I met Eric (aka eta55) last year, when we were both invited to talk about Postcrossing for the Transatlantic Educator Dialogue podcast. During our conversation, he struck me as a really interesting person, so I wanted to bring him to the blog for a spotlight interview. Enjoy!
- How did you get started sending postcards? What is your earliest memory of them?
I have always been interested in correspondence. My uncle served in the Marines, and he used to send me letters from when he was deployed overseas. I thought it was amazing to get a letter from a foreign country when I was a little kid! I really never knew very much about postcards though. I knew they existed, but never really sent or received any until I joined Postcrossing.
- How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?
I read a news article about it somewhere, but I don’t remember the source. That was in the fall of 2017. I then encountered a teacher during a holiday gathering who was using it in her classroom to get her students engaged with other cultures. Our encounter inspired me to pursue it further, and I joined Postcrossing in January of 2018 and have been enjoying it ever since.
- Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!
Here is a photo of my mailbox:
It is out here in the real world, hungry for postcards!
The post office I use most frequently is a nondescript little shop front in a small strip mall on the way to work. Not particularly photogenic, many post offices in America are not, sadly. It has a postmaster and one clerk. The bulk of the cards I have sent have gone from there, so it has been instrumental in my involvement with Postcrossing. The postmaster got covid in December 2021 and was in and out of the hospital (very dedicated woman, she kept returning to work too soon and they had to call an ambulance for her twice!). She was a long termer, and was struggling throughout January 2022. I reached out on the Postcrossing forums and asked for postcards to be sent to the postoffice for when she returned to work and welcome her back. She got over thirty well-wishing cards from all over the world, and the next time I came in she told all of the customers they just had to wait, and went through each card with me in tears. Another story of Postcrossing and the power of loving gifts to strangers. I am pleased to report that she is doing much better now, back to her old self, and hand cancelling all of my postcards with glee every time I drop by!
- Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.
I can’t show you a picture of it, because my favorite postcard is always the next one I will receive! There is hope and love and potential coming to my mailbox, and each card has a unique message, and very often a delightful image. Each one gives me the opportunity to go learn about the person who sent it, and to explore where they live, and learn more about our world. Each one creates a connection, even if only fleeting. Someone sent me a little gift a few days or a few weeks or even a few months ago, and when it comes today, that will be my favorite.
I do have favorite topics. I am always moved when I get a battered, scarred card that has fought its way through to me, often after a very long trip. I recently got a card from a postcrosser in the Bahamas, it had taken over two years to get to me from an island in the ocean about 750 miles away. I messaged the sender since it could no longer be registered, and they were delighted to hear that I had finally got it! Another connection! I always like to get meetup cards, because they mean that a group of postcrossers has actually crossed the gulf between sender and receiver and gathered together to celebrate each other and these connections. I met a group of Irish postcrossers via a couple of virtual meetups and I got a really special card from them recently. A few weeks ago a group of them travelled to Spain to attend a wedding of two of their group! So the Irish meetup card from the wedding in Spain I think really speaks to what I love about this hobby!
This is an impossible question, really, each one is my favorite!
- What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?
Hard to pick just one thing. There is the joyful anticipation of walking out to the mail box, for sure. I think what I really like best is the little puzzle of finding a way to spread some joy to a particular stranger. You draw an address, and you have no idea of who it will be or where they will be located. Their bio and their favorites may provide you some ideas. Then you have to find the right card, and the right stamps, and craft a message to create a little package of a present all on a postcard. Sometimes you decorate it. I think another really joyful part of the process is the “hurray” messages. When you find out that little piece of cardboard that you released into the chaotic universe actually made it across oceans and continents and into the hands of another human that you don’t really know, and that they were glad to get it and that it brought a smile to their face! The fact that can actually happen, over and over again, thrills me every time!
- Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?
If I asked you to guess the country I’ve received cards from that has the shortest average travel time, what country would you pick (keep in mind I do receive cards from my home country)? I think most anyone would say in the U.S, you’d receive quickest from the U. S., right? Nope. That average receipt time is 10 days. I got a card from Rwanda (my only one from there) in eight days! Wouldn’t you love to know the story behind that trip? My only other cards (officials) from Africa have come from South Africa, they average 36 days. How did that Rwanda card get here in 8 days? That’s the shortest trip from anywhere I’ve received cards from!
- Is there anything else that you are passionate about?
I am passionate about dogs. Of all of the creatures I have interacted with, they are my favorite.
I am passionate about science and the accumulation of knowledge. That is another keystone of the way forward. I am always delighted to gain an understanding of how things work!
I am passionate about the Constitution of the United States of America. It is an imperfect document, to be sure, but I believe it provides a template for the best way forward for humans as a race. Democracy is a messy business, and it is hard and requires dedication. Finding a balance between individual freedom and what is best for the group writ large is always a compromise. We have to continually work at it. I have to say as well that we (Americans) are not always very good at it.
I am passionate about communication. I am fascinated by the ways we go about it and it is utterly astounding to me that we are able to effectively communicate at all. We each experience the universe differently, our senses themselves often differ in capability, and yet we still are able to somehow bridge that gap and share ideas. That is nothing short of amazing. In that vein, I would offer that I am passionate about poetry.
Beethoven. That music speaks to me in my bones.
What excites me? What am I most passionate about?
Margo. My partner, my lover, my friend. Above all Margo.
- Do you have any other interesting hobbies or collections?
My wife likes to say that I collect hobbies! In no particular order:
- I am a birdwatcher, so in a sense you could say I collect birds, or at least observations of them.
- As a retired sailor, I love to visit beaches and lighthouses, so I collect those images and experiences.
- I am gradually building a Lego city in my basement; the patterns of pieces and construction techniques intrigue me.
- I collect rocks and tumble them. There is both a tactile and science/knowledge component to that.
- I play chess, and have a small collection of chess sets.
- I have a collection of submarine first day covers, as well as other ship first day covers, mostly sailing ships.
- I have a small collection of fountain pens.
If I had to summarize the nature of my collections/hobbies/interests, I’d have to say that I collect knowledge and experiences, and that I have a fascination with patterns, in many dimensions and modalities.