It’s a Tuesday. You enter the building and pray to the high heavens that this time — just maybe — your experience will be hassle-free. Alas, your prayers are in vain. Your package hasn’t been “processed,” although you’ve waited upward of a week to pick it up. It hasn’t been “delivered,” although your Amazon receipt clearly indicates that someone signed for it. Or, worst of all, you are treated as though expecting a paid-for package to be reasonably accessible is a foreign concept. I’m speaking, of course, about the infamous Yale Station post office at 206 Elm St.
At this point, it’s almost a rite of passage for Yale students to be wildly disappointed after an important package fails to arrive on time. But the unreliability of the post office is matched only by the attitudes of its employees. When I inquired after a missing important parcel, the employee treated me as though it were my fault and that I shouldn’t be upset. It was that day that I resolved to work toward changing the postal system at Yale.
Although the specifics of my plan are too lengthy to be discussed, changing the post office would make everyone’s life easier. Gone would be the days of waiting months for a package! Gone would be disgruntled and dissatisfied service! And gone would be the inconvenience, hassle and frustration. I wondered why people hadn’t thought of this sooner.
But still, I was hesitant to share my scheme. I feared that I would be called a capitalist, a racist or a classist because many discussions concerning the post office devolve into attacks on the character of the complainer. My criticisms of unhelpful employees could seem petulant; a privileged Yale student preferring false friendliness over honest frustration. Perhaps this read of me would be understandable — Yale students have always been and almost certainly always will be a part of a strange, power dynamic between those who “go” here, those who work here and everyone else in New Haven.
This privileged power dynamic extends past the subterranean post office. Once, as I walked back to Old Campus, a homeless man stood directly ahead of me. He wanted 60 cents to make a phone call. I didn’t have any change on me, but I didn’t want to just disregard him. He was a person, just like me. A fellow student, however, walked past us. And instead of helping, she looked at the old man dressed in a tattered coat grappling with his words, saw my confusion and consternation and she laughed. She just laughed. I muttered that I was sorry and ran back to my room. I had never felt so repulsed and ashamed.
Another time, while eating in Stiles, an acquaintance decided to join me for lunch. Having not spoken since Bulldog Days, I grasped at any possible topics of conversation. I remarked that Jonathan Edwards had won the award for the best dining hall, and although Stiles probably had the best food, the award judged both food quality and service quality. It was not a question, then, why Jonathan Edwards had won. “Yeah, you’re right — the staff in Stiles is just bitter because this is the job that they’re doing because they couldn’t do anything else — I don’t even consider some of them human,” said my interlocutor. My food almost came up from my stomach. In a moment of failure, I left with a hurried half-excuse rather than chastising him.
Finally, I was recently at the post office when a perturbed student — his headphones in, of course — strode up to the service desk. He rang the bell three times. The attendant took his card and went to retrieve his package. She hadn’t even located his box when he began to state his last name, pre-empting her identificatory question and ensuring that he interact with her as little as possible. He grabbed the package and left. For what was probably upwards of the hundredth time that day, she moved on to helped the next student.
The Yale Station needs improvement. We should not expect our packages to be lost. And when they are, we should be confident that they will be found. It is not racist or classist to think this.
But in the spirit of reciprocity, we also need to treat workers with respect, and we need to sympathize with the fact that their job is not glamorous. Although there isn’t an easy fix to the problem that is the post office, I think a solution can come about once both sides are understood by both parties involved. Most students are already aware of both sides of the argument, unlike the students in the anecdotes above. Now, it’s time for change to come from within 206 Elm St.
Adrian Rivera is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. His columns run on alternate Thursdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .