Thank you for not missing the Website Review

I don’t know about you but I’m just about thanked out.

The wellspring of gratitude and appreciation that flowed from our guilty consciences yesterday was enough to put anybody flat on their back. There’s just something about being a grateful person that makes you incredibly sleepy, seeking the nearest couch on Thanksgiving night for a much-deserved nap.

Scientists tell us that certain chemicals flood our bloodstream when we thank and honor those to whom we are indebted. The same hormones that prompt us to choke up when football commentator Howie Long thanks the troops and to make small talk with the uncle who gave us $5 every birthday eventually start to back up in the brain, prompting an overall feeling of fullness and, ultimately, coma.

Showing genuine humble emotion toward loved ones when we count our blessings tends to wear you out. That’s why I audit my assets and honor them with appreciation only twice a year — at Thanksgiving and on Tax Day, April 15.

Now I’m ready to go back to the old way of doing business, living in a whirlwind of meaningless, pre-scripted “thank-you’s” offered solely as a way to evoke a certain behavior, usually getting you to leave the premises. These are the devalued, distorted expressions we encounter a hundred times a day, the ones that have so removed the true meaning of gratitude that when we feel the real thing, it gives us a very bad stomachache.

My son and I made a drive around the neighborhood yesterday afternoon, because we always get a kick out of seeing roads emptied and businesses shuttered on major holidays. It’s kind of a fun preview of what he might expect when he drives around with his son some bleak distant day in our dismal economic future. “Your grandpa and I used to exchange script for services in these burned-out storefronts,” he’ll tell young Davis the Sixth. “It’s a lot like how you find roots and berries to eat, except you do it online and we had this thing called bricks-and-mortar.”

Even McDonald’s was closed Thursday, despite the fact that in desperation you could’ve molded a super-sized order of fries into the shape of a small turkey, or perhaps a hassock for that cousin you weren’t expecting at the dinner table. As we circled the parking lot to get a closer look at this rare sight, we saw the signs that direct customers through the take-out operation. The first stop, at the big board of burger pictures, simply says “Order Here.” The second stop has a sign which reads “Thank You For Having Your Payment Ready,” a directive poorly disguised as a polite request. Finally, when you pick up your order at the last window, the sign reads simply “Thank You.” What they really mean at this point in the transaction is “Be Gone!”

I get the same feeling at the automated car wash. There’s a large electronic sign that guides you through the steps in the process as you pull your car into the stall. There’s “Please Enter,” a clear enough signal that you drive into the bay. There’s “Drive Slowly,” “Stop” and even “Back Up” for those who have moved beyond the proper position. When the wash begins, you see a different series of signals, such as “Wash,” “Rinse,” “Underwash,” etc., apprising you of the progress of the operation. Finally, there’s a brief moment of silent inactivity, at which point the sign flashes “Thank You.” This is their friendly way of saying you’re done, though I imagine some dimwits may sit there a while awaiting further instructions. I have a feeling that if you don’t move it within ten seconds, that you get one which reads “You’re Through, Now Drive Away by Pressing your Foot on that Narrow Pedal on the Floorboard.”

Another insincere use of the “Thank You” comes at the large warehouse shopping club. Some of the purchases come in containers too large to put in a bag, which is the traditional way of showing that you’ve paid for the product. So instead, a bright orange sticker gets affixed to the box saying “Thank You,” which is secret code for “This Item is Not Being Shoplifted.” Innocent enough at the time, perhaps, but a little disconcerting when you face several weeks of having a tub of cat litter thanking you for God knows what every time you need a rake.

Finally, I’ll mention the forced gratitude you’ll often see on the fields of sport. I used to play a lot of tennis on the public courts when I was younger and, though I was far from good, I was generally skilled enough to keep the ball within the court. Occasionally, you’d encounter a twosome on the next court over that had difficulty controlling the trajectory of their ball, probably due in part to the fact they were wearing jeans, street shoes and half-drunk expressions. As their tennis balls dribbled from their court onto mine, they’d call out “thank you” as a signal for me to stop what I was doing and retrieve their miscue. Once, a young girl was so wild that she put her ball over my court and over the ten-foot fence next to it. “Thank you,” she called out to me. “No, no,” I responded, “thank you.”

She had obviously been well-trained by her parents to express appreciation when someone did something nice for her. I’m always amused by the teaching technique most moms and dads use when socializing their kids on this critical component of human interaction. The nice man in the sunglasses offers you an ice cream cone if you’ll come into his windowless van to help him look for his missing puppy, and your mom stands there and asks “What do you say?” Most children learn pretty quickly they’re being prompted to offer a shy “thank you,” though a fortunate few respond “should I really be doing that?”

By the way, thank you for not noticing that this is supposed to be a Friday Website Review. To get by on a technicality, I did check out several sites on the subject of thanks.

There’s one called thanks.com, whose home page reads “The spontaneous thank you: Such power it wields. To awe. To rally. To cheer. And to Motivate. But well-timed spontaneity takes planning. We’ve done that part so you can do the fun part.” As you might guess, this is a business set up to take the annoying and inconvenient element of sincerity completely out of the act of an employer showing gratitude to an employee. For a minimal fee, you can generate the “instant certificate, a quick and easy way to turn your heartfelt sentiment into a frame-worthy expression of gratitude.” This can even be customized with a personal message (like the person’s name, typed in all caps), then printed out in your own office in seconds. You can also buy tangible gifts to show Ingrid in accounting how much you appreciate her overlooking that Spectravision charge on your last expense report. For $12, there’s an origami goose, contorted in much the same way as the actress in that PayTV movie. Or, for a little more, you can get caramel candy apples dressed up in tuxedo packaging, or a customized footstool imprinted with the inspirational urging to “Reach Higher.” Or, you can stock up for any number of future needs with an $18 cache of “appreciation buttons,” including “Wizard of Awe,” “Wow Factor,” “Big Kahuna,” “Grand Poobah of Great Ideas” and “Hello My Name is Fran Tastic.”

The site thank.com offers thank-you cards, notes, letters and gifts. They include convenient templates; for example, the proper way to express appreciation for a recent job interview, where you simply print out a sheet and hope that your potential boss’s name is “Mr. or Mrs. Blank.” They offer other sample letters as well, though this part of the site was temporarily unavailable when I tried to look (thanks for nothing). You can also order funeral cards and memorial plaques from thank.com, though I’ve always thought it a little forward to thank someone for dying.

At thankyou.com, there’s a rewards program where you can earn points toward tomorrow’s purchases with today’s. What stood out for me here was the Testimonials section, letters written by satisfied customers who bought tires, rented a Cadillac for their Nashville vacation or “finally got that meat slicer I’ve wanted for some time.” Another writer says they also have great customer service, which goes so far as to suggest if you don’t have enough points for the item you want, you can make up the difference in cash.

Lastly, just for fun, I checked out nothanks.com. It bills itself as a “lifestyle resource” and includes such features as Christian dating, where I imagine “no thanks” gets said quite a lot.

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2 Responses to “Thank you for not missing the Website Review”

  1. bknister Says:

    You and your son did well to visit the vacant places. Did you go to a mall parking lot? These are especially moving on Thanksgiving. All that’s there are the cars of hapless flunkies who ate processed turkey sandwiches before punching in, then spent Thanksgiving trudging through the aisles to post SALE signs in the cavernous wastes soon to be scenes of commercial carnage.
    The idea–coupled with thoughts of the novelist Cormac McCarthy–led me to write the latest posting on my new blog, justbillandthemister.com
    I hope you’ll pay a visit.
    Barry Knister

  2. fakename2 Says:

    I just can’t thank you enough for this post. I now know what’s been missing in my life–a meat slicer.

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