In a recent scientific survey, all Americans said they would rather be attacked by a rabid badger than sign greeting cards at work. Granted, the sampling size of the survey was a bit small (me and Max, my coworker and racquetball partner), but I think the results represent a fair assessment of the situation.
Every week, I am inundated with cards for every conceivable occasion: retirement, birthday, sympathy, get-well, acquittal. Last week, I signed a card for someone’s second cousin’s godmother’s pug for graduating obedience school (valedictorian no less!).
I never know what to write on the accursed cards, either. Most of the time, I don’t know the person (or animal) that well, if at all. Usually, I play it safe with the standard phrases: “Wish you well,” “My condolences, “or” Good luck with that.” Once, when I discovered a card on my desk one morning, I quickly scribbled “Congratulations” and passed it on. That afternoon, Lance from sales came to my office, jerked me out of my seat with a firm handshake, and pulled me close for a spine-crushing embrace.
“Thanks man,” he whispered in my ear. “You’re the only one who knows how I really feel.” Later, I discovered I’d signed a sympathy card acknowledging the passing of his mother-in-law.
Some people have no problem writing heartfelt passages. One disgruntled coworker wrote on the retirement card for one of our managers:
“Having reached the twilight of your mortal existence, please accept my congratulatory sentiments as you prepare to leave this ennui-inducing hellhole and make your way to paradise and your seaside condo. I remember well our initial acquaintance–sitting in orientation one score and five years ago, two young, creative lads lactating ambition and motivation galore, until all was slowly suckled from us by this godforsaken bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that nursed relentlessly, leaving our teats of aspiration depleted and withered, never to plump anew. Anyway, good luck and watch out for hurricanes.”
The disgruntled worker was also a bitter, failed novelist.
If I know the person well, I may add an encouraging personal note such as I did on a recent get-well card for my friend and racquetball partner, Max:
“Sorry about the mauling. Don’t worry; my Aunt Melvina suffered a similar fate with a raccoon. She regained most of her mobility and her scars are barely visible in low light. Hang in there; I’ll reserve a court for us.”
Max had landed in the intensive care unit after simply sticking his hand in his mailbox, retrieving a package of Gevalia coffee, and flinging it at a rabid badger weaving across his front lawn.
I visited Max in the hospital to deliver his card and conduct my survey. Though he was completely bandaged, in traction, and unable to speak, I could see in his eyes he was enjoying his respite from having to deal with the cards at the office. Thus, I am confident in the accuracy of my survey’s results.