Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why

Being an Officer

"The Dog Ate It"

These are some of the recurring excuses given by officers for failing to work:

"I Don't Have The Files Yet."
You never need the files to begin. In some offices you will find you never need the files at all. In some you will never get the files, and if you'll have to reconstruct the project anyway, it's time to start. If you eventually need the files (such as heralds certainly do), there are things you can do in the meantime.
"No One Told Me What To Do."
If you didn't ask, ask. If you did ask and received no instructions, make something up. If it's good and right you'll be a hero; if it's wrong you'll be informed.
"The Postman Hates Me Because I Get Weird Mail."
Probably not. If you believe it's true, get a post office box at a different postal station.

Gunwaldt Gulbjorn says "Bad officers make excuses. Good officers don't have to." People who cannot perform their offices should admit without excuses that they can't right now, and help find a replacement. It's more noble to admit you're unable to do something than it is to lie (even if only to yourself) and say you can, and that you are, and stall until the situation is really a big mess.

My nomination for the most oft-told lie in the Society is "I didn't get that letter." In over a dozen years of heavy office-holding, I believe there were three times a letter failed to arrive one way or the other. That's three out of well over a thousand. I've worked around people who claim to lose two out of three. If you end up working with someone who has a hard time getting letters from you, try these ideas:

  • Send two (or three) identical letters from different drop points. (Surely they'll get one.)
  • Use the return address of one of their letters as a mailing label (cut it out and tape it on the envelope) so it can't be said that you had the address wrong.
  • Always put a return address on your envelope. First class mail is returned if it can't be delivered. [Put the address on the letter, too. People might tear the envelope up or throw it away before they realize you haven't provided your address inside.]
  • You could send something nice in with it - a little gift. If they ever use or mention the gift they'll have a hard time saying the letter didn't come.

I do not recommend registered or certified mail for any routine letters. If the person has to go to the main post office and stand in a long line to pick something up, it had better be good. Two separate first class letters would be better insurance of getting something there than paying five or ten times as much and irritating the recipient in the process. If you're informing someone that his court of chivalry is in a week, then you might want to use certified mail.

If your goal is speed (such as a request for an insurance form, or an article for a newsletter) then use special delivery, or overnight express if you want, fax it if you want, but never ever send it so that it has to be stood-in-line-and-signed for. When I was steward I had it happen more than once that if the postman could've left the letter on Saturday he would've, but he had to leave a little yellow "come to the post office" paper instead and it was Monday or Tuesday before I stood in line to get the letter which I would've had on Saturday. By the time I got the letter, it was harder to be kindly disposed toward the sender.

SASE's (self-addressed, stamped envelopes) are not always useful for SCA officers. It might be nicer to send an envelope with the stamp attached with a paperclip. The officer might have computer-fed envelopes or stationery to use. The response might not fit in the envelope you send. [1] The response might better fit a postcard, or a phone call. If the stamp is not stuck to an envelope, it will be a welcome donation. If it is most convenient to use the envelope you've provided, putting the stamp on is not a problem.



[1] The best example of this is requests for information to the SCA registry/corporate office. They ordinarily send a recent issue of the kingdom newsletter, a membership form, stock clerk form, and a single sheet "Welcome to the Current Middle Ages." It'll never fit in a business envelope.

Copyright © by Sandra Dodd, 1991
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