It’s a race—one that depends on how fast you can run through the snow, rain, and all the other unpleasantness of Rochesterian weather to pick up your package.

There goes the bell. Run! (Or, more likely, walk as fast as you can, without forsaking your coolness.)

As you push through the door leading down to the Campus Mail Center, you groan as you scan the many faces in the line that’s winding around the corner.

Imagine going through that. You probably don’t have to, because almost everyone has. But what about the action behind the counter? Senior Jacob Watters and freshman Caitlin Davie provided the Campus Times with a behind-the-scenes look at the heart of the Mail Center.

Student employees generally work between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.—Davie works 11 hours a week, while Watters, a second year employee, works 13 hours. Typical duties include handing out packages to students, as well as labelling packages and mail, and assigning them to the correct alphabetical rack. Student employees also deliver mail to the academic buildings early in the morning.

Davie, who started working last semester, is one of the student employees in charge of delivering mail, and was working when the snowstorm hit two weeks ago. “I had to go through completely unplowed snow with very, very big bags of mail that I can’t really carry,” she said. “It was just hard to get through the snow and very slippery, so if you see me falling, please don’t laugh.”

Watters returned to campus early last year to start working, and remembers it being extremely hot in the mail room. “I went through two shirts that day, it was pretty bad.”

Davie’s first memory was also one of sweat and exhaustion. “The mail can get kind-of heavy,” she said. “I thought that I was originally too petite to be able to carry all the mail, but it ended up working out.”

During the beginning of the year, it was not a strange sight to see the line at the mail center snaking all the way around the basement of Todd Union. On that topic, Davie said, “We barely had enough space in the office to even handle all the packages we received.”

At the beginning of the fall semester, junior Joe Orman started an Impact petition about the state of the post office. To this, Watters said, “It wasn’t really to make anything better, it was just [to] complain.”

He added that most students probably didn’t know how much work the employees put in. For example, the WITS system the mail center uses to keep track of packages has crashed more often than usual this year. While the employees still hand out packages, they have occasionally had to use handwritten notes to keep track of all the packages they’ve given out until the system reboots.

There are other challenges that come with working at the Mail Center. Davie said students shove their IDs into her face on a daily basis, often with the students not saying anything, which she finds rude. Watters also added that his boss sometimes has to get involved and deal with angry parents.

“If [students] ordered something but it’s not there, their parents will contact us,” he said.

Despite the many challenges for employees working at the Mail Center, there are also perks to working there. “I can basically go in and grab my packages whenever I want,” Watters said.

There are even memorable experiences. “On Valentine’s Day, I got very emotional seeing everyone open up their packages; it was so cute.” Davie said. “I was like, ‘This is such a good day.’”

Sometimes, the Mail Center receives strange packages. “One time somebody got a fish,” Davie recounted. “That was terrifying. It was in a normal package, and I lifted it up and it just said ‘Live Fish Inside,’ and I was like, ‘Is this legal?’”

Watters once came across a package with a pencil inside. “Just the pencil,” he said.

Behind the challenges and the weird experiences, the employees enjoy a family-like dynamic with each other. “If there’s absolutely nothing to do, we listen to old music and complain about people,” Davie said. “But most people are nice. We don’t complain about most people.”

Employees also get along very well with Mail Center Work Leader Peter Lootens. Watters said that his boss is one of his favorite people there. Davie also praised him, saying, “My manager is really cool—very snarky and funny. He calls me ‘Shorty’ because I can’t reach any of the packages on the top [shelves].”

When asked if she had any tips for students visiting the Mail Center, Davie advised students to come in the mornings or around 2 p.m.  to avoid the noon rush. “The biggest thing is reading your email,” Watters added.

One last thing to note: Don’t tell the employees that your package is “on the rack” if you’re not sure where it is. They usually get annoyed if they find out it’s not there.

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