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Wednesday
Jun222005

Return of the Glue Backs.

Return of the Glue Backs
So I figured out what’s wrong with kids today.

Back in my day (read: the ‘80s) we had special tasks and chores, assigned by the Paranti to keep us out of trouble. Mostly, this consisted of pulling weeds and cleaning out the basements and attics of elderly relatives who smelled of moth balls. We won’t even discuss what the attics and basements smelled of.

Even if you could get out of these onerous duties, shirking by one of the usual excuses, like contracting Mono or breaking a leg, there was still one task you could be set to. You could do it sitting down. You could do it from your sick bed. There was no way to avoid—

stamp and envelope licking.

Yes. Stamp and envelope licking. To a kid, a month is a long time, but inevitably, every 30 days or so, Bill Paying Day arrives. Millions of children, oblivious to the fact that it was the first, or the fifth, or the fifteenth (depending on your particular parent’s set of Bill Paying Guidelines, as established in the International Standards for Bill Paying and its easy-read companion volume Bill Paying For the Rest of Us) would leap from bed and get in a few hours of mindless play before the dreaded call from the porch came. “Sweetheart, come in the house for lunch, and then, you can help me do my bill paying.” Oh horror. The injustice. Has another month passed again?

In you would walk, head down, shoulders slumped forward, only to see it, the kitchen table, piled high with opened mail, folded letters waiting for their foray into the world, and the worst torture device of all: the stamps.

You would sit down at the table, waiting, stomach churning, sweat pouring off your brow, while the parent wrote out checks. Each check was piled on a slip of paper torn from the bottom of a letter and handed to you with an envelope, already addressed.

You would stuff the envelope. You would hold open the flap with both hands, each gripping the edge as if the envelope might suddenly leap away from you and scuttle across the table and onto the floor. Tongue out. Eyes closed.

Left-to-right or right-to-left, it didn’t matter. Personally, I was an edge-to-center licker, because I couldn’t handle an entire adhesive strip at once. Then, the Foldover and Flop maneuver, where the newly sealed envelope is flipped face up on the table, ready for the second licking procedure.

A stamp was separated. It was applied to a stuck-out tongue. Then placed, carefully straight and right side up on the envelope’s corner. A minute or two of waiting, before the next check was written, and the process began again.

Oh sure, there were those smart asses who used a damp sponge to seal their envelopes, and apply their stamps, but nothing really compares to the seal made by the saliva of a kid who would rather be doing anything else, even cleaning an old Aunt’s basement, than licking stamps and envelopes.

The parents always rationalized this torture. They no doubt convinced themselves that they were doing us a Big Favor by teaching us to pay bills on time. But that’s a lie. They hated the taste of envelope glue as much as we did. And well they should have! They spent their childhoods being forced to lick envelopes for our Grandparents.

It had its hazards, of course. Several years’ worth of licking stamps will deaden the tastebuds of anyone, and there is always brain damage, and the other side effects common to anyone who eats glue on a regular basis. But it had its advantages, too! Your tolerance for Things That Tasted Nasty was way above average, and schoolyard machismo was determined by whose tongue paper cut was the biggest.

But now, in this technologically advanced age of ours, we have self-stick stamps. The envelopes are usually Lick-n-Stick, but often they’re Pull-Tab-n-Stick instead. Sometimes, the bill comes via e-mail, or Straight-to-Credit-Card, and there’s no bill to send back at all. The result is that millions of American children are missing out on special bonding time with their parents.

At the Post Office today, a kid was looking at the stamps. “Mom, these are all self-stick. Don’t they have any of the kind you lick anymore?” “I don’t think they make them anymore.” “Awww. Man.”

You see! They like it! Forget about how bad it was when you were a kid. Your kids will love it. So spend time paying bills with your kids. I’m calling the Post Office to ask that they bring back the glue-backs.

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