The Power of Postage
I make a habit of checking my mailbox every day. I have a good reason to, as do all students at my college. For one hour each day, Amazon boxes flow out of the mail room like ants in our communal kitchen. I’m fond of watching people in line, observing their package-getting styles: there are those who immediately strip back the cardboard and pull out their prize, others who wait until they are beyond the double doors and on the porch before laying their fingers on the tape, and many who tuck their treasure under their arm with stoic grace and wander off to more important things.
I do none of these. When there is a package slip in my mailbox, I clutch it gleefully and shut the door violently, resisting the urge to raise that little slip aloft in triumph. It’s like Christmas morning, but at 12:30 every single day. I stand in line grinning from ear to ear, often making excited small talk with my neighbors despite my shyness.
When my turn comes, I grab my package, thank the man behind the counter (I find it difficult to be indifferent to anyone wearing a cheerful yellow polo shirt), and sprint up the four floors to my room. Often the package is thrown on the bed, where I cut open my patient with speed and precision – like a skilled emergency room surgeon – pulling aside the flaps to reveal the vitals within the cardboard cavity.
It matters little what comes in these packages. I’m always excited to receive them. The disappointment always comes after the contents have been disgorged and I must trek to the recycling room at the rear of the dorm to dispose of the holy vessel, though I refuse to relinquish bubble wrap before first ensuring that each bubble has realized its full potential. After this, the delivered treat is placed in its permanent home and my day resumes, now significantly brightened.
The initial steady flow of packages stopped after the first month. College was no longer new, my birthday was over, my textbooks had been delivered, and I did not have the funds to support an online shopping habit just so that I could receive packages frequently. (Though I did hear of a computer science major who once wrote a program that would automatically order a 15 to 20 cent item every day).
I still check my mailbox daily. Habits are strong, but not as strong as the need to feel significant. It may be easier to climb the stairs empty-handed, yet I feel as though nothing great can be accomplished on a day where no mail has manifested itself in my box.
For college students, mail is a religious experience. It is as though by divine grace the postal gods have selected you, and only you, to be the recipient of information about the goings on outside of the bubble that a small liberal arts college creates. The little goldenrod metal box is your personal portal to the outside world – or maybe not personal, if you share your mailbox with someone, like I did.
At any rate, mail always makes my day. It proves that someone beyond the trees of the Arboretum cares about me, and in that moment, I feel that my life is going somewhere and progress is being made. I feel significant.