Remember old-school Christmas cards? You’d be in the home stretch of a grueling year, almost too exhausted to summon the energy to ring out the old and ring in the new. You only had to finish up a few final tasks before collapsing for the holiday break. And then they’d start rolling in with the daily snail mail, colorful reminders from dear friends and family members that a fresh start was nigh, that it was time to take a breath and fully embrace the warmth and wonder of this special time of year.
You’d line them up on top of the piano or display them on your bookshelf. And there they’d quietly sit, the residue litter of gold, silver, red and green glitter a small price to pay for the precious reminder of how many people cared about you enough to go to the shop and pick out the card, jot down a line or two, tuck it in an envelope and lick the edge, stick on a stamp and drop it in the mailbox. Come the second or third week of January, when they’d dutifully served their purpose, you could simply dump them in the garbage bin or, in the case of the especially sentimental, pack them away in boxes of nostalgia in the closet.
And then came e-cards, another of modern technology’s answers to questions that were never asked. There are cute little cartoon-like holiday e-cards, and clever video e-cards, e-cards with dancing characters – sometimes with miniature versions of yourself soft-shoeing or doing a hula across the screen – and very often, musical e-cards.
I got one of the latter just the other day, from a good friend and business colleague. It featured an assortment of white snowflakes of various shapes and sizes against a black background. When you clicked on it a cheerful chorus sang the seasonally appropriate “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” – sang it over and over and over again like a broken record. If only it had been the old-school kind of flat, vinyl record that sat on a turntable with a needle resting in between the grooves, riding around and around, letting you lift it at any time to summon back the silence.
But not so with this e-Christmas card, which kept singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” Not even when I hit “delete” – FIVE TIMES! – did the chorus cease?
I began to think the Russians had hacked my computer and were trying to drive me insane.
Luckily, I had the presence of mind to cut through the cacophony for long enough to do two things: First, I turned down the volume on my laptop; and then I recalled the name of the e-card company – Blue Mountain – and googled them.
I found a customer service number and called it. An absolutely delightful-sounding young woman answered and got the biggest kick in the world out of it when I explained my dilemma. Her laughter almost turned into convulsions. She had never heard of such a thing and quickly contacted one of Blue Mountain’s IT technicians, who had never heard of such a thing, either. But the techie did have a trick or two up his sleeve.
He told me to find the “delete FOREVER” feature in the drop-down menu of my inbox and click it. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” persisted. Then he told me to do something with the “cookies” feature on my laptop. But that didn’t work, either. I turned up the volume so the customer service woman and support technician could hear that the sinister serenade was still playing.
And then I came up with the solution myself. I shut down my laptop for 30 seconds and when I turned it back on, the Christmas e-card and indefatigable carolers who had crooned its soundtrack were finally gone… leaving me grateful for the quiet, and for all the other gifts of the year just passed. I guess that’s as good an ending as any story ever had.