"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stray marks on paper

I always hated "fill in the bubble" type tests. Even in elementary school, the idea that you had to make perfectly round dark dots with no stray marks that the computer couldn't read made me crazy. I secretly admired the smart-alek kid in fourth grade who, when told to go over his dots with a "fine tooth comb" took out his comb and raked over his completed paper. The paper of course tore. The teacher seemed to come apart a the seams a little too. The kid is now a medical doctor. Good on ya.

One year, in frustration, I just filled out the dots on my test willy nilly, making stray marks wherever I liked. I got called into the office for that one and was forced to fill in a new test form. I hated those tests even more after that day.

Government forms are the same, with their warnings of "do not write below the line"... no stray marks, no creativity, fill in the dots and be done. Do it right or do it over. Our way or the highway. Thanks guys, for caring.

Even little check box forms that don't come with dire warnings aren't really very interesting. As an undergraduate, I earned some of my tuition money doing data entry for the admissions department. As clever as high schoolers think they are, there are really no computer programs to encompass their wit, remarks, and petty rebellions. Care not to share your racial background? Data entry will just record you as "white" since there's no place in the computer for "not telling." (Its a reasonable guess; nobody in America has less ethnic pride and fewer scholarship incentives to reveal their race than the middle class white kid.) Got an interesting hobby you want to share? The data entry slaves might get a kick out of it, your card might even be passed from one workstation to the next, but after that it goes no further. There's no computer entry for your witty little hobbies, your unusual characteristics. Cookie cutter or nothing.

As a culture we begin to ignore little relational things, stray marks on a page. Growing up in the computer age, the age of stranger danger, the fill in your bubble and keep your head down era, we've stopped admiring the artistic goofiness that is the person next to us.

Christmas shopping kind of gets to be the same way; buy off the rack, enjoy the cookie cutout gift, smile, spend. Do it all next year. Y'all know I'm working at getting outside of that, digging deeper... and in doing so I found an order form (for slippers and other warm fuzzy things) that read as follows:
SHEPHERD'S FLOCK'S OFFICIAL ORDER FORM (Footnote 1: says "As opposed to our “unofficial” order blank which is whatever piece of paper you can come up with. We are people who can read (as long as it is
legible). Avoid things like toilet paper, paper towels, etc. as the ink bleeds. “Post-Its” with the order details attached to your check are quite acceptable.")

Ha, stray marks with a sense of humor. Its not every day I find an order form that I read out loud to my husband before sending it in. (For the curious, the rest is here, in PDF format.)

What followed are a series of brief exchanges in which I learned such things as: the guy that makes my slippers owns a cat, has an interest in politics, and think rabbits are too much work. Further search of their website shows an appreciation for stray marks on a page along with a significant portion of society who seems to also enjoy making stray marks, being creative or just downright goofy. I don't doodle on order forms (mostly because all my drawings look like the rabbits made them) but those who do show their humanity, their reality.

And our conversation started simply because I responded to his postscript with a postscript of my own... He wrote to tell me my order was shipping, but he wrote (and I read) below the mythic line. Signature line: "It is so darn hard to do email with a cat sitting in your lap" enticed me to talk to strangers, to reply "PS. Its also hard to email with a rabbit on your lap." And a stranger replied, related, and became a former stranger.

The slippers I ordered are warm and well made... but its the stray marks on paper that last longest.

1 comment:

  1. I saw a talk given by the guy who started Amazon. On TVeeee! He said they really don't like to get money, but they just had to take the order that included payment in cash from Czechoslovakia. It came in a plastic CD case. The order was in the top part where the CD is supposed to be. Along with the order was a note that said that the payment is underneath because the customs officials steal money but they can't read English. The Sage knows this as "thinking in the bottom of the box."

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