Margaret McKenzie | Features Editor
Were anyone to ask CPO’s Assistant Postmaster Scott Penney to amend the unofficial U.S. postal worker’s motto, he might pen something to this effect: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor the zombie apocalypse stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” It is true, certainly, that the conditions the motto lists hardly encompass all potential hazards to mail delivery.
The back area of CPO is where all departmental mail is sorted. It is also the home of one of CPO’s more “historic” features: A list of CPO days on which significant CPO-related events occurred. One entry records the number of kills — whenever a CPO employee delivers mail ahead of schedule — achieved by one student worker on April 25, 2012: “Laurel gets 34 kills for yellow route, because of 34 packages going from Prez to Conserv. Jeff wonders if they should count as only one kill. Scott responds by saying he is of the elfin and not dwarfish persuasion, and will not say: ‘That only counts as one.’"
Other entries read “Scott does 9,867 pieces of mail” (April 12, 2010) and “Last day of old machine. The beast goes on a 10,195 postcard binge” (February 21, 2011).
Other CPO relics hang on the walls throughout the rest of the office.
“The decorations are a hodgepodge of years of people finding things funny and posting (them) up,” Penney said.
Among these decorations were 39 traced handprints drawn by graduating student workers over the years, a comics wall, a winning drawing from CPO’s annual Christmas coloring competition, strings of lights shaped like blue and pink flowers, Easter eggs, sombreros and two live beta fish.
Penney’s desk area is adorned with re-arrangeable magnetic tiles from an old Sam’s menu; phrases like “Free Hot White Americano Seasoned Beef Linebacker Burger (12 oz.)” will probably confuse those who do not know the back-story for this particular decoration.
An area located in the front of the CPO office is termed “the jungle” because of all the plants Janice LaGreca, assistant postmaster, keeps there. Other than the front window where students pick up pakslips, no other portion of CPO is visible from the outside.
Another institution of the culture is CPO holidays, or anti-holidays in some cases.
“We usually call Valentine’s Day the worst day of the year. The last couple of years it hasn’t actually been that bad. I don’t know if it’s been because we’ve been gearing up for it, or if people just haven’t had the money or the inclination to be in (a) relationship,” Penney said.
The day does hold one bright spot for CPO workers, Penney said: On Valentine’s Day, workers hold non-monetary bets on the number of bouquets that will come through CPO. The number is generally around 70 to 100. One other CPO holiday of note is CPO-de-Mayo, held every spring semester on Reading Day.
CPO’s postmaster, Jeffrey Peltz, is also the defensive line coach for Wheaton’s football team. Peltz has worked at CPO for 30 years, and he remembered one year when there were eight Wheaton students named David Smith.
“That was a nightmare … especially when people forgot to put CPO numbers on packages,” Peltz said.
Given the policy that anything gets mailed as long as it has an address and a return address, CPO has had everything from cases of crickets to tree limbs, dead animals and boxes with people inside.
The Record asked junior Carolyne Razzo if she knew of any recent pranks coming through the mail. Razzo, who began working at CPO this fall, was not aware of any. Razzo had visited the office only once before starting work at CPO. She was in a box.
Photo credit: Allison Freet.
Printed in the September 28, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to email@example.com.