Dead Letters

Illustration by Bob AulI guess the one thing that sticks out for me about the paper is what a complete and utter failure the thing has been. Take me, for example. I was hired here three years ago to write a biweekly column, direct the paper's sports section, and generally be a lightning rod for controversy and adoration.

Three years later, there is no column or sports section, and I receive only slightly less mail here than the dude who empties our recycling bin. This is a source of unending amusement for my coworkers, a hearty bunch who enjoy a good laugh in between procuring various creams and ointments for their rashes of undisclosed origins.

Cruel? Sure. But do I blame them? No. I'm bigger than that. I blame you. You, the reading public who couldn't appreciate my groundbreaking sports coverage of one-footed parachutists, Canadian game-show rules and the rigors of being a ring-card girl.

(As to the column, okay, my bad on that one. I was under the impression that the term "biweekly" meant something completely different, and thus the whole experience ended up an ill-fated though eye-opening misunderstanding—for which I'd like to once again apologize to my wife.)

What it comes down to is letters. Everyone at this paper gets more letters than I do: the guy who writes about ferrets; the guy who writes in to comment about the guy who wrote about the ferrets. Jim Washburn can't write three words without people jamming the mail slot with "Jim certainly hit it on the head" and "I never heard it put so wonderfully." And the thing of it is, Washburn doesn't really write that stuff. We've been farming his stuff out to Korea for years.

Some kind souls have tried to assure me that the reason I don't receive letters is that "your stuff is not very good" and "actually, it's quite tedious" and "I told you to leave me alone." Though well-intentioned, their explanations leave me cold.

And you know, the few letters I do receive almost always go something like this: "I enjoyed your piece. It reminded me that I believe . . ."

Do you see the problem? The letter is actually about you. Your opinions, your needs. Who gives a shit? If I cared about your life, do you think I would have gone into journalism?

 
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