Thursday, January 04, 2007

Silly Putty: The Eighth Wonder of the World

Emily Post I am not. In addition to the fact I lack years and years of experience with manners and etiquette, I don’t have the hips to wear those high-brow society dresses either. Well, now that we have any and all identity (and perhaps gender) issues out of the way, we can move on with the matter at hand.

From some of your recent letters and e-mails, I find comfort in the fact I’m not the only one out there who finds the whole thank-you-note issue a bit confusing. One astute reader shared the phenomenon of having given a simple gift to someone and in return receiving a thank-you card that could rival War and Peace in the number of words employed. Me, too! I remember one such instance, and the whole time I was reading their literary litany, I kept wondering, “How can a container of Silly Putty bring so much joy to one person? It’s simply inhuman.” Conversely, that begs the question of when you’re the recipient of, say, a gift card from a local retail establishment, what more can you say than “thanks for the gift card”? You feel silly saying anything more than that, but the vast dead space on the thank-you note taunts and dares you to expound upon your gratitude.

Your letters have also indicated that there are some situations in which it either feels weird sending a thank-you note or you plain don’t know how to “thank” that certain someone. Although I’m still not going to try and put on one of Ms. Post’s dresses, I’ll wear her hat for a moment and give you some guidance in just two areas:

Gift from a boss: Regardless of the form of the gift, you feel a bit icky sending a thank-you note because you don’t want to be thought of as a suck-up, but you know that if you don’t you’ll be labeled as the office ingrate. Whether it’s a gift that seems to have an agenda – you’re in a customer-service-related business and your boss gives you a book titled How to Give Great Customer Service – or a loaf of banana nut bread that tastes like an armpit, you have to acknowledge it. And while you may be tempted to give him a book titled How to Stop Being a Crappy Boss, or give him a note saying that you’ve donated his gift to the local food bank, take gratitude to a new level and pen a short note that says, “Thanks for keeping me around long enough to receive your gift. Let’s do this again next year.” Ha ha!

Gift card from a store you never frequent: This is a tough one, no doubt! As it’s highly likely that you’ll never use the gift card for yourself or someone you love, the best use of this card is to turn it back on the giver of the gift. Let’s say the card is for Beads, Clogs & Pool Sticks. Given the fact you’re not dealing with a conventional person, there’s no need for a conventional thank-you note. Go all out and make an outfit for their cat (these people always have cats, take my word for it) using as many different colored beads as possible and send along a short note that says, “Your generosity was so inspiring, I made this for Chudwick. I can’t wait to see him in it.” Ask for photos.
Next week we’ll see how Ms. Post weighs in on what to wear to a jello wrestling match.

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