Monday, March 19, 2007

When Comedy Was Prozac

My sister has been organizing my dad's house while she's been caring for him. (Unlike me, she took a leave of absence from work when she came to stay with him, and my sister, not working is NOT a pretty. Bad things can and do happen.) She decided to go through some of her own keepsakes and purge the lot from about ten boxes down to two, keeping only the letters, photos and relics she deemed practical and indispensible. Along the way, she found a couple of gems from the past.

One of them is a letter I wrote to her when she was away at college, and I was preparing to leave for the Midwest to go to school there. Throughout the summer of '82, I had passed the time waiting to leave by taking summer courses at the (then!) impossibly cheap junior colleges LA had to offer, and working a succession of excrutiatingly dull office temp jobs that required things like "front office appearance" and "good phone personality" (have I got phone personality? Honeyyy, hush!). One of them was at the Emerson Radio corporate offices in Sun Valley.

I have transcribed the content below, so I don't get sued for any eyestrain injuries, and only include the scan to demonstrate the lengths to which I was willing to go to get a laugh back then. The letterhead is actually a cut-and-paste job in order to keep it from actually resembling someone's letterhead (lest it fall into the wrong hands, I guess). I used two typewriters (an IBM Selectric II for the company street address, and a Smith Corona portable for the letter body). Then I took the time (at my desk, between answering phone calls with my "good phone personality", no doubt) to actually compose the letter.

I presume, though I have no recollection of the actually gig, that it was like all the other boring jobs I had (at the computer component sales werehouse, the vitamin distribution factory, a day and a half at Rocketdyne before I called the temp agency and said, "If you send me on another government gig, I'll cut your heart out" -- or words to that effect). Mundane, repetitive, monotonous, pointless -- all designed to drive me loopy. Often, I expressed my loopiness in the form of bogus business letter to my friends and family. This is probably the only remaining example, as I'm sure everyone else tossed their long ago. But I do remember there were more than a few of these, and I went to great lengths to make them look authentic. Clearly, while my friends and family chuckled away at these little missives, they failed to see them for what they were -- a veiled cry for help.

Dear Ms. Sowards

We are sorry to inform you that we have accidentally turned your beloved older sister into a stereo component. We understand the grief you must be experiencing. There are no words which can bring comfort after a tragedy such as this. However, we at Emerson wish to offer you the consolation of knowing that your sister is a fully equipped Emerson 6000 PA, with Cue/Review Stereo Deck -- Auto/Manual Program Selector, AM/FM Stereo Receiver with LED Audio Output Display, match 20" Full Range Speaker System, and Deluxe Automatic Record Changer plus Matching Base.

Thank you for doing business with Emerson. If you have any questions regarding other stereo systems available, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Arnold P. Kravatz
Director of Personnel Accidentally Turned Into Stereo Components


The good news is that, now we live in the new millennium, where I have a job that, while somewhat worn out, does not drive me to utter madness, and also, where the presence of good psychotropic medications have become readily available by prescription.

Thanks for letting me share.


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