Editorial Notebook

Packages of joy: why the mailroom is campus' hidden treasure

On my own tour of Rensselaer back in April, tour guides listed places like EMPAC, the ’86 Field, and the East Campus Athletic Village as RPI’s most exciting locations. All of which are loud and active locations where students cheer, spend time, and feel the excitement of the college experience together. Places like such were included in my own belief of what campus’ most exciting events were to behold. However, I believe there is one room at RPI that could surpass all in a neat package of sentimentality and personal connections. Nestled in the basement of the Union, holding thousands of packages and letters waiting to be claimed by their owners, RPI’s mailroom is arguably the campus' hidden treasure.

Letter after letter and package after package, the mailroom works constantly to bring students their possessions. Inside each of the metal lockers holds something different, a mystery to the receiver until revealed with a barcode and a simple click. A place all students visit at some point but often neglect to appreciate to the fullest. I believe the mailroom is a room unlike any other, with packages destined for just one person amongst around 6,000‒7,000 at RPI. There’s something special about each package, considering each one holds an object addressed for one student, and one alone. Whether it be the most recent late-night Amazon purchase or a box from home holding that one item forgotten during the packing process, the mailroom possesses a certain sentimentality to it, accompanied by the excitement of receiving something new.

Over the past few months, I have watched people unveil packages in the sterile and iron-like room with smiles on their faces as they turn to others and hold up their newest possession. The joy brightens up the seemingly constricted room as students hold close to them whatever was in that metal box moments ago. Personally, some of my most favorite days on campus have been ones involving a trip to the mailroom. Priorities during the day are delayed when that email arrives, sparked by the possibility of there being something unknown; that makes a day full of classes a little less dull.

Furthermore, for any student, the mailroom can provide a strong connection to home. Wherever home may be for students attending RPI—from a simple car ride across town to a plane ride across the country—a package in the mail brings home to RPI and connects college students to their old life as they navigate the new. Something physical and tangible that travels from anywhere in the world to a dorm can bring immense joy; knowing there is something that can be held close and can bridge the gap between the past and the present. Mail provides the epitome of that home-away-from-home feeling and gives that one piece of home that growing up leaves behind, housing RPI’s connections to the outside world. Amongst the array of students from various parts of the world, the thought of mail being able to reach them regardless of distance makes the world feel a little smaller, and home feel a little less far away.

In the race between the most exciting, it is often easy to forget the small things that can bring the most joy. So whenever your next package arrives in the mail, take a moment to appreciate both the package and the mailroom that worked to bring home to you.