What's In The Mail Today

by Andy Rooney


One of the good things in life is getting a letter. In view of the fact that I think this is true, it's strange -- I guess I mean "dumb" -- that I don't write more letters myself.

I think old friends, who for a lot of reasons don't see each other much, should write letters to each other more often but they don't. I have lots of old friends that I've just about lost track of because we don't live near each other and we don't write. Writing a letter has become a much more formal thing than it ever should have been. Maybe schools should not have made such a big deal of writing a letter. We were all taught about how one should start and how one should finish, but no one can teach the most important thing about a letter: the contents.

I wish there was some way we could start writing more letters. Maybe calling them notes, not "letters," would help. The cost of one stamp for a letter is ridiculous: 44 cents. For that price, we may not casually write many letters to friends we haven't seen recently. I know now most people correspond with friends through email, but I don't. I think it's more satisfying to hold a pen in your hand and write words on a piece of stationary.

Words on paper, I think, make a far greater impression than spoken words. Maybe that's because we all talk too much and write too little. We're more careful to say what we mean when we write it down than when we speak.

Writing letters or notes became easier when I first started using a typewriter. Before the typewriter, when people had to write out everything by hand, a letter was hard work. I would often write a letter by hand, throw it out and start over using the typewriter. When you wrote a letter by hand, rewriting was a huge chore.

Today when I go to the mailbox, I know I'll find a lot more than letters. More than anything else, excessive advertising has ruined the mail. I think we should find a way to charge companies more when they try to sell us something through the mail by appealing to us in what passes for a "letter." Not one in maybe 50 pieces of mail I get is a real letter from a real person. How did we let this happen?

I don't mind advertising.

It makes the world go 'round, but I don't want a lot of junk in my mailbox. I think that, overall, we're paying for too much of everything with advertising revenues anyway. There's no doubt that advertising is the lifeblood of publishing, broadcasting, and now the Internet.

I think there are too many ads in almost every publication. It would be great to find a way to present material with less advertising. There's no way to determine how many people read less of the copy in a publication or watch less on television because of the proliferation of advertising.

Television commercials are near the ragged edge of too many. Web sites are packed with ads, too. I wish billboards on roads were illegal. I can't believe all of these ads really work, but advertising agencies know more about it than I do, so I must be wrong. We're probably getting what we deserve.

If you do send me a letter, don't try to sell me anything. I'm only going to read the letters from people I know.

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