Remember when life had a lag?
Before the instant gratification of broadcasting on Facebook and Instagram, when it took time for our lives to spread out and filter down.
I remember one of the rituals of being away on holidays was the trip to a newsagent or local tourist shop to select a pile of postcards to send out.
Fresh from the beach my friends and I would walk across to the local shops. After scoffing a newspaper wrap of piping hot chips drowned in salt and vinegar (third degree burns to the tongue extinguished with ice chocolate milk), we might look for postcards. There are memories of standing with sunburnt shoulders, and gritty sand between my toes, and the smell of Pink Zink and still-wet swimmers sticking to my legs. Shuffling through the pictures trying to decide which would be the best ones to send back to friends, girlfriends, parents.
Lingering, if I remember correctly, for inordinately vast periods of time looking at….well, boobs.
The postcards were usually displayed on clunky wire carousels that bumped into each other as you turned them spilling cards all over the floor.
Some were expensive affairs with arty gloss photos of sunsets and beach scenes, all gold or silver embossed with: “Greetings from wherever!” They were on thick card with scalloped edges.
Others were so cheap so you could buy them by the clutch.
Bikini clad girls, crass cartoons, generic scenes on flimsy paper. And plenty of time-consuming boobs.
Inevitably the display stands would stick and squeak as you turned them on your postal quest. Even if there was a section of identical pictures you just had to riffle through in case there was a perfect card hidden in their midst.
Postcards first became a popular form of communication in the early 1860’s in the USA. Before then cards were routinely sent in sealed envelopes.
Some of the envelopes had printed pictures on the front to celebrate events such as valentines, New Years and Christmas, and it was from this that the picture postcard would evolve. The oldest postcard on record is from 1940 sent from the USA to London. It was a cartoon of postal service workers sitting around a large inkwell.
Many of the early postcards showcased pictures of nude or scantily clad women. So I can quite easily imagine young boys of the 1890’s earnestly standing around selecting their own holiday postcards, for ages….. and ages.
Once selected the postcard still had to be filled. I was usually very bad at this.
“Hi Mum and Dad, having a great time, weather is great. Saw a shark today. Love Ian.”
Something like that. Obligation met. At least until the next destination.
Unless of course the postcard was to a girlfriend, in which case the gushing print would fill the card and then run off around the outside margin and over the top edge of the stamp where it would free fall down into the address box and splatter into a pile of XXXXXXXOOOOO’s making the postman’s job a hieroglyphic nightmare.
Postcards are not completely dead.
You can still buy them, and plenty of people still like to send them.
Sometimes out of a nostalgic enthusiasm, sometimes, in the younger generation at least, out of the sheer novelty required to enact an analogue communication.
But in today’s world of plugged in, dopamine encrusted, socially engineered, photographically filtered, fabulously composed, collated and captioned lives that we now live in…. a postcard just aint going to cut it.
Still, it would be pretty cool to get one in the actual mail.
Dont you think?