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Column by Jaakko Selin: Airmail

Article published
21.6.2014 at 07:58

This postcard depicts a Concorde supersonic aircraft. Feeling emotional, I am browsing through the postcards found among my late grandmother's belongings, all sent from my travels around the globe. Her lifetime spanned such wonders as the building of the first automobile, the invention of television, and men landing on the moon, but she never got to fly. And I never boarded a Concorde.

Wistfully admiring the picture, I remembered how we two often used to talk about what a technical wonder Concorde was. Those conversations are probably why I had sent her that card from New York, the legendary aircraft’s main destination.

Hang on – why, then, did the card have a postmark from Kouvola, a small town in south-east Finland! Why on earth would a piece of mail dated in New York have been sent from Kouvola, which, if my memory serves, has sometimes even been voted Finland's least attractive place?

Wait a moment... I do remember why. They were selling pretty postcards at the airport in New York, but I couldn't find anywhere to post them airside. I had the same issue in Los Angeles – the entire airport was devoid of mailboxes.

Why on earth would a piece of mail dated in New York have been sent from Kouvola?

That’s why this postcard travelled on with me all those years ago, awaiting my next stop, which ended up being in Kouvola, where I found a letterbox on the street Hallituskatu. My gran was a sharp lady, but she never let on if she'd noticed the discrepancy.

I have always sent plenty of postcards to everybody. They are particularly highly appreciated today, in the age of electronic messages. It still seems, however, that my actual mailing of the cards often gets left to the last minute, which usually is at an airport. In a sense, I do plan ahead, though – I always try to find out which side of the security checkpoint at any given airport on my route has the mailbox. They may even be lucky enough to have a proper post office. Quite a few airports still have those.

Take Faro, for example. On the spur of the moment, I had bought a silver angel pendant for a friend from a shop in the Old Town and left it there to be engraved. Naturally, I forgot to collect it later. I was fortunate to find the receipt in my pocket at the airport, complete with the shop’s address.

I just headed straight to the airport post office to buy an envelope and a postcard. I then drew a picture of the pendant on the card and drew an arrow after it, followed by my address. I made sure also to include the word ‘obrigado’, Portuguese for ‘thanks’. Finally I slipped a 10-euro banknote in the envelope and mailed it.

A week later, the pendant had already reached my home, waiting for me in the letterbox. Perhaps because the postcard bore an image of the Pope...

I'm sure my friends reading this column are now going to go through all the postcards I've ever sent them and wonder where they were REALLY sent. So I’d might as well confess to one more trick here.

The summer before last, I went on a grand tour around Greece but didn't want to bother looking for postage stamps beforehand. Yes, this once again meant having to take care of things while at the airport. You wouldn't believe how hot it was at the airport in Corfu, so very hot. There was a small metal post box airside, but, unsurprisingly, there were no stamps to be found anywhere. So, all 20 postcards shared my flight back to Helsinki.

I must say I'm a lucky guy, because I know some air hostesses. I took the cards home, after which Anja carried them to Athens with her the following week. She simply dropped them into a post box on Syntagma Square. Thank you very much, Anja.

Singapore Changi Airport has been named as the friendliest airport many times over, and it is indeed nice enough to keep us postcard-lovers in mind. Their post office on wheels is one of the best airport inventions ever. A tiny orange electric car has been upgraded into a cute and clever little post office with racks full of postcards, FDC envelopes, and postage stamps. A lovely lady in a postal service uniform drives the car around the terminal, stopping it near you and suggesting that you write a few words – send someone a postcard.

Perhaps most importantly, she also carries something the lack of which is often behind those cards not getting sent – a pen that’s in working order, of course.

Text: Jaakko Selin. Writer is a journalist who focuses on fashion and travel writing.

Why not send someone a postcard?

What could be nicer than traditional holiday greetings arriving directly at your front door? At Helsinki Airport, you can mail your postcards by dropping them in one of the many light orange post boxes found in the check-in area of Terminal 2 and at gates 13, 26, and 32. Postage stamps are available at R-kiosks (in T2's check-in area and at gates 29 and 32).