Tape Pals

I called the post office this afternoon with a complaint. It’s not the first time, or the second, or the third or the fourth that I’ve told them that my mail carrier is ignoring the tape mailer that I put in my mailbox for her to pick up. I asked, “Have you stopped the service of picking up mail that people leave in their mailboxes?” The answer was no. Then why does she keep ignoring my outgoing mail? “Is it out where she can see it,” they ask. “Of course it is. It’s sticking out like a tongue” I replied. “She is tucking the mail behind the tape mailer, so I know she has to be able to see it.” The tape mailer is a plastic envelope, which holds 2 cassette tapes. There is a clear plastic window on one side with an address card that you flip over and reinsert when you want to send it back. Many organizations for the blind have used this method of sending out communications for years, that is, until say the 1990’s, or the turn of this century. For me, when email finally got into my vocabulary. I no longer receive tapes from the Library for the Blind, because now I download them into my lap top or my iPhone. But there is this one friend of mine, John, whom I met at the Seeing Eye back in 1982, who still enjoys a tape-pal correspondence with me. Maybe he tapes to other friends, but I doubt he’ll find anybody else with the patience to keep this up. In fact, I’ve often wished that he’d join the 21st century and just email with me, but there’s something about sitting down with a tape recorder and chatting to the microphone that is appealing to him, and I guess therapeutic for me. Sometimes, when I haven’t seen a human being in a couple of days, I welcome the chance to talk to a friend, even though I know he’s not going to get this monologue for a few days. It’s almost like writing an old fashioned letter.

John and I have never seen each other since that July in 1982, when we were both at the Seeing Eye to meet our first dog guides. Ours is not a romantic relationship, but we know a lot of things about each other that we don’t share with just anybody. Of course, the main topic is how are dogs are doing, but we also talk about our kids, our friends, and news of our daily lives. This relationship started at the Seeing Eye, when we were the only 2 left at the table having coffee, when all the others had jumped up and run off to their rooms or to groom their dogs or whatever. John and I seemed to be the only grownups at our table, the others being college students, and we found we had some things in common. It seemed like a good idea to start taping letters back and forth after we returned to our respective homes to see how we were doing as handlers of our wonderful dogs. He lives in Wisconsin. . When I get one of these tape mailers, I know that I’m going to be in for a nice long chatty letter. One of our shared interests is music, particularly the old standards and musicals. Sometimes, John allows the former radio engineer in him to come out, and he plays some of his music for me, especially if I’ve mentioned a particular song in a previous letter.

All this is very old fashioned and very very low tech, but the only snag seems to be my mail carrier. Maybe she doesn’t know what a cassette mailer is? It’s possible that that’s what the problem is. Maybe she sees it and wonders what the heck I’m putting in my mailbox. If it isn’t an ad or a catalog or a bill, then why is it there? But doesn’t she see the address label? And didn’t she just deliver it to me last week?


2 thoughts on “Tape Pals

  1. Don’t get everyone started on Post Office stories or you’ll never get away from the keyboard! I found the best thing is e-mail to regional supervisor

  2. Hi Mary, I was looking for hard plastic cassette mailers used to send cassette tapes for the blind and happened to come across your website and your story about tape pals interested me. I run a tape club called TRACC (Tape Recording and Conversation Club) and there are still 58 of us who still send tape letters. Many of our members are blind and or handicapped and most do not have computers so the old fashion way of communicating is still in existence. We have blind members who send their tapes to sighted members and sighted members are being told they have to pay for those tapes being delivered to them. I am fortunate that I have a mail carrier that understands I get tapes from the blind.

    I write a newsletter called “Key Notes” and would like your permission to copy and paste your story on Tape Pals. I most certainly will give credit to you in the newsletter. I just want to let members know of your dilemma and that they are not the only one that has a problem with their mail carrier.

    Barbara J. Wear
    Secretary to TRACC
    email: clownlady61@yahoo.com

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