Update — Good news! Reader Scott Hall, who owns a card printing web site called, offered to print our Christmas cards for less than FedEx-Kinkos would have charged. Only a few hours later my cards are now literally in the mail. Thanks, Scott!
Tonight I walked into the Fedex Kinkos store on Calhoun Street here in Charleston, SC to print our Christmas cards, only to have the clerk, Tammy Johnson, reject my order as obscene.
We Cringelys are known for our Christmas cards, I admit, because we make them ourselves and we’re naked. The tradition began by accident and now our cards are so popular friends remind us to send them. Making naked Christmas cards that are tasteful isn’t easy, either, but we do it. With three little boys you can only go so long until they begin to realize they are, well, naked. That leads in our family not so much to protestations of modesty as to demands for bribes. The price of this year’s photo session was $2 worth of sour gummy worms per kid. Yum.
This is the second year in a row we’ve been rejected by Kinkos. “I remember you, ” said Ms. Johnson, handing back my USB drive with a look of disdain. It was hard for me to tell whether this was a different look of disdain from the one I got when Ms. Johnson had to put down her cellphone to serve me in the first place.
I appealed last year’s rejection to the store manager, a man. After all Kinkos — the very same Kinkos — had happily printed our cards the previous four years. We were posing last year in a fishing boat, wearing life vests, strategic shadows, and nothing else. “I see something there, ” said the manager, pointing at what would have been the groin of my six year-old if it hadn’t been well-hidden behind a light on the boat.
“What do you see?” I asked.
“You know, ” he said.
“It’s a navigation light, ” I said.
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s green, ” I said. “It’s a green navigation light.”
Our cards show nothing. They are just for fun. Summer vacation photos that families print at the same store show more — lots more — than our cards ever do.
When we were rejected last year I was working two days per week in San Francisco, so I had the cards printed there at another Kinkos, South of Market. I told the whole rejection/obscenity story to the pierced and tattooed San Francisco Kinkos counterman, who found it hilarious. He threw-in a few extra cards for free.
The U. S. Supreme Court allowed years ago that obscenity standards could vary based on “local values, ” but such values have to be uniformly applied. If a Fedex Kinkos in Charleston will print a picture of a girl in a bikini or a boy with his shirt off, then they should print my Christmas cards.
I’ll be calling Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, in the morning. If enough of you tell your friends about this column before then, maybe Fred will be expecting my call.