#50 – Writing good letters is a dying art.

Cannot remember the book but the author claimed that he had been told that if you write about sex and money, the book will be a winner. It makes sense but I cannot remember if you have to write about both sex and money or if you can handle them one at a time.

But in this case, only the topic is sexy. This column is about writing good letters and money. That is making money, saving money and having fun while doing it. If you can learn to write good letters, you are going to be richer, for sure. Whether you get more good sex or not is not in question at the moment but there is no reason why not.

There must have been hundreds of times over the years that the wife has come home and said: “We need one of your letters.”

There is a clear meaning to that statement. This is not a chatty letter to Aunt Sally she is talking about. This is a crafted letter to deal with a situation. Whether she has gotten a summons from the police or it is a concern of a neighbour, I am expected to solve it with one of my letters. It can be about getting a new engine for her car after the warrantee has expired, a refund for a can of beans from the grocery store or asking a neighbour to cut down a hedge blocking the view at the corner of the street.

But it is not an imposition. The wife knows I love writing letters of this type. She knows I keep score and, as of today, it is still better than 90 per cent for the good guys. Back when I was paid to teach people how to write good letters, I used to tell them why I could park free anywhere in Metropolitan Toronto.

Recently, the city released the book of reasons for squashing parking tickets. There was nothing secret about that book. If you have never taken the trouble to find out about the why’s and wherefore’s of charges for traffic or parking offences, you deserved to pay for them. What I am talking about is a ‘get out of jail free’ laissez passer for standard parking offences. This means expired meters, ‘no parking’ signs and the myriad of purported offenses you can commit with your vehicle on city streets. Now, I hasten to add, this did not include being a scofflaw about ‘no stopping’ areas, handicapped parking, and infractions such as blocking driveways. It does not include stupidity.

It all started because of a common error made by people who forget to think. You can see the problem every night on the CTV news at six (until somebody smarter than average tells them). That weather guy who can never hold a candle to the old Dave Devol, stands there in front of graphics that show 12 am and 12 pm. And you wonder what this confused person is talking about?

It amazes me in surveying people, how many think 12 am is noon and how many think 12 am is midnight and the very few people who tell you there is no such thing as 12 am or 12 pm. Recently a very nice and obviously educated young lady gave me a very firm lecture about why 12 am meant midnight and I should just get used to it. That shut me up until I found someone else in the same room who swore that 12 am meant noon and so I introduced him to the young lady. There was a match made in heaven.

But this is why for so many years, I parked free in Toronto. All it took was one of my letters to the parking authority. It turned out that my letter was given to a very fine gentleman who loved my letter. He loved my letter so much that he called me, gave me his phone number and told me about my free parking for as long as he was at the parking authority. He was young, in excellent health, enjoyed his job and wanted to make sure that a person who could write such a high quality letter always felt welcome in the City of Toronto.

Recently, when in parking in Toronto, I noticed a sticker had been applied over a parking sign. Where the sign had previously said ‘no parking until 12 pm,’ it now said ‘no parking until 12:01 am.’ My friend must have finally convinced the sign making people that accuracy matters. That was all I wrote about.

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