Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Thirteenth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

Gosh, fellas. Who woulda thought, only a few short years ago as I wrote you my first letter, that we’d need to get all the way up to letter number thirteen? But here we are.

I have felt, for a number of years now, that you might not be reading any of these letters that I so graciously spend my time and energy writing you. That was mostly due to the utter lack of response I have received from you. I see now how wrong I was.

Foolishly, I assumed you would respond to my helpful business advice with a civilized letter, a phone call, or maybe a nice note on your website. But it seems you are the petty, passive-aggressive type. You have chosen to take my sincere and constructive criticisms with a malice that was never present on my end. And you have chosen to take the low road; responding not to me, but instead, viciously attacking my children’s self-esteem.

Well, not all of them, actually. For some reason – probably rooted deep down in your brutal, calculating business core – you have chosen to retaliate on the weakest member of our herd, the youngest – Son Number Three.

Have you no shame? Have you no decency? Or are you going to claim innocence in this matter and try to convince me that you don’t have anyone in the building who can spell common English names?

No, I’m not talking about “Schmatjen.” That’s not common, or English. I mean, I think we can all agree that Schmatjen is a ridiculous last name. I expect it to be misspelled. I can’t even spell it correctly myself half the time.

But given the last name, we purposely gave all three boys traditional, easy-to-spell first names. Not like my parents, who doubled down on the crazy with Marc instead of Mark. We decided to give our children the gift of only needing to explain the spelling of their last name.

And yet, here in my hand is the class picture you produced. And there’s my youngest son, smiling sweetly in his cowboy hat and red bandana. (You may recall from Letters Eleven and Twelve your culpability in that make-up picture day costume extravaganza, which, by the way, may have either ruined our Christmas tradition of framed school portraits for the grandparents, or made it infinitely more awesome, depending on if you ask my wife or me. Guess who won that argument? Thanks again for that, jackasses.)

Anyway, there’s his smiling face… and there’s his “name” under his photo. Yep, there’s our son, Josepm Schmatjen.

Josepm? Seriously?

Congratulations. You got “Schmatjen” right, but couldn’t seem to pull off the easy first name. If this isn’t a backhanded attempt at retribution, then please tell me what’s going on over there.

Did you guys think my son was a nocturnal Hispanic child with a cool nickname?

Who’s coming over tonight?
Jose PM. We’re going out for another late night on the town.
Oh, I thought Joseam was coming over.
Nope, that kid’s always in bed by seven.

Or did you outsource the “Kids’ Names Below the Pictures” department to India, like you probably did with your call center? The reason I ask is his classmate Abhaijeet’s name is spelled correctly. Do you have some underpaid guy in a tiny office in Mumbai still trying to grasp all these crazy American names? “Timothy” is still a mystery, but to him, “Chhailbehari” looks like “John.”

I really don’t know what you have going on over there, but since you never reply, I’m forced to speculate. Given the deterioration in our relationship, I can’t help but think this might have been personal. I sure hope it wasn’t.

Hey, I just had a thought. Maybe I’ll send Son Number Three back for retakes dressed like a lifeguard with white zinc oxide on his nose. With a slight tweak of his already misspelled name I could use your free picture services to launch his career as Joe SPF, sunscreen model.

Let’s talk.


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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