The Seinfeld-inspired holiday Festivus features the “Airing of Grievances,” as illustrated by a Washington Post story that we published on Sunday about the Festivus bulletin board in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where residents have posted dozens of notes with complaints ranging from the petty to the heartbreaking.
Today, Dec. 23, is the “official” celebration, but our readers observe Festivus year-round, as evidenced by the steady stream of letters we get from people wanting to vent their anger at the little (and not-so-little) annoyances in their lives. Most of these people seem to just be looking for a way to blow off steam rather than see their letters in print, because they come to us without any ID information at all (we received a number of these recently regarding the Westchester County budget).
Other letters will include the required contact information but be signed “Anonymous” or will include a request to withhold their name. An example came to us yesterday from an “Elizabeth A.” in Elmsford, who was fired up about the behavior of some kids in Pleasantville during Friday’s snowstorm:
“The kids, who were in a pack of about 20, were playing in the road and in the driveways, slipping and sliding around, using their bodies as sleds, as if Washington Avenue was an ice rink and, more importantly, as if the roads were there for their personal fun and games. . . . In my concern for their safety I approached the group of kids and advised them that it would be wise if they stopped playing in the street and in the driveways, that is wasn’t a safe play area given the weather conditions. I suggested that if they wanted to play in the snow they should relocate to the park (In good weather they do the same with their skateboards). In return I was met with jeers and was cussed at by the kids. . . .” This was followed by more criticism of “Pleasantville kids” and their parents.
Her letter may have been publishable had she been willing to give her full name (and thus bear responsibility for the subsequent wrath of Pleasantville residents), but without proper ID, and with her letter clocking in at 675 words, well over our 250 limit, she will have to be satisfied with the cathartic effects of firing off an e-mail to someone.
We also generally avoid issues where a specific individual or business is targeted, such as custody battles, consumer complaints, allegations of police brutality, etc., since we are not in a position to ascertain the facts in such matters, and don’t want to open our Opinion page up to personal feuds that are not of interest to the general public (nor risk being named in a libel suit). If we feel the topic is of public interest, we will turn the letter over to a news editor for possible coverage as a news story.
Or, in the case of a woman who wrote us in October, outraged at a local pastry shop for not putting the gold foil doilies underneath her wedding cakes like she had asked for, we merely consider it a “Festivus Miracle” that the reader apparently doesn’t have any really serious issues, like job loss or ill health, to complain about!