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July 2017

The Great Crayola Controversy


This past week, Dear Husband was clearing out his desk during the final days before he got out of the Pen:  Retirement after Federal Service.  And he found The Crayola Letter in his Humor File.  He excitedly called to tell me of his re-discovery.  He was so happy.  I told him that I know I have copies of this letter in a file somewhere, along copies of the phoney announcement of the passage of the Americans With No Abilities Act.  I took that paper farce to be 100% real in the mid-1990s.  “Now They’ve gone too far!” was my response to that one.


The Crayola letter was written by me in response to what I immediately perceived as an advertising scam/promotion to one day “bring back” Crayolas in their Classic form.  What stuns me is that I was watching news, and NBC in particular.  I must have been switching the channel  (back in the day when the Knob turned the channel on our Zenith tv with rabbit ears with aluminum foil on them) and I caught sight of the worry-wart Garrick Utley.  My tv-viewing, then as now, was quite intentionally limited to just a few shows.  My favorites then were:  Mr.Rogers, Wall Street Week in Review, Paradise.


On the flat-phone-device, Dear Husband mentioned to me the impeccable typing of this letter.  I felt very proud!  The statement reminded me of the fact that Word or Pages or any computerized creation of letters cannot produce the immaculate look and warmly spontaneous emotional effect of typed words on paper.  It’s almost as if the person is “talking” to you.

I used to own (and use) 2 IBM Selectric-II typewriters, a cocoa-brown one and the lovely mid-tone blue one.  I purchased them at yard sales in the early 2000s.  (Yard-sailing with the kiddies was a weekend sport.)  The linen closet, however, started to demand storage of more and more linens and things:  blankets, bedspreads, bedsheets, towels, bath mats, tablecloths, table toppers, Easter bunnies, July 4th Radiko freedom bell ornament, summer melamine platters and plates, The Great Pumpkins and Lesser Pumpkins, the Thanksgiving Turkey platter (that I call Elvis), the smaller Christmas decorations (I have given Dear Husband a 10-day waiting period between the time that he first sees Sentimental Item in Crafts-Store and he buys it).


Furthermore, typing supplies, especially those highly-prized, if not coveted (I have known typists to steal them) Correction Tape spoolies became increasingly difficult to find, so the IBMs got given away.  I now long for not just a huge linen closet, but a Writer’s Room with typewriters!  The things, however, are now worth a fortune!


Which goes to prove my point of The Crayola Letter!  In the USA, advertising is an original creation!


To return to the pristine quality of the typed letter and its types of letters.  The words “typeface” and “font” are often confused and even incorrectly used interchangeably.  Font is a subset of typeface.  In purely visual terms, font refers to the technical aspects of the type of “face” used, as in size, italics, or bold.  Typeface is the visual style (e.g., Times New Roman, Geneva, Helvetica).  These terms come from the the olden days of setting type, or type-setting, and their true meanings have become garbled and somewhat lost.  Perhaps they will be re-discovered, like the Crayola Letter!


Computerized printing from Word and Pages and the like cannot produce the place where the typist chooses to break the lines.  There was a rhythmic timing to it.  The decision by the Secretary, in making the break in the lines, and whether or not — and where — to hy-phen-ate (thus correct spelling and pronunciation were vital signs of the Secretary) — that command decision was akin to a dramatic exit!  Stage Right!

This work is not easy and it is not without its consequences.  I wore the fingerprints from the tips of my fingers from so much manual typing.  I did not realize the by-product of producing so much hand-typed product until the Feds needed prints for my security clearance.  Poor Mr. Sawyer, the Security Officer.  This little guy in charge of Security felt a bit embarrassed, asking this sweet little blonde girl, who surely could not be involved in any skullduggery, for yet another set of prints.  The FBI in D.C. though was starting to wonder.  On the third try for a full set of prints, Mr. Sawyer set down his cigarette and asked me why did I think I had no fingerprints on the tips of my fingers.


The unspoken question of course was: Did you have your fingerprints removed as part of a life of crime?


I firstly stated, “Well, you know I’m from New Jersey.”


Nervous laugh.


Clearly, I wasn’t helping my case.  I then explained that my fingerprints were likely rubbed off from the tips of my fingers because of the typing jobs I’d been doing for at least a decade (starting with high school term papers for students who would not touch a typewriter; I charged by the page and really cleaned up, both money and typing skills).


Mr. Sawyer nodded and set down his cigarette in the nearly-filled ash try.  “Let’s try further up the finger.”


I agreed.


The black smudges got sent to D.C. and I finally got my security clearance.  Mr. Sawyer was much happier than me about this development!  I was several more steps into the Federal Maze of Bureaucracy!


The word, Lifer, loomed large in my head, in large, boldface typed letters!  In point of fact, I was Career-Conditional, and I so dearly wanted to stay that way, Conditional, that it was only 2 days before I retired myself from the Pen that I became Career.

And then I started a few new careers!  Dear Husband remained On The Job, though, or jobs, since the Federal Government changed in rather unfortunate ways over the course of the past 25 years.  This Federal civil engineer was forced to shift gears and switch agencies and re-orient his engineering expertise, more to facts and figures and the flow of water, with and without fish; and away from the paper-pushing process of the Life-Cycle-Project that proved for some engineers to be as suffocating as the title sounds.  I know some of the pertinent facts of those projects which, at first-sound, struck me as a brand of dog-food.


One point of fact is the double- and triple-standards that replaced real standards in the Federal Government.  The facts of my life, of my existence, probably along with those magnificent fingerprints, apparently vanished — poof! — when I attempted to become a Federal Contractor.  The fact that it was I who helped Dear Husband to procure his civil engineering position with the Feds, and not He that was helping me to bid for a contract — that fact was annoyingly ignored.  But, it was the 90s, those wonderful 1990s when anyone and everyone excellent and ethical, especially former Federal employees, had to prove they were not conspiring, colluding, conning or cashing in — to get a U.S. government contract.


Appropriate became Inappropriate.  Inappropriate became Unimpeachable.  It was almost a controversy.  I could have colored it with crayons.  Crayolas, in fact.


I had to make a federal case that Debra Tanis was there at the Federal trough long before Dear-Husband-to-Be showed up:


Nope:  I am not going to hyphenate my last name to prove I once was “Tanis.”


Nope:  Nepotism is not how I work or operate, write, edit or even type, although I could write a book on that quaint family tradition in the Federal Government.


Yup:  I provided the Vacancy Announcement for Future-Dear Husband.

Provision of the SF-171 was part of the highly-qualified-junior-engineer-placement program that I, a lowly Federal Government Employee, so nobly instituted because this dear boy was not moving along very quickly in the dating department.  I had to make my move!


And you bureaucrats really should make the move of paying me a finder’s fee for yet another young civil engineer who will work for peanuts for the U.S. Government instead of going for the Big Money at a private firm.  I have to personally thank Betty in Personnel, who did owe me a favor, but you also owed her a favor.  (Not that there is any favoritism in the Federal Government!)  I hope Betty has made her move by now too!


Dear Husband also made his move, more than once, in fact.  He filled the vacancy of several announcements, and of so many big boots, that I can now write with Crayolas across the sky blue sky — in huge midnight-blue letters:  HE’S MY CONQUERING HERO.  He won’t admit it, publicly.  But that modesty is a major portion of his talents.  He now moves from Club Fed to the Executive Suite of Working Out of The Home Office, and I promise to teach him all the skills he will need to learn for extra-ordinary success.

It’s a skill, knowing when to make the move and when to make the break — with words!  The typist by habit but also by innate talent knows just when and where and how to best space out words.  She knows how to almost aesthetically place not just the words horizontally on a page, but vertically too.  There are rules and rulers, diagrams, charts, examples and gauges and formulas to use, but the best secretary instinctively knows the Art of the Typed Correspondence.


The work of typing a letter was once an art form, and the secretary was the mistress and master of many tools and trades and techniques.  Those skills began during childhood, coloring with Crayolas!  They then advanced to the drawing board of typing letters to the Board and to the Bureaucracy, sometimes to the Colonel, sometimes to the Chief-of-Whatever.


One fact that was very clear to me during the Air National Guard letter hoax of the 2004 U.S. election cycle was that Dan Rather did not do much typing.  The first thing I noted about that fake transcript was the typeface and font were pure Word Processor Production, not from a manual or electric typewriter whose keys would have created a far different look to the “letter.”  The typing of that bogus note was inconsistent with the timeframe of that phony event, presumably 1972-1973.  To make factual matters worse, the letter was in proportional font!  Another news hoax in the can!  Dan never was technically oriented.

At the bottom of the Crayola Letter, the “cc” to “Every Mother That I Know” included one mother who asked me if the letter was serious.  Yes, without a doubt!  This woman was sure the surging hormones had gotten to me since I was pregnant at the time that I penned this one.  No, it wasn’t the hormones; it was the huckster aspect of the Media shilling for the Corporation.  And this was in 1990.  We all know how things have “progressed” since that date!  And I never did hear back from Garrick Utley, may he rest in peace.

As for Crayolas, yes, I still love them, but I use the Crayola Box now to store lipsticks.  So does Dear Daughter!


Without further ado, The Crayola Letter is presented below.


P.S.  By the way, I really did save those three crayons, securely wrapped in tissue paper, and I gave them to my son when he was in kindergarten.  I can assure you that Dear Son did not use a Jungle Green crayon as he struggled through Jungle Math!


And I do notice that the period should go inside of that parenthesis, not outside of it.  Oh well, I have my all-day morning sickness to blame.