In the generational shift from letters to email, I fear we’ve lost something. It’s not the care with which one chooses words while writing in ink. It’s not the intimacy of sending someone a physical manifestation of your feelings, be they love, anger, worry, etc.
We’ve lost a good deal of pranking.
Think about it. Pranks rely on anonymity, something social networking and modern email etiquette have slowly eroded. Anything you don’t recognize immediately gets sent to your Spam folder before being deleted.
You have to physically deal with a letter. Sure, you can throw it away afterwards, but it’s likely that you’ll at least tear open the envelope, read the handwritten or typed text, and then discover that someone was playing a joke on you.
Just check out some of this letter from R.J. Bumpass, sent to the Blum Manufacturing Company, a cowbell producer, in 1957.
“By golly everything has happened to me expect a spudnixt falling on me. Several evenings, couple weeks back was flagged by some indians, were broke down. Did not get to bed untill 2:00 or 3:00 o’clock. As far as I am concerned, people better be where they are headed that time of day, I am not stopping.”
This is either the rant of a crazy person looking to buy more cowbells, or it is a well-crafted prank letter sent for the amusement of the Blum Company. You can read the rest of the letter here. Meanwhile, I’m off to locate a functioning Underwood. I’ve got some letters to write.