You Should Always Write a Letter

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Years ago, after leaving college, I made a grave error. I had a student loan that I was responsible to pay back. But I was busy. I traveled overseas for many months, and when I returned to the U.S., I moved, and then moved again. I knew I had a student loan, but I lost my paperwork and I never got any correspondence from the bank that had given me the student loan. 

I tried half-heartedly to follow up with the bank phone number I had been given. It didn’t work. I called my old landlady to see if any “student loan” mail had been sent. Nada. I figured the bank people must have forgotten about me.  

A year later, I realized I was very, very wrong.

I was applying to graduate school and found out the bank never forgot about me. They remembered me quite well, though not happily. I explained how I had tried to reach them, really I had. I had moved, I told them. I had searched several times for the correct phone number. 

They were unimpressed. 

But, it was hard, I said. Like, really hard.

- Uh-huh.  

- I didn’t mean to not call. I just got busy. 

- It’s okay, really. We had plans.  

- You’re not angry?

- Of course not.  

- Oh... good. 

- We’re just disappointed. You seemed better than... 

- What? Better than what? 

- Nothing. We shouldn’t have said anything. 

...Okay. Than we’re okay. 

- Of course.  

- Oh good. I thought- 

- You realize of course the you owe us $7568.58 which we expect to be paid in full by Tuesday. If you can’t pay the full amount then we’ll indenture your wage capacity for the rest of your natural life. 

- Uhhh... 

- You know, you could have just written a letter. 

- But, I called.  

- Psssh, phonecalls. We all hate them. No, you want a good correspondence with actual, mailed letters. We could have traded letters for months about stupid questions on timetables and repayment periods and you could have kept all this from happening. But, no you took off and made us find you. Now, you’ll be lucky to get a used car loan from a two-bit car dealer named Larry when we’re through with you.

- But... 

- Never disappear.  Even when you actually want to disappear, mail us another letter and make us open it, file it, send to be reviewed with legal counsel, queried, re-reviewed and then write back to you. It takes months. All us big institutions, banks, insurance companies, the IRS, we want letters! There is something so tangible and wonderful about envelopes and paper and ink. It’s like it all becomes real. In my office there must be hundreds of folders filled with letters, from REAL PEOPLE! It really quite amazing!

- Are you alright? 

- I... I’m fine. So, just a word to the wise, kid. Next time. 

- Send you a letter? 

- What, you? No, you’re toast. You had your chance. But, maybe when you’re older, you’ll be smarter about it. You’ll know to send a letter when interacting with us big kids. We never listen to your phone calls, never open your emails, but we always keep your mail.

 - Thanks.

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