I have a phobia about greetings cards. Or, more specifically, leaving cards. Office leaving cards.
There is probably a name for the phobia. There are names for most phobias after all. It is probably a sub-branch of anthropophobia—fear of humans—or sociophobia—fear of social situations.
Perhaps I should clarify somewhat: I am not scared of the greetings card itself; I don’t mind the cheesy messages; I don’t mind the bad puns; or the chocolate-box artwork. The thing that frightens me is having to add my own personal message inside the card.
Spontaneity is not something that comes easily to me; when I am asked to perform a task, I like to have several weeks’ advance warning, preferably in writing. But office leaving cards are different. You are put on the spot; expected to come up with some witty phrase at a moment’s notice.
Invariably, I don’t even know the person who is leaving. Terry from Accounts; good old Margaret from HR; Ron from the Post Room; Samia, just finished work-experience: I have never heard of these people. It is very hard to summon up any kind of meaningful sentiment let alone perfect poetry in the face of such anonymity.
In such circumstances, I find myself just scribbling down the first thing that comes into my head. And then comes the anxiety. What was it I wrote? No, exactly what was it I wrote? Did I really write down the first thing that had come into my head? Did I write down something along the lines of “Sorry, never heard of you” or a blunter “Who?” or a more aggressive “Good riddance”. All those phrases had been in my mind at the time that I had been writing my message.
I chase after the person circulating the card:
“Sorry, do you mind if I…”
It is okay. I had written “Best wishes for the future”. Alongside everyone else. Safe; predictable; innocuous. Panic over.
Of course, it is much easier, when the person leaving is someone that I particularly dislike. In those circumstances, I have a standard response already pre-planned:
To #insert name#,
All the best for
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree is inordinately pleased when he achieves small victories.
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