I’m an Overworked Letter Opener in the Annual Giving Office


It’s the end of the fiscal year, and I’ve had it. Do you know how hard I work day in and day out opening business reply envelopes? It is mind-numbing, soul-crushing, tedious work. Sometimes I go home at the end of the day so brain-dead that I accidentally thank my partner, the pre-eminent blotter, for making dinner by saying, “Your gift makes a difference.” Once when my little paperclip was bent out of shape about not being elected student council secretary, I responded, “Any size contribution helps.” You have no idea what it’s like to be me.

My life has been reduced to vapid fundraising pitches like “Give a gift of a lifetime” and “Scholarships change lives.” My end-of-fiscal-year anxiety is so debilitating that I have reoccurring nightmares of Sally Struthers’s Ethiopian children’s campaign. I’m haunted by her angry, shaming and pandering speech: “If these children do live past the ripe old age of 3, they’ll end up living in dung heaps like this. Happy birthday.” I wake up screaming, “No, not the children. Give today! Your gift matters!”

When I need some positive self-talk, I tell myself, “Remember the day you opened the letter from the lawyer? The widow Hogg died, leaving her entire estate to the college as an unrestricted gift!” I hate to be happy about someone dying, but it was a great day in the annual giving office.

However, by June 25, I’m not sure I can go on, and I want to quit. I look at the stack of envelopes delivered by mail services, and my anxiety rears its ugly head. Is someone going to be a jerk today? I mean, I am really sorry your son was kicked out of the college for smoking weed on the commons. Yes, yes, I know; he said he got kicked out because a professor was out to get him. Like I can do anything about it.

I take a deep breath with every envelope I open and contemplate, “Is this one going to have a penny taped to the reply card because some douche bag thought it would be funny to waste postage and get a thank-you letter for a penny?” All right already. I know you hate the administration. FYI, everyone hates the administration.

Please don’t think you are giving us a “real” gift by sending us another pamphlet informing us that we’re going to hell if we don’t find Jesus. By the way, this is a public institution, and we aren’t allowed to discuss religion. And please, no more Family Circus or Ziggy cartoons, either. For the last time, they are not funny. They weren’t even funny in the 1970s. No one even knows what they mean. At least you people could be more creative by sending vintage Zippy the Pinhead or an R. Crumb Keep on Truckin’ strip.

When I cry on the phone to my mother about the working conditions, she tells me this too shall pass. Why couldn’t I have gone on for my Ph.D. instead of getting an M.F.A. like she told me? Nobody believes it is a terminal degree. Doesn’t anyone care that there is no such thing as a Ph.D. in studio art? If I had earned a Ph.D., I’d be in the president’s office right now leisurely opening invitations to other presidents’ inaugurations. Or perhaps I would be chuckling at the FOIA requests from the conspiracy theory–driven professor asking for all the senior administrators’ salaries and detailed budgets. (It’s all online!) I imagine wistfully cleaning the fingernails of the receptionist who sits day after day monitoring the president’s lady doctor visits and ensuring that her supply of yogurt and granola bars never runs out. That would be the life.

I’m not as mad as I am sad. Even though I look like a knife, I would never be violent. I’ve heard of letter opener accidents before, but I think paper cuts are more prevalent. It goes against my principles to want anyone bleeding red and white. (Why would anyone think bleeding your school colors would be a good thing? Sick, sick minds.)

This is all I want for letter openers everywhere: please make your gift online and don’t wait until the last damn minute. Our system is so old it might crash (again), and then we’d be screwed by the auditors. They won’t let us count a gift for the current year if it is not in by midnight on June 30. Seriously. I don’t want to explain why you aren’t getting your baseball hat giveaway either. Make your gift by June 30. Oh, and I also want world peace.


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