From about 1978 until maybe 1995 I would come in to the Reflector newsroom once a week and write this column. I did it because that's where they had the things called computers that make writing so much easier.
It sounds funny now that everyone has a computer, but this newspaper was way ahead of the curve on digital matters.
Yes, the 1978 Reflector word processors were pretty primitive by today's standards. But they were a hundred miles ahead of anything anybody had at home at the time.
So I would go to the office each weekend and peck out my meager Monday offering.
Occasionally I had mail which I would find in a homemade wooden cubby hole adjacent to the mailboxes of all the other columnists and infrequent visitors to the Reflector office.
By the late 1990s, home computers and email changed my 17-year routine. I stopped going in to the Reflector office each week, instead emailing my column from wherever I was at the time.
It was so much more convenient for me.
Periodically, perhaps every two weeks or so, I would pop in to see if there was any mail for me and to tell stories with whoever was in the newsroom at the time.
Then, one day a few years ago, I stopped in at the newsroom and the old handmade mailboxes were gone from the familiar location they had occupied for years.
"Aha," I surmised, "email has finally made old fashioned letters obsolete. I guess now that they are publishing our email addresses with our columns they figured we do not need clunky old mailboxes any more."
This was so obvious to me that I did not pursue the subject with anyone else in the building at the time.
And, sure enough, instead of getting a letter or two every once in a while pertaining to one of my columns, I started getting an email every now and then. Just as I had divined.
Then, just last month, I got two column-related letters at home. They had been sent to The Reflector where someone had thoughtfully put them--unopened--into another envelope and mailed them to me. (One of those letters, by the way, was a real keeper: two paragraphs of blush-inducing kind words about my work and particularly about a column I had written about the Willard school levy. It was signed: "Most sincerely, Robert L. Haas." Very nice to get accolades from a local coaching legend.)
Coincidentally, a couple of days after I got those snail-mail letters sent to my home, I stopped in at the Reflector office on another matter. Managing Editor Joe Centers hailed me from across the newsroom.
When I stopped at his desk, he handed me a huge manila envelope addressed to me with Joe's Reflector return address. In other words, he had been about to mail the big package to me when I stopped in and saved him the trouble (and the postage).
"What's this?" I asked with the anticipatory twinkle seen on the faces of nearly everyone when presented with a mysterious large package.
"Remember your old mailbox that used to be over there?" he asked, nodding toward a wall that no longer has mailboxes on it.
"Yes, I remember," I said. "It felt a little funny when it disappeared. But I guess everybody uses email now."
"It didn't disappear," Joe said. "It just moved," nodding this time to an out of the way location on the floor and in the midst of other newsroom detritus.
"I looked over there the other day and thought 'Looks like it's been a while since Jim got his mail," Centers continued. "So I went over and found all this mail (here gesturing with the huge manila envelope). I was going to have them send it to you today, but here you go."
It was like a time capsule.
I am looking at the contents of that envelope right now.
There are--and I am not kidding even a little bit--three letters from July, 2007.
There are three more from 2008.
I have mail that has been sitting dormant for up to four years!
I cannot quite describe the feeling I have about this. People who take the time to write usually have a strong point of view or a serious emotional involvement. And these poor people who shared their feelings with me had no way of knowing that we would have a completely different president by the time I was able to read them.
As a make good to those caring individuals who actually put pen to paper to communicate with me (and because I think you will find it kind of fun), next week I will begin sharing some of the letters and the columns which prompted or provoked them.
In the meantime, if you, gentle reader, have something you want to say to me please call or email. We have not really refined our mail handling methods here at the Reflector yet.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.