The Things We Think About When We Look At Cards

The Kevin James comedy special, “Sweat the Small Stuff,” always cracks me up. And it’s hard to ignore or forget the final segment of the special, the part when he talks about choosing cards. It’s the absolute truth, the process. I can only speak for myself in regard to this card shopping dilemma, but it’s certain there are others out there dealing with the same issues.

Not only does my indecisiveness present itself with card debates, but it is apparent with other items as well. Clothing. Music. Movies. Food. You name it, and you’ll find me internally debating and sometimes suffering. I’ll walk around the store, and the indecision to get whatever is in my hands will burn furiously in my mind. Sometimes I’ll buy an item, but most times I’ll replace the debated item. Once it’s been sitting in my hands for so long, the reality of not needing said item(s) is realized.

But, when it comes to buying cards, we — the exception being the maniacally desperate — don’t necessarily shop for ourselves. Sure, thought processes and personal sense of humor could make or break a decision, a purchase, but the card receiver may not have the same preference.


The pick-something-quick folk, however, get in and grab and get out just to simply fill the void and complete the errand. Some people literally look through every card. There are those who spend forever trying to find the perfect message out in the crop of pre-written inscriptions. Often, exclamations such as, “Why can’t this be in this card, bearing this picture?!?” Such is life. There are the rebels, the people who know that perfect messages are few and far between, and head directly for the blank stock, which is held in a section you can find me in the majority of the time.

Judging a card by its cover is allowable.

Face it. The best pre-written cards are sympathy cards. When faced with a loss, the there are plenty of us that question ourselves — “I don’t know what to say” or “I cannot find the right words” — in times of duress. That extra biblical quote or sentimentality can add that pizzazz in lieu of those personal, honest feelings for a family whose loved one has passed.

The worst are happy birthday and holiday cards; the cliche is printed on thick. If you don’t know how to write Merry Christmas — as a ’tis-the-season example — well, don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for you. The printed two words come at a cost, because there really is no such thing as a free lunch. Where every cliche is the same, every person is different.

And then there is everyone else around you.

It’s hard to ignore the other card searchers and gazers. You wonder about the grandparent buying cards, the single man or women with three birthday cards to choose from. There are plenty of other possibilities as well. The curiosity is there, the wondering about each chosen card’s purpose, where each is going and why. And there is definitely judging concern when a person opts for a card that you picked up and put down, why — after you considered said card as mundane — this other person picked it up and deemed it as “a keeper,” throwing it in their basket or cart.

The art of cards, letters is a lost art. Cursive/Script is no longer taught in school, and our ability to legibly write is regressing. And a letter, a message is more valuable with the personal touch. We’re so fascinated when we come across old letters, and we’re entertained with the messages. Why not keep it going?

Oh, it actually takes time.saywords

There is always a possibility for interaction when card shopping. Tell a person they are in the wrong section and bring them over to where you were, showing them a section that is filled with the better options. You don’t need to give them a card to tell them — the tone of your voice says a lot — that everything, here in this section, will make their decision making process better. These cards will not make the process easier, because there are too many good ones to choose from. Alas, the lost soul has been pointed in a direction.

Last week I had picked up a card for a friend, who was having a birthday party days after her actual birthday. Since I was in the neck of the woods, I stopped by the Erie Boulevard Barnes & Noble. Of course, it was packed with people, and Christmas music was playing through the speakers to get everyone in the spirit. But it was odd that at this moment, I did not feel as if I was in Syracuse. Deem it as an out of body experience or mental fart, but it just didn’t feel like I was “home.”

I was venturing around the card aisles, but had to weave in and out of people getting in my way. It’s not as if they were just standing around talking, but this refers to the folk who are in the middle of trying to figure out what they hell they want to do, and so they stop suddenly; you have to be paying attention to not run into them. And if the random sudden shopper stoppers are collided with, it’s you who has to apologize.

But there was a glimmer of hope in the card decision making. When you see someone attractive, and you hope some conversation starts in the card section of all places; ergo, communication. In this scenario there is positive thought regarding her having the same card humor or appeal. If it were possible: take into account the cards that she picks up are something you would pick up as well. She’d probably judge my choices as well.

And then the moment comes to ask her to dance; but it’s not actually asked, and it’s not actual dancing. The passive aggressive actions are as cowardly as “wallflowering” at a middle school dance. It’s time to shift to another aisle to look at more cards and kind of hope she would follow. But it doesn’t happen. But at least the window is there to look up and glance as she walks by.

And bashful smiles are exchanged. The card shifts in my right hand before tapping against my left.

4 thoughts on “The Things We Think About When We Look At Cards

  1. I can absolutely identify with your indecisiveness. It haunts me in pretty much all facets of my life. Sometimes I turn things over to the humorous side of myself and buy a card that makes absolutely no sense, and hope the receiver of said card “gets it”. A Christmas card for a summer birthday, a Hanukkah card for a wedding, a “Happy 2nd Birthday” card with cute dinosaurs on it for an adult. Of course this only works in certain circumstances…

  2. And I make matters worse by liking to buy CHEAPSKATE cards to boot, Chris. That really puts the pressure on, trying to stick to the lower-priced aisles. I do like the idea of crossing out Happy Birthday Grandpa and writing in Congratulations on Your New Job with a Sharpie, though.

  3. I almost always get blank cards and write my own messages. Or I get the generic ones, but for the wrong person. Example: Happy Birthday, Grandpa! would be purchased for a graduation party and then edited with a permanent marker.

    Welcome back to writing on the blog, by the way.

  4. Chris, from the slim pickings I’ve seen in the card aisle, I wonder if the “sentiments” are generated by a software program.

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