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Gene Weingarten: The daunting life of a man of letters

Dear Marleen,

Thank you for the $30 in cash you mailed me, repaying what I lent you on the street two years ago so you could get into a concert. Though you were a stranger, I have nonetheless remembered you all this time — as a deadbeat ingrate urban rip-off artist. Sorry for the misunderstanding! No harm done!

Do you ever wonder why, in the era of e-mail, fax machines and instant messaging, people still use snail mail?

Dear Susan,

Thank you for your letter. It was good to hear from you again, and, yes, I do remember how we made out many times at college, when we were a couple always on the precipice of actually Doing It. I appreciate your suggestion that we meet up again, and please understand that by not answering you for two years and one month, I was not trying to send you any sort of message. It is only with fondness that I recall our oddly intense, tantalizingly unfinished romance. Sorry for any misunderstanding!

I had so given up on the U.S. Postal Service that I stopped picking up my mail at the Washington Post. So it just built up in a huge bin, an escarpment of paper so daunting that every time I entered the mailroom and saw it, I turned around again, to save the job for another day.

Dear Princeton University,

Yes, I am very interested in your visiting journalist-in-residence program, which pays $80,000 for six months' teaching work. Thanks for thinking of me three years ago and again two years ago. I am crying a little as I write this.

Dear Daniel,

I am sorry to hear that I suck and that my column from May 17, 2009, was so atrocious and mean-spirited that you immediately canceled your subscription to my newspaper. Which you didn't. You kept getting the paper, for months and months and months. I know because I just checked with circulation. Loser.

Finally, I stopped going into the mailroom at all. But a week ago, my friend and colleague Pat Myers got so sick of seeing that mound of stuff that she mailed it all to my home in an envelope the size of a sofa cushion.

Dear Antonia,

Thank you for sending me a package of essays to be judged for awarding a college scholarship. I see that the deadline was Feb. 12, 2010. For what it's worth, I would have chosen the one beginning "A shipload of people exists inside my head, and they want me to let them out. They live in the 19th century, on a merchant ship, and a storm batters their vessel even as I write this. A wonderful future waits for them, but I am the only one who knows it." Wow.

Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that the winner was the applicant who wrote, "I intend to use my college education in my future to act as the structure of my house of dreams." People like that always win. I am so sorry.

Dear Margaret,

Thank you for letting me know that Jesus loves me even though I do not love myself, which you deduced from my humor column of July 27, 2008, which was about Hitler and underpants. And thank you for the many Bible tracts you sent me along with the hand-crocheted "Smile" button refrigerator magnet.

These things did, in fact, make me smile, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your kindness. Literally, I cannot tell you. I discovered this when I called your home and spoke with your husband. I wish you well where you have gone, and I solemnly promise, if you are listening, that I will be better about my mail.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. You can chat with him online at noon Tuesday at www.washingtonpost.com.

Gene Weingarten: The daunting life of a man of letters 04/24/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 23, 2010 5:05pm]
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