Off The Hallmark

Walking home from work yesterday, I saw a new sign on the side of a building on Third Street, just across from the Ohio Statehouse.  I greeted the sign with an audible groan and a mixture of horror and resignation — horror, because I’ll now have to endure the building equivalent of a Hallmark card every day for weeks to come, and resignation, because that’s just the way the world is these days.

What’s next — a sign saying that “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” or maybe a picture of some cute kittens with a supposedly clever saying about work?

It used to be bad enough with greeting cards, where some anonymous writer labored in a back room to draft trite, generic sayings attempting to capture the sentiments evoked by important events like marriages, birthdays, and deaths, but with the internet and social media we’ve reached a whole new level.  You can’t go to Facebook or other social media sites without seeing some meme or posting that is like a bad Hallmark card writ large, and always with the “share if you agree!” command.  And now, apparently, even buildings are going to serve as platforms for vapid platitudes that presume to reduce complicated, multi-layered, quintessentially human concepts like friendship and love into a single banal saying that’s supposed to make us nod knowingly and perhaps feel a throb deep inside.

And what’s really appalling is that the tag line at the bottom of the sign is “#AMillionLittle Things.”  That’s apparently the name of a new ABC TV show that I won’t be watching.  But does that mean that, after this sign is taken down, I’ve got 999,999 more hackneyed sayings to go?

By the way, I don’t care if this is shared or not.

The Curious Attraction Of Refrigerator Magnets

Refrigerator doors are a large, empty canvas waiting to be filled.  You arguably can tell more about a person from careful study of their refrigerator doors than you can from looking in their medicine cabinet.

No refrigerator magnets?  Almost certainly a soulless, insufferable neatness freak, or perhaps an android hurled back in time to kill you and change the future.  A collection of brightly colored sayings about friendship purchased from the local Hallmark store?  Run away screaming, because you are about to be enthusiastically “chippered” to death.  Large, magnetized photos of the host and his family, with a magnetized mirror besides?  Time to reread the Greek myth of Narcissus.

Even in less obvious cases, the magnets can tell you a lot.  Does the person have very nice, sturdy magnets that they’ve purchased or cheap magnets they received from the dentist’s office or the dog boarding service that can’t hold up the weight of a fly’s wing?  Are the magnets richly decorative, or strictly functional like shiny binder clips, or a mixture of both?  Do the magnets tell you where the person has taken a recent vacation, or give a glimpse of her religious beliefs?  Do they hold up kid art from your sentimental host’s now fully grown children?

Of all the detritus we accumulate during our lives, nothing is quite so evocative as our refrigerator magnet collection.