The Truth is Out There: What’s Going on in the Swarthmore Post Office?

15 mins read

Most every student is familiar with the Swarthmore Post Office, adjacent to Shane Lounge on the first floor of Parrish Hall. Students flock to the front window of the Post Office to retrieve their packages, where they are serviced diligently and enthusiastically by professional staff and student employees. Standing at the window to receive a package, one has a clear view into the mailroom. If you crane your head a bit to the side you might even catch a glimpse of the sorting room. But most Post Office patrons have never seen, or even heard of, the other floors of the Post Office. Some have visited these areas, but none have returned from them alive. Thus there has never been a written record of the other three floors of the Post Office — until now. In an exclusive interview with The Phoenix, Ian Withy-Berry ’22, twelve-time consecutive winner of the “Post Office Student Employee of the Month” award, reveals what is beyond, and above, the mailboxes. The following are Withy-Berry’s words, published in their entirety.

“Can you grant me immunity for this? No? Shucks, ok. Well the first floor of the Post Office is rather basic I’d say. There are about four sections to it. There is the loading dock where most packages arrive, and the sorting room, which is also a bit of a hangout spot — there’s a microwave and a refrigerator in there. Then there’s the boss’s room, and the main hallway section (it’s like an E shape, if the E was longer). That’s where everyone comes to see the Post Office. The first floor is the basic Post Office floor — front window, two side windows, most of the package locations. It makes sense that the place where the packages come in and leave would have the most packages. Not too many people have mailboxes that aren’t on the first floor. 

The second floor is surprisingly small. The first floor is already rather tight, especially during the busy shifts, when there are five people working simultaneously. Honestly I don’t think five people could even fit on the second floor — at least not five humanoids. While the first floor includes package locations from one to seven, and package location nine, it lacks package location eight. The second floor has location eight. Packages in location eight aren’t just the regular stuff that comes off of Amazon. These packages contain items that must be handled with care (not to suggest that not all Post Office items are handled with care and excessive love). Originally, we had the microwave and refrigerator on the second floor and location eight on the first floor, but last year (on my fourth day on the job) I was sorting through the packages and accidentally grabbed the wrong one. It grabbed me back. I don’t know if it was claws or if it was teeth, but it left some pretty nasty cuts and I had to apply some antiseptic cream from Worth Health Center. It’s not exactly what you would expect from a job at the Post Office. I told the boss, Vince, that maybe we should move the fridge and microwave downstairs, and put these more dangerous packages upstairs. He agreed — after all, the Post Office is committed to complying with OSHA regulations. 

The third floor is circular, and features a series of lights arranged in a landing-strip configuration. The room is larger on the inside. A few times a day I have to go up there to open the main entrance hatch. When human governments bring things, they typically fly them in with black helicopters. Two agents in dark suits and glasses walk off of the helicopter, and I can’t look at their faces when they hand me the package or when I hand one to them. The Swarthmore Post Office’s backroom contracts with international governments are for the most part well-known (if not at least suspected), but most people aren’t aware that the third floor actually ships packages throughout the entire known universe. Since Parrish Hall is conveniently located right at the halfway point between Alpha Centauri and Sagittarius A, many alien species are eager to enter into lucrative delivery contracts with us. Unfortunately, our landing pad is not equipped to handle ships with lightspeed warp or proton-reactor based engines, so most aliens have to use the teleporter (which is across the window, right next to the bookshelf).

One time I had to deliver a package to an alien ship promptly at 5:15 (it was some human cuisine they really love) but apparently the way that time works on their planet their day is four hours shorter. I got there at 5:15, I’ve got the coordinates punched in, the bag of pineapples is sitting there on the teleporter, and they’re not there. They literally travel through space in seconds, they’re never late, so I was worried. I texted the boss asking when the aliens are showing up, I’m sitting there and I hear the ding of the bell downstairs at the main student window. I can’t leave these guys because maybe they’ll show up and start taking pineapples that aren’t theirs. I need to stay there, to scan their OneCard. And the student just kept ringing the bell, and I really wanted to go help them down there, but the aliens were holding me up. After a bit Vince texted me that they wouldn’t be there till later, so I went downstairs and helped them down, delivered the pineapples. I told them off but I don’t think they could understand me. 

The fourth floor can be best described by what it isn’t — a post office. You need OneCard access to get to the fourth floor. Not just anyone can get into there. Let’s just say that the people who have tried are no longer working at the Post Office. It’s dark. Yeah, it’s definitely dark in there. You can’t really put any lighting in there; good luck trying. It actually wasn’t until this year that I got OneCard access. Every Post Office worker fresh on the job does third floor deliveries, but the fourth floor is another caliber. Well let’s just say, it’s a whole other story. It’s really not a big deal though, it’s just my job. It’s a 9-5, but only 4-6 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on the full moon I stay until 2:00 a.m. In 1986 they actually had a Pub Nite on the fourth floor, I learned that from an alumni. But since then there hasn’t been any mention of it, apart from a few people I’ve talked to, but I shouldn’t say their names. 

No one else was willing to talk about what happened. But surely nothing good could have happened, knowing what the fourth floor does to people, how it makes them act. Bill came down from the fourth floor once. He was holding something, I think it was three-dimensional. It was completely black, it absorbed all the light around it. Every time I blinked it changed shape slightly. It was wailing the whole time, but it didn’t sound like a child or like meowing. It sounded like what I would imagine it would sound like to kill a boar. Also Bill was crying tears of blood. And the sound that I thought was coming from the shape was actually coming from him. He just threw it on the teleporter and we’ve never spoken of it since. Thinking of it makes my ears ring. Ever since 1986, you have to down a gallon of milk before ascending to the fourth floor. Otherwise, the effects are too much for a human body to handle.

I would say what the fourth floor looks like, but I’m not sure I could trust my eyes. It kinda looks like ██████ █████████ cold █████ ███████ ████████ and ████████ ████████████ could even █████████ ██████ ███. The fish tank ███████████████████████ ██████████ ███ ██████████████ █████████████. █████████ ██████████████ ████████ █████████ █████████ edible, yet sour. ██████████ ████████ but not ████████████ ███████. ██████ ████████ █████████ the gorgon is █████████ ██████████████ ██████. She smells ███. ██████ ██████████ ███████ non-Euclidean ███████ ██████████. The mirror ███████ █████████ ███████████ well, how should I say this, ███████████ █████████████ ██████████ ████████ ████████ █████████████ ██████████████████. ███████ █████████ ███████ and a collection of VHS tapes including but not limited to Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, ██████████, and Pokémon: the First Movie.”

Withy-Berry was not able to complete the interview due to a yet-unexplained sudden loss of consciousness. In his last breath he gasped, “follow @swarthmorepostoffice on Instagram”, and  cautioned readers that recently some packages have accidentally been sorted to the fourth floor — so if you receive an email stating your package location as “███████” please be patient with the Post Office worker who has to go there. 

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