You Are Here #2: My #covid19correspondence
Inspired by Carvell Wallace. Written on Dec 19, 2020.
This quarantine, I received a letter from my first ever pen pal.
In April, two typewriter accounts I followed announced that they were sending letters to anyone who wanted a typed letter in the mail. They were one of the few accounts I was weekly tuning into on Instagram, back when folks were jumping on Live to fill in the void of the digital pandemic world. The two typewriter guys (Garrett and Aaron) would hop on live for an hour every Wednesday, discussing a topic related to — of course — typewriters. There would usually be about 16 of us that tuned in, fellow typewriter enthusiasts that were interested in cleaning tips or learning about the history behind these portable machines.
These guys never showed their faces, just their vast and varied typewriter collections. I liked Garrett’s voice and his soft-spoken, thoughtful contributions to the conversation every week. I asked him for a letter and in June I received a red envelope in the mail with type that reminded me of paperback sci-fi books.
Words cannot express how excited I was to receive his letter. There were five pages of gracious, sensitive, and intelligent notes that I poured over. He mentioned that he was an avid biker but was being careful not to ride out as much to avoid using precious medical resources. I had mentioned that I love children’s books and haiku writing and he sent recommendations. I quickly took out my small stash of stationery to type my response back to his thoughts.
I put it in the mailbox and patiently awaited a response. June passed by, and so did July, August, and September. I eventually gave up waiting on a letter response — also, a painstaking note about mailed letters is you’re NEVER quite sure if it was actually received by the recipient or not — and we just sent brief messages in passing via Instagram Stories a few times since. I assumed that he had way too many letters to respond to (I believe he had over 80 folks who had requested his pen pal friendship) and carried on with life. Every so often when I passed by a cyclist on my walks, I would wonder… was that Garrett?*
On October 8, I saw a post by Aaron (the other typewriter guy) regarding Garrett.
My heart dropped. Why do thoughtful, considerate, kind folks seem to pass away so quickly? I immediately did some Googling and saw an article by Cycling Magazine that honored Garrett and his kind, thoughtful, considerate spirit. I read posts by friends and acquaintances who told stories of the ways that he went out of his way to give them his undivided attention, mail them pieces (for free) that they needed for their typewriter, and how he became a humble expert in the things he was interested in (car mechanics, biking, and typewriting being a few of them). I learned that he was an engineering major in college but then switched majors to pursue English, becoming a journalist in the process (hence his feature in Cycling Magazine, one of his jobs).
I think of him sometimes when I ride my bike through town. I still don’t know how he passed away, or what caused his sudden departure. I hope he wasn’t alone when he did, or that he wasn’t left long. There’s still so much I don’t know about this person but I’m thankful that we got to cross paths, even for one letter. Even in his passing, he inspired me. He pursued what he liked and what he was passionate about. He was kind to folks who were strangers and went beyond by offering what he could to help them. He made time to share his knowledge on his passions. He found a way to connect with people during the most isolating time in our recent history.
And for that, I am thankful. Rest in peace, Garrett.
*Little did I know that Garrett was Asian! And 40! I had assumed him to be a white male in his 30’s, ha. As I assume most typewriter and cycling enthusiasts to be, I guess. Who knew.