A day in the life of a student mailroom worker
I am a student employee in CNU’s mailroom.
When people hear this, I usually get exasperated groans and one of three questions asked:
“Can you pick up my package for me?”
“Why has my package not gotten here yet?”
“Why do I always get the email right at five each day?”
As this is my third year working here, let me tell you, these questions get old quick.
There are a lot of misconceptions with working in the mailroom. Some people believe that we do nothing all day and just do our homework. Some people believe that we are too slow. Some people even believe that we are deliberately keeping their packages from them.
But that is just not correct.
While we are able to do homework once everything is done for the day, most of the time we are actively working. Not only that, but we are working as fast as we can. We get up to a few thousand packages a day, and that is just a normal day. In the beginning book rush, days after the holidays and after weekends, we get exponentially more than that. So, while one package is easy to do, it gets hard when it is multiplied to the volume we actually receive.
In addition, it takes a lot longer than people think to get a package from the delivery truck to your hands.
Once we first get the familiar call of “the mail is here,” we immediately have to go down to the back of the DSU and unload it into massive bins. Once it is upstairs, we take every box out individually, and we write the person’s name and box number on each package according to the label. This is the main reason it is so crucial to have your correct name when you order. If your name is incomplete or is any different than your student ID, we need some sort of tracking confirmation. We are a small school, but so many people have similar names, especially when nicknames are used. Also, including your box number greatly streamlines the process because we can easily take it to the right window and do not have to sift through every possible combination of your name to find you.
After being “numbered,” the packages get loaded into carts and boxes to be taken to students at the front windows. These students have to log into the system each package by where its from, what type of package it is, whose it is and any special characteristic it has. These special characteristics range from too small for the shelves, too big for the shelves, perishable and name issues. Each have a different place in the mailroom and requires the student to make special notes for the shelves.
Once we have finished a few crates or a cart, we then print labels and shelve the packages. Unfortunately, since there are so many different characteristics and a lot of students on campus, the mailroom is often a maze of shelves with packages everywhere. With this, it is easy for some packages to get placed in a spot where it should not be, especially when we are doing so many other things at once. While this can be frustrating, it is easily fixed when we do our “combing” and check every package on the shelf.
With everything away, we can send the infamous emails that notify you of your package, but it has to be in batches and we have to take a few minutes between each to let our computers process it all. If we don’t, the system likes to crash and either sends duplicate emails or none at all. This glitchy system is why people get emails so late in the day. Unless it is book rush, we usually do not send emails anywhere close to 5 p.m. I once somehow got an email at 3 a.m. the next day.
In addition, while all of this is happening, we are also intermittently logging out the packages to you and the rest of campus. We have to ask for so many box numbers and to see so many IDs that I start losing my mind. I can’t fathom how many times I have asked someone for their box number while holding their package or asked them for their ID while already holding it.
With so much going on, it is easy to get overwhelmed and go a little crazy, especially since we are also students who have messed up sleep schedules, crazy amounts of homework and other organizations.
Not to mention, this does not include any of our other work with doing inventory, cleaning, the actual letter mail, the boxes, any questions, any administrative tasks or mailbox keys. Speaking of keys, if you are a freshman who has not picked up your key, it is still waiting for you on our shelf, and it wants to go home.
While it is a lot of work to be a student in the mailroom, it also has a lot of benefits. On the logistical side, our work is right on campus, we have a set schedule and we never work weekends or past 5 p.m. But on a deeper level, we also get along really well with each other and have an amazing boss. The person whose name is on each email, Shauron Wright-Russell, is one of my favorite people. She is super caring about everyone, really understanding and extremely humorous. Furthermore, she is honest and is never afraid to tell you as it is. Without her, the mailroom might literally be in shambles.
So, in conclusion, a lot goes on in the mailroom that is not seen, and we are often overlooked. My coworkers and I do a lot, and I think the negative stigma of the mailroom is not fair to us. I’m not asking for you to love to come to the mailroom or to give us any special acknowledgements, but I am asking that people are more respectful and appreciative of us and what we do. While we are often what is standing between you and your package, just think, without us, what would you do? How would you get your packages? How would you get your mail?
Keep these questions in your mind the next time you go to the mailroom, and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with us. I promise that none of us will bite, and we love talking to our fellow students as much as you do.
~Vivianna Atkins, Staff Writer~