The Post Office

by S.W.G.

Bates Center for Student Life

Bates Center for Student Life

Sarah Lawrence gets a lot of mail—more than 200 packages on an average day. Books, letters, care packages, Netflix DVDs, science equipment … the SLC post office handles them all. We visited in May to find out what happens to all those parcels behind the scenes.

Ray Bynum has been the SLC postmaster for seven years, and is much beloved by his student workers. He and two other full-time staffers work for Ricoh, one of the College’s contractors. Bynum’s the one responsible for making sure that all 2,250 people on campus get their mail on time.

Mail sorting area: Bynum and his coworkers retrieve the campus’s mail from the Bronxville post office twice each morning. Then student workers spend about an hour sorting staff mail into the appropriate cubby and rubber-banding it for delivery.

Mailboxes: Faculty and students retrieve their mail from old-fashioned brass boxes. SLC ponchos: The same ponchos that get handed out at rainy reunions come in handy on unexpectedly wet mail runs. A well-labeled red cart is used to ferry FedEx and UPS packages to and from the delivery truck. (It’s Ricoh policy that office tools be labeled, Bynum explains, for the benefit of new workers.)

Package receiving area: When packages arrive on campus, a worker scans each one, and the computer system automatically e-mails the recipient and tells her to pick up the package. At the beginning and end of the academic year, when students are moving, the mail room is overrun with parcels, Bynum reports. He usually has to commandeer a room in Sheffield to hold them all.

Sorting bins: On a normal day, it takes about two hours to sort all the packages into alphabetical bins.

Puppy calendar: “It was free,” Bynum says.

Antonia Verdi ’12 has worked at the post office for her entire SLC career. The office employs about 15 student workers, who help customers, sort packages, and deliver the mail to offices around campus. Verdi interned at the Johns Hopkins psychology department over the summer. Is knowledge of psychology helpful for postal work? Yes, she says, citing a recent psychotherapy class: “It teaches you techniques for not taking things personally. So when a customer is upset, I can deal with it and just try to help.”

Mystery packages: The heaviest package Verdi has encountered was quite small, she says. “It was full of locks.” How did she know? “It was addressed to the locksmith.” Not all strange shipments are so easily explained: she once handled a package shaped like a human head. The student who picked it up declined to comment, and Verdi still wonders what was in it. Most packages aren’t so intriguing, though; they usually contain books, she says.