At the post office a few days ago, I asked the clerk for a stamp appropriate for a sympathy card. She offered me this:


While I’m a fan of both Joe DiMaggio and baseball, I had to refuse this choice.

Again, I asked the clerk for an appropriate stamp for a sympathy card. Here was her next choice:


Did this woman not understand the meaning of “sympathy”?

Despite the long line of hot, disgruntled people behind me, I asked to look through her battered notebook of stamps. She said she had to show me the stamps. Again, I asked for a stamp for a sympathy card — this time amending the statement to include, “You know, for someone who has died.” I think this was a poor choice of words. Did the woman think I intended to send the card to the deceased? That was a long, long way for the card to travel, with postage much higher than an insured box of Christmas gifts sent to Japan.

Feeling the impatience of the people waiting behind me, I said, “Just give me a flag stamp.” The woman shook her head, telling me I’d have to buy a minimum of 20, which I didn’t have enough money to purchase. Finally, in exasperation, she said: “Just let me meter it.”

I couldn’t believe the coldness of this woman — a sympathy card with a metered strip for postage? Talk about bad taste. When I told her no, I had to have a “real” stamp, she turned to a page with this stamp:


The butterfly stamp was, of course, the perfect choice for a sympathy card. Out of curiosity (not cheapness), I asked why the stamp cost 65 cents (did some of the proceeds go to butterfly conservation?), and the woman told me she didn’t know. Anyway, I bought the stamp, put it on the sympathy card, and mailed it. The butterfly is a symbol of the psyche, of metamorphosis, of reincarnation. I send my good thoughts and good wishes to you, Judy, across the universe.