Oh how we’ve missed our Letter Writing Club over the past year. The thought of twenty strangers gathered around a long table, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, sipping tea and chatting freely, seems like something from another life. In that life, on the first Thursday of every month, since September of 2005, we have been opening our doors to welcome letter writers to this free event. Some come to diligently correspond with their pen pals or relatives, others come to reminisce and reacquaint themselves with a feeling of days gone by, and even more come, young and curious, ready to try something new.
At six o’clock on one of these evenings, we lock our doors and spend an hour transforming our Vancouver store, while a little line-up of eager letter writers begins to form. We install one long table down the centre of our shop, surrounded by 20 vintage chairs, a typewriter at each, and some rubber stamps scattered around to decorate envelopes and personalize letters. On our front counter we arrange an array of writing paper & envelopes and a station with tea & cookies. At seven o’clock we open our doors to the patient crowd who filter in, taking a seat to get acquainted with their machine. If there are regulars in the crowd, they lead the way to the front counter to gather supplies, but more often than not, the entire group, having never been before, sit politely waiting to be told what to do. “Come help yourself to paper and get to work” we say.
There is something special about typing on a typewriter that our digital devices haven’t been able to recreate, something charming and more human about spelling mistakes and a linear thought pattern, un-editable in many ways. There is no delete or backspace or inserting a word where one wasn’t, and your fingertips sure take a beating. But there are advantages to the effort it takes, as it can surely be felt by the recipient, just ask someone who has received a letter lately. In a time when creating an image of perfection seems like an ubiquitous goal, we encourage embracing mistakes, highlighting them, fixing them with a red ‘x’ and starting your sentence anew. After all, trying to get a perfect copy on a seventy-year-old machine with its fair share of quirks and idiosyncrasies is near impossible, and we think, beside the point.
Although it could be awhile before we gather again indoors, we can’t wait to hear the cacophony of machines click-clacking away and the sound of happy letter writers with us once again.