COLUMN: September 26, 2013

AN ENVELOPE arrived for me and I sighed because I knew I would have to open it.

I hate envelopes, I thought. Envelopes carry bills and junk mail and Dear John letters. They never carry good news, because people phone to give good news. The best they ever do is carry confirmation of good news you have already been given.

But I mostly hate them because I am useless at opening them.

This is what would happen were I to present the Best Supporting Actor Oscar along with, say, Miley Cyrus…

MILEY CYRUS: … And Dustin Hoffman for Massacre At Sleepy Pines.

AN EXPECTANT BUZZ AROUND THE ROOM.

ME: And the winner is… Miley, would you mind not twerking? I am trying to open an envelope. No, seriously, you are knocking into my leg.

MORE BUZZ.

ME: And the winner is… Argh, I’ve given my thumb a paper cut. No, stop, it really hurts. (SUCKS THUMB) Honestly, it’s the chemicals they use to treat the paper. Miley, please put your clothes back on, there’s a time and a place…

MORE BUZZ. RICKY GERVAIS STARTS SINGING “WHY ARE WE WAITING?”

ME: Sorry, and the winner – Miley, stop rubbing up against Billy Crystal! He remembers when Buddy Holly died – the winner is. (RIPS ENVELOPE) Argh! I have totally destroyed the envelope and torn entirely through the card inside. Erm, the winner is Ryan… er, Ryan somebody.

I have never opened an envelope cleanly. It always starts so well, slowly I prise the flap away from what the internet informs me is known as the side fold. I push in a thumb, and slowly run it along the flap.

And then carnage. The envelope disintegrates. Every time. It might as well be made out of smoke. I am left with shreds of paper around my ankles and an envelope which looks as if a dog opened it in a hurry.

I am not sure why I should be so worried about this, but letters are so rare these days. If somebody has taken the time to put pen to paper, then carefully inscribed one’s name and address on the envelope, paid for a stamp, and taken it to a postbox, I feel it is only right to treat the envelope with respect.

I did once own a letter opener and it did not work out very well for me as it was, after all, basically a small sword. I would make an incision in the top of the envelope and tear along it cleanly, and then discover that I had either sliced through the actual contents of the envelope, or through the actual contents of my finger.

None of this is my fault. The poor design of envelopes is responsible, and that poor design starts at the closing of the flap. For there are two types of flap: the self-adhesive sort, and the adhesive variety which requires a DNA sample, like the next generation of iPhone.

I object to licking envelopes. It is not the taste, it’s the principle. I object on the same grounds as I do to sherbet dips. I was brought up with the sure knowledge that spitting is a terrible thing and only to be tolerated if by a parent on a hanky in order to wipe away some facial grime.

So an object which requires one to apply saliva in order for it to work is an abomination. Also, if you’re not careful you can get a paper cut on your tongue.

And yet this sort of envelope, which requires one to behave like a barbarian and places one at risk of injury, is preferable to the self-adhesive envelope. This is because sometimes people need to check what they are sending, and if you are quick you can re-open a spit-soaked envelope.

But the self-adhesive type was designed by somebody who apparently assumed that people do not make mistakes. Seal one of those and the only way to retrieve what is inside is to tear it open, and put the contents in another envelope. At best it is an envelope-selling scam and at worst it is a calculated insult to people like me who cannot remember things.

I looked at the envelope and sighed again, then I opened it, destroying it in the process. It was a letter from my GP. Bad news.

It was inviting me for a health check-up, which is something the practice offers to all men between 40 and 70. Bad news, as I am now placed in the same age bracket as Billy Crystal, a man who remembers when Buddy Holly died.

No wonder I hate envelopes.

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