By ALEXANDRA ESPINAL ‘16
The counter is empty and it looks like the day is over when, suddenly, UPS or FedEx Ground enters the building. In come boxes of all shapes and sizes, sometimes weighing up to fifty pounds. The boxes are scanned, one by one, then the package notice slips are created and shoved into the mailboxes. The procedure is simple, but tedious. In the midst of all that, the smell of cardboard is ever present, sometimes even mixed with the smell of coffee and Chinese food.
The post office at Manhattanville College is certainly not your typical workplace. Your job does not consist of sitting on a desk, answering phones, writing down memos, or typing on a computer. Being a mail clerk at the post office is a bit more hands on. “I go to the Purchase post office at 8 o’clock in the morning, I bring the mail back, I sort the mail, we put it into people’s mailboxes, we open the window at 10 o’clock and we serve the customers,” said Jerry Garafolo, who has been working at the Manhattanville post office for nine years.
The Manhattanville post office serves most, if not all, departments on campus, including Admissions, Residence Life, Maintenance, Campus Safety, Financial Aid, the Library and many others. The post office workers are in charge of receiving the mail, delivering the mail to the appropriate people, and taking people’s letters and packages to the Purchase post office where they begin the journey to their ultimate destination. The copy center, which is where most people go to have large quantities of flyers and documents printed, is also run by the post office staff and serves the needs of departments and student organizations alike. “The post office and the copy center are both very costumer service oriented jobs, so that’s all you do, you deal with the public, among other stuff. We’re lucky we have a good customer base, 99% are really nice people,” said Robert Ryan, who is the director of the post office and copy center and has worked at Manhattanville for over fifteen years.
The guys at the post office certainly see a lot of different faces on a day-to-day basis: Manhattanville has around 1,700 undergraduates, most of whom have mailboxes on campus. Some students receive packages every week, and the guys at the post office are well aware of who their frequent customers are. “The best part of the job is definitely meeting all the students and having fun with them at the window,” said Garafolo. The post office also lends its services to faculty and staff, many of whom have become well acquainted with the three guys who single-handedly run the college’s post office and copy center.
“Working here is good because you get to see different people every day, but at the same time it’s the same people. There’s a bit of variety, but it’s also a lot of regular customers,” said Ryan. “I’ve formed a lot of relationships here. Some people it’s been good, other people, you know, I deal with.”
“The best part about working here is the variety. I’ve made lots of friends here. I even met my wife here,” said Pete Schober, who studied at Manhattanville for a year and has been working at the post office for twelve years.
One thing that strikes students about the post office is its appearance. Physically, the Manhattanville post office remains a quaint, old-fashioned place. Many students have commented that the tiny, slightly rusty metal mailboxes look like something out of a Harry Potter movie. However, behind the scenes, significant changes have occurred throughout the years: “When I first got here there was no computer in the post office. I used to have to go to MasterCard, where I worked beforehand, to print out the sort sheets. Just this year we started doing the birthday cards (every student gets one in their mailbox on their birthday). We also started printing the package slips on green sheets of paper because they look better and more organized, and we started sending out emails to people with packages around five years ago,” said Ryan. “A lot of the time we don’t make really big changes, most of the time, something changes and we change to meet or anticipate that need.”
Working at the post office is one of the most physically challenging jobs on campus. On average, the post office receives around a hundred packages a day, but that number can vary. “The record, I think, is like 450 packages in one day,” said Schober. “Christmas isn’t as bad as you would think, just because everyone goes home well enough in advance, really the days where they make us work for our pay is the start of the semester, the first few weeks when kids are getting their textbooks. It’s a lot of little packages we have to deal with.”
That being said, working at the post office is also one of the most interesting jobs. “My two favorite packages that ever came in where when someone shipped a coconut and another person shipped a beach ball. So long as it has postage on it, the post office will deliver pretty much anything,” recalled Schober. “Several years ago, the Biology department was picking up their own packages and they got a package full of viruses and they didn’t pick those up for a couple of days, so that was fun.”
While it may not be apparent to the naked eye, the post office is a central part of the Manhattanville community. “The income of packages goes up ten percent every year, on average. Without us, how would you get your stuff from Amazon? … Or your textbooks,” said Ryan sarcastically.
“We’re the first people who deal with the students, even if they don’t know it, because we send out their applications. We’re probably the last ones because they haven’t paid that last bill before they get their transcript,” said Schober.
Amid all responses, there was one answer that the three guys at the post office agreed on: “We’re the backbone of the college.”