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Greene: Good Manners

06/19/12 5:55PM By Stephanie Greene
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(Host) With graduation and wedding season upon us, many of us are buying gifts. Unfortunately the once standard thank you note is becoming rare. Commentator and free-lance writer, Stephanie Greene, has a modest proposal for a little corrective.

(Greene) One often hears new brides and grooms - or graduates - complain that they are just too busy to send thank you notes. That they weren't too busy to spend days mall-crawling in the assembly of their staggering gift registry - well, that goes unsaid.

So. How about a little nudge toward good manners in the form of a microchip embedded in the gift that can only be de-activated at the Post Office when you post your thank-you notes? Otherwise, say a month after the big event, an ear piercing beep emits from the gift - not unlike that of a car alarm.

Another month elapses with no thanks given and the gift, like the tape recorder which instructed the heroes in the old Mission Impossible TV show, self destructs in a large puff of smoke. This would be a snap to arrange in a toaster, but even more spectacular in a set of towels.

For larger gifts we might employ a swat team, staffed by repurposed Blackwater ops to repel down the side of the new house or apartment, through a window with a large crash and shower of glass to repossess - say - the wide screen TV, or hotwire the giftee's brand new BMW.

Think job creation! Think snappy uniforms - and little gold patches with the logo of the Manners Swat Team. Stateside manufacturing may not be a thing of the past after all.

I'll admit these approaches might not be subtle enough for some. So how about embedding a recording of the buyers' conversation as they debated the relative merits of gifts - in the gift itself? "I don't know - 80 bucks seems a bit steep...." "I really don't like the color." "Maybe they're colorblind!" "But it's on their list...." "And that's the cheapest thing." "We'd better snap it up before anyone else does...." And so on... The loop keeps playing - until either they send a note or take the talking tablecloth to the dump.

Resurgence of thank you notes might even keep the Post Office out of bankruptcy. It would certainly add suspense and entertainment value to dinner parties.

Now, lest you think from this outpouring that no one ever thanks me, let me say that one of the best thank you notes I ever received was from an old friend who'd just gotten married. She cleverly took a digital photo of the quilt I'd made, and fashioned it into a card onto which she wrote her thanks.

A smart young mother, whose four year old couldn't yet write notes, had her son draw a picture of his present onto a computer designed card they'd made together - thus instilling in him the pleasures of gratitude without writer's cramp.

On About-dot-com-backslash-weddings, Nina Calloway recommends excel spreadsheets for keeping track of gifts and thanks; she even provides useful templates. So hope is not lost.

Gratitude is worth taking time to express, is quite possibly its own reward, and it never goes out of style.

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