December 20, 2000:
so far behind, you cant even call it snail
by Annie Ruderman
Snail-mail has gotten
even slower at Princeton this fall. So slow, in fact, that it doesnt
legitimately qualify as snail-mail anymore. Snails, after all, move.
In search of a better term, I asked James Gould, professor of ecology
and evolutionary biology, what the slowest-moving organism is. He
told me that sloths rank pretty high on the list, moving so slowly
that moss and fungus can grow on them as they crawl along. This
sounds about right. So the new and improved centralized
mail system for upperclassmen at the new Frist Campus Center has
introduced the Princeton campus to sloth-mail.
Last summer, the newly
appointed sloth-mail gods sent out a letter informing all upperclass
students of the mail-delivery change. This said that regardless
of the address you just listed on your two billion med-school applications,
your mail should now be sent to a special 4-digit unit lockbox number
Most students didnt
bother opening this letter. Me, for one.
Somehow, the new system
is supposed to simplify and (eventually) speed up the
mail-sorting process. How, I dont know. I suspect that the
people who designed it dont really know either.
A letter that my mother
mailed from Chicago on September 22 didnt wind up in my 4-digit
Frist box until October 15. That doesnt just make the Pony
Express look good. If my mother had started walking from Chicago
toward New Jersey, letter in hand, she would have arrived sometime
around the 6th of October (walking four miles an hour for 850 miles
and sleeping eight hours a night). Instead, she dropped her letter
in a post-office box, and I received it 22 days later. Now thats
But my mother and her
letter are the least of the sloth-mail horror stories: There are
the reminders to attend the departmental meeting that happened a
week ago; the eyeglasses that came a month late; the prescriptions
that arrived after they expired. And I dont even want to imagine
what sloth-mail will do to my library fines.
That your mail doesnt
get to you in the same semester it was sent, however, doesnt
matter, because the improved system has also bestowed
upon each student an impossible-to-open mailbox. These come fully
equipped with an extraordinarily temperamental combination lock.
My combination is 48-39-31. If you figure out how to open my mailbox,
please let me know.
Whenever I hike over
to Frist to get my mail, I always hope for two things: 1) that I
dont have any mail or 2) that if I do, I have left my mailbox
unlocked from last time. If both of these fail, I give myself five
tries to open the box and then hunt around for an honest-looking,
combination-lock-savvy classmate to help me out. These are hard
to find, and not because Princetonians arent some of the most
honest folks Ive met. Its just that no one can open
As a result, upperclass
students have taken to checking their mail on a monthly basis. So
the letter that takes from Thanksgiving until Christmas to arrive
probably wont get a look until Valentines Day. Sloth-mail
So what does this mean?
Basically, if you would like to send me fan mail in
response to this column, opt for the e-mail listed at the bottom
of the page. (Mom, just hit the reply button on the
last e-mail I sent.) If, however, you would like to criticize this
article, the address is 1764 Frist.
Annie Ruderman (ruderman@princeton)
writes: My roommates have alerted me to the fact that Firestone
grants senior thesis library loans, which extend until
June 15. This, they are worried, will ruin my pages-written vs.
fines-accrued contest. But I have a particular genius for accumulating
library fines, so lets just say Im not too concerned.
(The pages column, now, thats another matter.) Current score:
Pages completed 0, Fines accrued $31.25.