An open letter to people who write open letters

Dear writers of open letters:

I don’t get it. I don’t get the open letter. I mean, I get the technique, you write out a letter to somebody but it’s not really meant for that person. Well it might be, but it’s really for everyone else to read, more like an op-ed about the person that you’re writing to. But why not just write out an op-ed? What does the whole letter format do for the writing? I’m thinking that, maybe the first time someone wrote an open letter, everyone read it and was like, “Ha. That’s clever.” But then the next time it was like, “Wait a second, again?”

I think that it’s time to retire the open letter. Maybe ten or fifteen years from now we can break it out again, see if there’s any interest in a comeback, but at this point in pop culture, I just don’t see it as relevant anymore. Whenever I’m reading a magazine, and I come across something like, “Madonna: Why are you so weird looking?” or “President Obama: Why are you such a socialist?” I instantly fall asleep, and by the time I’ve woken up, my magazine is stuck together from all of the drool produced by me falling asleep in a reading position. And so the rest of my magazine is ruined. Do you think we could like, just maybe take a break for one issue of one magazine and see how it goes?

Why don’t you try an open telegram? You all could write out telegrams to famous people and then have them delivered to random people. And there’ll be a knock at the door and that random person will be like, “Yes? May I help you?” and the telegram delivery guy will go, “Telegram!” and the recipient will be shocked, “Telegram? Who still sends telegrams? How are you guys making any money?” and the telegram guy’s forced, drawn out grin will crack, just a little, an imperceptible twitch, but he’ll lose it, he’ll start to tremble, “It’s terrible,” he’ll sob, “Things have never been worse. All of our employees are starving. But we have no idea how to move on. None of us know how to use computers. Please, just … just accept the telegram. This has been one my only jobs in months.” And the person will be like, all right, go ahead.

And the telegram delivery guy will start, “Dear Mrs. So and So. Stop. This is an open telegram. Stop.” Is that what telegrams were all about? Because, and now I’m getting a little confused here myself. I always thought that a telegram was just a typed out letter, like I’d go to a telegram company and have them send a letter somewhere. But then how do all of those scenes from old movies play out where the delivery is like, “Urgent news. Stop.” Does the guy have to stand there at the front door and read the telegram out loud? Is that part of his job description? What if it’s kind of a private subject, is this guy just part of the message now? And why does he have to say “stop?” Can’t he just speak in such a way that the period or end of a sentence seems natural? And what if it’s a question, does the guy still say “stop” or does he say “question mark?” And why with open letters are there so many questions? Isn’t it a little stale to read an entire piece entirely built mainly out of questions?

Getting back on track here, no, I don’t think open telegrams would work. Maybe an open singing telegram. Because while the Internet and even just regular telephones have basically eliminated the need for any sort of telegram service, there’s still something special about having somebody knock at your door and sing you a message. It’s even better if the singing telegram service is like four or five guys and they all sing in harmony. But the only thing is, if you send an open singing telegram, you have to send it to a lot of different households, because if it’s only one recipient, then it’s not really open, it’s closed. And it’s even worse, because say you’re sending an open singing telegram to Mr. T. for example, and you send it to some random address, it might even be incorrect. The owner of that house most likely would be like, “Sorry, Mr. T. doesn’t live here.” But theoretically the owner’s last name could be Thompson, or Trotsky, and so he or she might mistakenly believe the singing telegram was written specifically for them, and they’ll get so confused, like, “I’m not pitying any fools. This is all so strange.”

Were telegrams that common? Did you have to give a tip? I never tip the mailman. Scratch that. I used to never tip the mailman. But after every holiday I’d stick my head out of the window every time the mail carrier came past my house, and I’d scream out, “How you doing?” and normally they’d respond, “Just fine thanks!” but after those holidays there would always be a kind of a cold shoulder vibe going on, and I’d repeat myself, “Hello! How are you doing today?” Finally somebody told me that you’re supposed to leave an envelope with a holiday tip. And so I called up the Post Office to see how much I’m supposed to tip. The guy on the other end got really confrontational. “You’re not supposed to tip federal employees. Did your mail carrier ask for a tip? Where are you getting this from?”

I tried to play it cool, but the very next day there was a new mailman. I asked him where the regular mailman was and this guy kind of just held up his hands in a defensive position, like, “Hey buddy, don’t talk to me, all right?” And I chased after him, asking if he could give my regular mailman my holiday card. And he just took off. Weird.

So yeah, open letters. Kind of lame right? Just write a regular letter. Or write an essay or a blog post of whatever. Because the only difference, in my opinion, between an essay and an open letter is that with an open letter, you start off writing, “Dear So and So,” and you finish it off with, “Sincerely,” like a letter. Like it adds those extra lines but that’s it. And I get it, really, I’m always looking for extra content. But maybe we can try something else. It’s old.

Love Always,

Rob G.

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