I drove down to Tuscaloosa tonight for my once-a-year-or-so IEEE meeting presentation on behalf of my employer. I’m not sure why, but I decided to wander into the student center tonight and have a look around at what has changed. The official USPS post office for the campus is located on the bottom floor.
In the summer of 1993 when I was at my orientation session (probably June or July), one of the people presenting to us told us that although we would have a campus mail box for any dorm room we lived in, it would change each time we moved. This person pointed out that we could rent a PO box in the post office and keep that same address for as long as we were in school. Being the practical type, I liked that idea, and I think I went down and rented a box that day. I remember talking to the counter employee and relating what we had been told. He agreed that it was a smart idea.
I don’t know their names, but his was one of two faces that became very familiar to me over the following five years. The Internet was still not widespread at that point, and I continued to keep in touch with several people through mail. I kept a close check on that box, and I can still feel the sense of kind of warm anticipation I used to get when I walked down to open it. I received some very special letters from some very special people over those years.
Sometime in May of 1998, I submitted my change of address form and turned in my key. I don’t remember the specific details, but I remember feeling very strongly that the act of turning in that key was a tangible step into a new time in my life. I remember feeling a bit sad about it. That simple little box had been mine for so long, it was almost like a friend in some ways. It didn’t seem right to me that someone else would get to use it.
Several times since then I have considered sending a short letter to whoever rents that box now, with the hope that it’s actually another college student. Just a random note wishing the new owner well, and telling him/her a little bit about me and my time at UA. I know it’s silly. That’s why I’ve never actually done it.
Anyway, as I was wandering through the boxes tonight, I remembered that the new phone provided a convenient way to get a picture of the box. Of all the pictures of campus I’ve taken since I graduated, this one is perhaps the silliest, and yet perhaps the most meaningful to me. Isn’t it weird how just a mailbox can mean so much?