“I can’t believe these stupid things are so expensive,” the young man said while half-heartedly fingering through the multihued seaway of greeting cards. “They expect us to pay five bucks for a folded piece of paper and like five sentences.”
I took a chance.
“I know what you mean. It’s about a buck a line,” I said and then leaned into another way of thinking. “Seems like a lot, although, some of these cards say some pretty poetic things. Some are pretty deep.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he said seemingly unsatisfied by my comment.
“I wonder how many folks depend on these things,” I continued, “because they couldn’t write anything close to what’s in these cards even if their lives depended on it.” I reached for and scanned one of the cards pretending to read it. “In fact, I’ll bet some have found their lives hinging on one of these things. Maybe even some marriages here and there.”
He didn’t respond this time. That’s when I noticed he was eyeing the anniversary cards.
I took another chance.
“Happy anniversary,” I said and reached for another card.
“Yeah, thanks,” he said.
“How many years?”
“It’ll be four on the fourteenth.”
“That’s great. My wife and I will be celebrating our nineteenth this summer.”
I took one last chance.
“I don’t admit this in public too often,” I spoke, “but I write poetry for my wife.” He shifted a little and reached for another card. “Maybe instead of buying the card, you could try doing something like that.”
“You mean, like, ‘Roses are red and violets are blue’?” he said without even looking in my direction.
“Well, something a little more substantial. Something more from you. Something better than what’s in these cards.”
I could see he was considering it, although he continued to peruse and lift cards from their slots.
“Maybe you don’t really even need these cards,” I continued. “Maybe you can do what they do.”
The conversation, more or less, ended there following a little more small talk which led to the young man leaving the card section empty handed. He was intent upon trying to write something of equal caliber.
In my opinion, when he stepped away from those cards, he maneuvered toward his doom. I say this because of the more precise mark at the heart of the chances I was taking with the conversation, which was to point out that so many will be swift to criticize the tariff for a greeting card, and yet they are completely unable to fashion and communicate the utterances therein. It takes skill to write these things. And in my opinion, to disregard this is similar to taking your loved one out for dinner and then criticizing the meal’s price tag even though the chef has prepared and presented something far beyond anything you could have ever created.
In other words, if you can write it yourself, then skip the card. If you can prepare the meal yourself, then skip the restaurant. But if you can’t, then pay the price and know that either way, your loved one will receive it as a genuine act of kindness given in love from you not its creator.
You should know that as I was leaving the store, I noticed the young man was back at the card rack and searching diligently. I believe that he’d reconsidered the challenge and determined that five dollars was a pretty reasonable price to set upon an eloquent expression of his love.
In a sense, the same goes for whisky. More than once have I been standing at the foot of a whisky array and heard someone disparaging the cost of the editions displayed, saying that they’re not worth such a payout. And yet, based upon all that goes into any or all of the bottles before us, how can such a statement be valid?
Take for example the Benromach Organic edition.
Not only does the label of this wallet-pinching bottle communicate it as having been “handcrafted at Speyside’s smallest distillery by just two men using the finest Scottish organic barley and the purest spring water from the nearby Romach Hills…” but the contents affirm this relatively simple statement regarding the artisan effort invested in something that is now being enjoyed 3,500 miles from its birthplace.
The nose is that of a very mild chocolate peppered with cloves and entombing sweetened nectarines. On the palate, there is freshly baked bread thinly draped by vanilla and crusted with molasses taffy. The medium finish is a bit enigmatic, although it suggests most notably a remnant of the bread, now slightly toasted and anticipating a swipe of Nutella.
Can you make this in your basement? Well, with all of the advances in home brewing and distilling, perhaps you could. But would you be successful in matching and exceeding this? To most contestants, I would say, “I seriously doubt it.”
And so we pay to acquire something that we cannot generate of our own selves and we know is so much more than a beverage. And we share it with others perceiving that they will appreciate the generosity as well as the collegial experience around something you’ve given in love that is well above the level of “any ol’ dram.”