Waiting for the right moment on the porch

When I was young, I lived for baseball. Since I was in Michigan, that meant a preoccupation with the Detroit Tigers.

I was the only fan in the house. Though we lived far from Tiger Stadium, I was able to talk my dad into one or two games a year. Seeking to maximize the experience, I sometimes chose double-headers, which he gamely attended by my side.

Early one spring, I analyzed the schedule of 81 home games until I found the one I wanted to attend; a summer matchup against the Red Sox. We called and purchased the tickets, which arrived a few weeks later. Every couple of days, I pulled the tickets out of the envelope just to look at them, counting the days until July.

The night of the game, I walked down to my dad's music store, tickets in hand and Tigers cap on my head. He was closing up for the day and I was bouncing off the walls with excitement. He asked if I would help out and drop a utility check in the mailbox at the end of the street. Happy to have something to do, I grabbed it and ran out the door.

The second the mailbox door swung closed, I knew something was wrong. I looked in my hand and saw the envelope I was supposed to mail. What I didn't see was the envelope with two tickets in it.

I opened the mailbox and stretched my skinny arm as far as I could through the opening, hoping to feel the top of a large pile of mail. According to the pickup times on the box, the day's last pickup had happened about an hour earlier.

I ran back to the store where my dad was on the phone. He had never seen me look so desperate. He hung up quickly and I blurted out, "I mailed the tickets!" The first pitch was two hours away.

Phone calls to the nearby post offices and even our mailman friend, each one starting with the same, brutal summary, "Well, my son just mailed our tickets to tonight's Tigers game", proved unsuccessful. We concocted various schemes, such as utilizing gum and a coat hanger to empty the mailbox of its contents.

Finally, my dad called the stadium. A few transfers and retellings followed until he found someone who offered a glimmer of hope. He said, "Let me check, just a second."

He put his hand over the phone and looked at me. "Do you know what seats they were? They're saying that if we know the seats, they'll let us in and as long as nobody else shows up with the same seats, we'll be okay."

No one could've been better prepared to answer this question. I had stared at those tickets for months. The section, row and seat numbers were clearer to me than my sisters' birthdays.

We drove to the stadium and found the Will Call window. My dad did the talking, but the man at the booth looked at me and smiled. "So, you're the kid who mailed your tickets, huh? Here you go."

The seats were great, as was the game. I had fun telling the story when we got home and many times after that, but my dad never did. He would wince at the memory of my face when I returned carrying the wrong envelope.

To this day, every single time I drop something in a mailbox, I look at it twice to make sure it's the right thing, including every postcard and envelope that went to Uncommon's founding members and, I'm sure, the ones to come. No matter how the story ends, you never forget losing something that matters to you.


Last week's dispatch asked, What's the title of the film about your life?

Andrew wrote:

You Know What's Interesting?

Julie wrote:

Never Did Enough

Brad wrote:

Striving for Quality

Cassie wrote:

Where's Cassie?

Matt wrote:

Exploring the Repeatable: In Search of Statistical Significance

Rok wrote:

The Waves of Opportunity and Passion. Surf movie researching the power of perseverance and optimism even in times of "washing machine" wipeouts. And the calming quiet sunsets beyond the velvety surf after the storms.

Jen wrote:

This is quite a difficult question. Don't think I can find a blanket title about my life; my life is too big yet too small, too important and insignificant at the same time. Would just go for untitled if that does not count as cheating.

Uncommon reads

Dear Emma by By Mark VanHoenacker:

Many of us who are online tend to blame the ease and speed of the Internet for our staccato attention spans. Yet some things remain more valuable simply because they are hard to do. Handmade gifts, home-cooked meals, letters. Letters take time to write and mail. I realize now how easily such value attached itself to the words themselves, and how naturally it graced a growing friendship. The vagaries of the Postal Service also gave pen-friendships a unique pace, simultaneously relaxed and anticipation-filled. The only indication of receipt, after all, was a reply. When a letter arrived I would treasure it for hours, waiting for the right moment on the porch or by the fireplace to unseal what had traveled across seasons, the Pacific, a week or more of my life.

Facebook is bad for you from The Economist:

When the researchers analysed the results, they found that the more a volunteer used Facebook in the period between two questionnaires, the worse he reported feeling the next time he filled in a questionnaire. Volunteers were also asked to rate their satisfaction with life at the start and the end of the study. Those who used Facebook a lot were more likely to report a decline in satisfaction than those who visited the site infrequently. In contrast, there was a positive association between the amount of direct social contact a volunteer had and how positive he felt.

Be brilliant, Be beautiful, a speech by Caterina Fake:

We are exhorted to sate the urges of the millions, their sloth, greed, pride or lust. We are told that this is what will make us a success. This is a deadly cynicism, which we must fight. Because the internet is a medium, it doesn’t care whether it transmits love or hate. It is what we build and who we are that make it what it is. We can build things that diminish our humanity or build things that bring us to human flourishing.

Your turn

Is there something you've lost that you've never forgotten?