Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Communication Clash

In early January of this year the Royal BC Museum, in conjunction with a week of ‘by donation’ entry, had a letter writing campaign – but not in that way.

By way of fostering the ‘lost art’ of letter writing, the museum set up a letter writing booth and invited patrons to engage in the ‘age old’ art of communication. Complete with writing paper and pens, patrons could write a letter – like an actual handwritten letter – and the museum would foot the bill for postage.

To back up a bit….

My friend Ros had seen an advertisement about the museum’s by-donation week as well as their letter writing booth in the newspaper. Ros is my friend who usually sends me out on various ‘assignments’ (see previous blog post called 'What Happened That Night'), so of course, at her instruction, I set out on another adventure. (To learn more about her romantic suspense fiction works, find her here)

As time is of the essence - my usual state-of-being - one afternoon during my lunch hour from work I hustled my way to the museum. I donated the few dollars I had in my wallet, and made a quick whip around the exhibits. I said a quick ‘hi’ to the woolly mammoth, sipped my lunch hour coffee while I chatted with some seals and sea lions, and then quickly made my way through the rest of the museum, stopping to look at the displays of days-gone-past in the ‘old town’ – I love the old typewriters and sewing machines.

As time was ticking, I still had one mission to accomplish – write a letter. I found the booth and at the encouragement of the kind girl working there, I found a spot at the table between two other women. I grabbed some paper and a pen from the supplies provided and got to work.

And it was hard work, I have to say! Not only did I have write neatly, but I had to think of something on the spot! Something meaningful – something with heart. Something interesting other than the usual ‘weather’ chit-chat (when in doubt, there’s always the weather).

Just when my letter-writing muse kicked into gear two more women arrived. Well, I have to admit, as much as I foster the fostering of anything – especially writing – I was rather put-out. It was MY time, I was in just getting in touch with MY muse, and there wasn’t a lot of space at the table. So I stifled a ‘huff,’ scooted over, and with an obligatory smile to everyone enjoying the getting-back-to-letter-writing moment, I kept my head down and got busy.

I had a letter to write, after all.

I met my friend Ros through a writing group and you’d think, given how we are ‘writers’ and all, that we would have seen each other’s handwriting. But in this technological age where email fosters friendships and a keyboard is a writer-girl’s best friend, I realized she had never seen my handwriting before.

And I was instantly embarrassed. I have atrocious handwriting. It’s a cacophony of half-printing and half-cursive writing, combined with an intricate code of self-created shorthand and abbreviations that half the time I can barely decipher. So I wrote/printed/scrawled as neatly as I could, all while acknowledging and apologizing to Ros for my crappy handwriting. The weather had already been talked about.

Just as my tongue had all-but dried out from being stuck out the corner of my mouth in concentration, someone ELSE arrived at the table. GEEZ! Can I NOT just WRITE a LETTER in PEACE!?!

Chit-chat among the letter writers ensued and suddenly I was eavesdropping - I had no choice.

But I was sure glad I did.

I dare not repeat another person’s story here, but a woman recounted her own family’s letter-writing story surrounding events in 1942 involving a highly recognized politician’s wife. It was during World War II – Europe and England were right smack in the middle of the war - and all is can say is her family owns a historic treasure.


I am so glad I didn’t ‘shoo’ everyone away. What a treat to be able to hear the story I did!

After everyone ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over the fantastic story – one I won’t ever forget – we all got back to work.

Just when pens-scratching-at-paper was the only thing to be heard, the museum worker broke our getting-back-to-basics moment by telling us she had an iPad, internet ready, in case anyone had to look up an address.

WHAT? What about the moment? What about getting-back-to-basics? How contradictory was an iPad to what we were actually doing! Talk about clash of the communication worlds!

My letter writing adventure was getting more and more introspective with every minute.

I finished recounting the World War II story in the letter to Ros then, upon realizing the time, took a few photos of my letter with my cell phone, bade them all ‘happy letter writing,’ and grabbed my purse and by-then cold coffee. As I made to leave, the museum worker pointed to a table on which to leave my mail. Sitting on top of the table was a museum-style display case showing old writing utensils. Cool!

It wasn’t until I took a few pictures - again with my cell phone - that I saw it. Sitting just beside the display case was a ‘modern’ ink pen.

Wow! When was the clash of the communication worlds going to end?

With the letter writing campaign just too much for me, I guzzled my cold coffee then hustled back to work for a much needed rest.

I’m a receptionist answering phones and forwarding mail for a living. Go figure.


  1. I'm honoured that you picked me to send your handwritten letter to. :-) I can't remember the last time I received an actual handwritten letter--on proper letter paper, no less! Christmas card notes don't count. And if you think your handwriting is bad, you should see mine. It seems the harder I try to make it neat, the more mistakes I make...

    1. Hi Ros - of COURSE I would send you a letter! You WERE the one that urged me to go! So glad I went! And there is something to be said for sitting down and writing an actual letter, as opposed to 'dashing off' a quick email. But as for mistakes? There's no delete key - only white-out or crumpled papers in effort to start over - and make it right! Thanks so much for stopping by! Lisa

  2. Hi Lisa,
    When I started letter writing week at the Royal BC Museum last year, I imagined a group of people sitting in silence, writing letters and going away again. Instead it turned out to be a oddly intimate affair with people talking to each other about special moments and family stories. I have come to love the chit-chat and the connection that you make sitting beside a total stranger that doesn't really happen very often. This year, a young man from Denmark and I talked about our grandmothers and the importance of being truthful in letters. I also managed to compose a few letters, and I look forward to continuing those conversations in writing.

    1. Hi Kim - first, thank you SO very much for stopping by and commenting! Yes, it was an experience that surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. There is a connection that is made when actually writing a long letter, outside of the 'dashing off' a quick email or text. This was a very important lesson for me, one that I won't soon forget. Thank you so much for doing this - I look forward to (hopefully) participating again! Thank you again so much for stopping by! Lisa