The Joys of the American Postal Service

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08/26/2012 by Hannah R.

IMG_6251 - Version 2As a missionary kid, I’ve never quite understood the American Postal Service. I could never understand what the flag on the side of the mailbox was for, or the point of all of the ever present junk mail.  In Bosnia, where I grew up, junk mail was non existent, and the mailman would deliver all mail straight to your hand or leave it on your doorstep.  So you can probably guess my excitement when I got my mailbox number and combination for CIU. I would finally have my very own mailbox! And they look so cool!!! And indeed they do.  The mailboxes at Columbia International University are the essence of vintage loveliness.  Each metal box lining the wall is about 5 1/2 inches tall and 3 1/2 inches wide, and has two little dials that look like old style tape recorder wheels.  Know your combination, and it shall grant you entrance to your tiny little box with the window and number on the front. You can probably imagine my face when I glanced through my little window to see a slip of paper inside. As I reached for the dials, my hands faltered and then fell back at my sides. What was my combination? Yes, my lovelies, I had forgotten my combination. It honestly wasn’t that big of a deal, but in that moment I was not about to shrug it off. Because my mind likes to play out scenarios before it happens, multiple stories were running through my head in a split second.

Option #1: I could try and figure out my combination by repetitive guesses. This could result in two options. a) Looking like an idiot as a crowd starts to grow, watching as I (in vain) try to figure out the dials and their proper clickage. Or b) Finally get it and do a double fist in the air before retrieving the slip of paper.

Option #2: Walk away pretending that I didn’t have anything in my box (covering up the fact that I had forgotten my combination), and run back to my room to fetch the slip of paper with the key. This could also have a slightly embarrassing outcome. The ever present pool and ping pong players might be wondering why a girl who would have had an empty mailbox and left, returned moments later to open her box with ease and retrieve a piece of paper.

It might seem silly to you, but I was having a crisis! What to do?! So then here’s what I did: I left. For the afternoon. Yupp. After lunch I went back to my room and got my key and then came back and opened up my box after I had made sure that the ping pong and pool players were gone. The slip of paper was a notification telling me that I had received a package, and since I was expecting books for my classes, I knew that I needed to retrieve them from the desk RIGHT NOW.

Here, my friends, came another problem. In Sarejevo, if one received a large package, you had to pay to get it. At that moment, my wallet was back in my room and not with me. Begging to see a pattern? So here I was, needing my box and wondering in vain what I needed to do to get it. With shaky hands, I walked to the desk.

What can I do for ya?” the man asked.

Uh…” I stuttered, “I got a box?” It was more of a question then a statement.

The man lifted his eyebrows and hid a grin before sticking out his hand. I handed him the paper and he disappeared. Before I could wonder if I’d done anything stupid, he was back again with a huge box. From my mom. He set it on the window and smiled.

Is that it?” I asked, thinking I had worried over nothing.

That’s it,” he said, giving the box a nudge, “All yours now.”

Thank you.” I let out along with a breath.

All of that worrying only to find that if I smiled and pretended I knew what I was doing, people wouldn’t know that I was doing this all for the first time. I must say I am now better versed in the ways of the American Postal Service. It’s not all that bad! Now, to find out where the stamp goes on this letter….


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