Hot Links
Message Board
Article Archives
APS Application
AFDCS Application
APS Chapter Homepages

Message Board Home Bookstore Links

Behind The Scenes at the Philatelic Passion Play

by Lloyd A. de Vries

Every so often, something blows up in a stamp collecting organization of which I'm an official, and my wife asks, “You do this for fun?

It's gotten to the point where she doesn't even have to be in the room, doesn't even have to know about the latest flak; I hear her voice in my head. “You do this for fun?

Oh, it happens in some of the music organizations in which I'm involved, too, but not as often. You'd think with all the pressure involved with performing, there would be more blowups there, but, no, I guess putting stamps away in albums or on envelopes is more stressful than hitting that high A, in tune, with everyone in the band listening to your solo.

It would be easy to blame it on the Internet: After all, any jerk with a computer and an Internet account can go on Facebook and say nasty, untrue things about you. Heck, you don't even need your own computer and Internet: You can go to the public library and use their computers. But it's been going on since long before the Internet.

More than 40 years ago, as a high school student, I sat stunned in a band parents meeting as the group's president and vice president, a lawyer and a doctor, “pillars of the community,” screamed at each other until they were red in the face — and then kept going.

I don't remember what the issue was, but it wasn't very important. (In my story for the next day's local paper, I brushed it off with "After a spirited discussion....")

We live for our avocations.

About a decade ago, the American Philatelic Society engaged a public relations/advertising agency to promote both the hobby and the organization. It came up with the slogan “We feel your passion.” The agency workers were amazed at how strongly stamp collectors feel about things others consider relatively unimportant.

It's not even just leadership issues: I've seen the passion stoked by plans to change an organization's logo or whether the group should take PayPal.

I have a theory: For so many of us, our day-to-day lives are mundane, maybe even boring. Ah, but in our hobbies and avocations! There we are important, there we have an opportunity to make a difference, there we are somebody!

Plus, collecting stamps or playing music or raising funds for a high school trip is what we'd really rather be doing, not moving paper from one side of the desk to the other or sweeping out the bus aisle. Our hobbies are also part of our identity: “My son's soccer coach” or the “lady’s auxiliary president”, rather than “this insurance agent I know.”

Most of us will work for 40 years, often in the same field. While there may be a progression within that profession, after awhile, the job becomes routine. The excitement of going to work wears off.

Most of us accept that. We get our vocational joy in our avocations.

“My day job? That's just what I do for money. What I really care about, though, is...”

And when something goes wrong or, worse, not as right as it could, that passion turns to anger.

Maybe it’s worse in stamp collecting because so much of what we do has to be precise: The measurements of a perforation, the alignment of a stamp on a cover, the date on which a service was performed. Sometimes the so-called “flyspecks” really do matter.

We philatelists have to learn to lighten up. There are times I want to grab stamp collectors by their throats, shake them, and scream, “IT’S A HOBBY AND IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN, DAMMIT! SO HAVE FUN OR ELSE!”

Then I stop and take a deep breath.

LloydBlog Index

Virtual Stamp Club Home Page