By Julie Espinosa
On a recent morning at 6:30, Jessica Pilling, with gloved hands, turned the key of her mail carrier truck and headed south to East Bay, the industrial section of Provo.
At 6:41 a.m., she arrived at the East Bay Post Office and Sorting Center where she wheeled canvas-lined gurneys into the truck bed, getting a running start as if she were playing with shopping carts in a parking lot. The carts are filled with scraps of communication from the world outside ?Happy Valley? ? care packages for missionaries in repackaged shoeboxes, Korean newspapers and academic journals.
?I love this job so much,? she said on her way back to BYU, where the mail will be sorted and distributed on routes.
Pilling is one of 17 students and four full-time employees who work for BYU Mail Services, which handles over one million pieces of mail annually. The work demands punctuality and a database-like memory of 4,700 university staff members? names and where they work.
?Experience and repetition is the key,? said Brad Prescott, manager of Mail Services. ?It?s always changing.?
By 7:00 a.m., the mail brought from East Bay is filed according to size and destination. Around 10 a.m. sorters rapidly shuffle through scores of letters, scanning for building and addressee names.
?Mail, in my opinion, is an important thing,? said Prescott, who has held his post for six years, coming to BYU after 20 years in the military. ?If mail service wasn?t there, BYU wouldn?t even function. There?d be no communication.?
Campus mail sorters have come across their fair share of odd parcels. Among the weirdest are the 40-pound boxes of acorns. Rich Tripp, a full-time employee from Cedar Hills, estimates they have received some 20 such packages over the years. Random packages are sometimes rejected by their intended recipients, but employees say they have never come across anything harmful ? except a few threats on postcards for football players.
Employees at the University Station, located in the bottom of the Wilkinson Student Center, said they have as much fun as their behind-the-scenes counterparts. Hawaiian music, like that of the late Israel Kamakawiwo?ole, plays at University Station throughout the day.
?The music keeps us entertained and draws the customers in,? said Anthony Aiu, a dance major from North Shore, O?ahu, Hawaii. ?The atmosphere is chillaxin.??
University Station employees said they love the people they work with. Likewise, Prescott is cited as the reason why students stay with the job for so long.
?Almost everyone stays throughout school,? Prescott said. ?We try to get along, work hard and take care of one another.?
Prescott notes one of the biggest challenges for Mail Services is redirecting mail for people who have moved. He estimated they get about 10 calls a month from people who have moved wondering where they can find their mail.
?It?s very important they fill out a forward card,? Prescott said ?The bottom line is if you want to forward, you got to work with the system.?
When Mail Services does an exceptional job, their presence is undetected. They may get criticized once in a while for the occasional late or misdirected parcel, but Prescott estimates 20 percent of all mail would end up at outdated offices if it weren?t for his staff?s awareness of the new location of every recently shuffled professor.
?We try to be kind and efficient,? Prescott said. ?We?re not perfect, but we try to make an honest effort.?