common leaf moulds.

“Then can I have the royal discount?” asked the king, already wondering if the few cents saved could possibly be worth the aggravation.

“Discount? What discount? For royalty, we charge more,” said the maddening – but disturbingly efficient – Miss Restante. “This dude,” she continued to an – entirely imaginary – confidante at her side, “wants a royal discount. Can you beat it?”

“All right, all right!” cried the king. “I’ll pay the extra freight, under protest! Just get it to Queen Comesedice in the neighboring kingdom before she marries somebody else, will you?”

“Temper! Temper!” said Miss Restante, levelly. “I can’t possibly guarantee Her Highness’s inclinations; we’re merely the Post Office. Now if you’ll fill out this Customs Form –”

“Customs Form! It’s just a Greeting Card!” cried the exasperated king, tearing his hair to the point where it nearly matched his nonexistent beard.

“Never heard of such a thing. If it crosses the border, we require a Customs Form,” said the postmistress, implacably. “Greeting cards” was a phrase with a nasty edge to it as far as the post office was concerned. And you can’t say she wasn’t prescient.

“Well, you’re going to hear of it! Because I am proclaiming the last month of the year – every year – from now to the end of Time As We Know It – Greeting Card season! And we will all send these pointless things to our loved ones on any conceivable excuse so that people will remember my hopeless passion for Queen Comesedice and sigh with resignation – as I do.”

“Hopeless? You mean you’re giving up all hopes of matrimony?” said the clerk. (“Not that I’m surprised,” she muttered under her breath.)

“With the queen, yes,” said the king. “I really need someone less – indecisive – someone efficient – someone able to handle the public, no matter what its complaints. In fact, I need a queen exactly like you, my dear. In fact, I am proposing to you. Give up your job and come to the palace and reign at my side, and we will mail ten thousand of these puppies to all and sundry on every blessed or unblessed occasion!” he cried, happy and decisive for almost the first time in his life.

“I’m terribly flattered,” said Posta Restante, though she did not sound anything of the sort. She sounded flat, not flattered. “I’m really very sorry,” she said, “but I have no intention of giving up my pension to marry a beardless fellow who can’t even look me in the eye, crown or no crown, in any color or value, and has a watermark on his reverse to boot.”

Whereupon she slammed the window in his face, as it was time for her break.

This is a True Story! By which I mean, I feel confident you’ll never look it up and find out I invented it whole cloth, just now, while thinking of you and searching for your address and a stamp.

Wishing you a Very Merry Occasion!
– and the postage wherewith to celebrate it.