You go to Princeton, bitch. That means things are different here. You have left the real world and entered the Orange Bubble. You type “Frist” when you mean to type “first”. Your phone even auto-corrects it! “The slums” refers to sprawling Gothic architecture looking out over sprawling green courtyards. There are free fresh-baked cookies available to you every single night. Throwing beer in mansions seems to be a social norm —the list goes on. Of these changes, one has stood out from the rest. It is the bane of students old and new alike —Frist’s mailbox locks.
Without fail, the onslaught of mailbox maladies at the start of each school year brings sheepish freshmen to the Frist Welcome Desk. With bowed heads, slightly colored cheeks and an internal monologue asserting that they are, in fact, the admissions office’s mistake, the students ask how to open their mailbox. The casual upperclassman observer smirks and struts to his mailbox, confident in his abilities as a well-adjusted and experienced Princetonian, and begins the intricate process of opening the lock.
It begins with a turn to the left. Go around … once? Twice? Once, it’s once. Right? Yeah, yeah it is. Shoot, missed the tick mark. Does it count if I go back? Sure, I did it really fast. I mean I barely missed the 17. Last turn! Aaannd shit. Foiled again. Forget seniority, forget intellectual superiority—the Frist lock is the great equalizer. No one is safe from its fickle nature. While the impossibility of opening your Frist mailbox may seem frustrating at first, this most taxing challenge is actually a necessary phenomenon.Look at the mailboxes from a historical perspective. Frist’s locks protect the lasting legacy of the Pony Express. Hundreds of years ago, 80 riders and 450 horses took it upon themselves to bridge the continental divide between the East and West. Though the Pony Express was a short-lived group, lasting just 19 months, only one mail delivery was ever lost in the perilous journey of almost 2,000 miles from St. Joseph, Mo. to Sacramento, Calif. The fastest delivery made in only seven days and 17 hours. I don’t even get my measly University paycheck in my mailbox seven days after it is released. These macho mailmen of the 19th century braved the Oregon Trail just to deliver the town gossip from Boston to the California gold mines. Frist mailboxes are simply the Pony Express’s modern manifestation. Their locks ensure that nearby riffraff cannot find their way to the top-secret information we elite Ivy Leaguers are privy to. Like the Clinique sale at the U-store or J.Crew’s fall catalog.
What’s more, the locks address one of the pitfalls that plague our generation—this instant gratification bullshit! No little ding or simple click to read your email. No bubble popping up on your phone telling you your friend sent you a message. No endless wheel of people to whirl through and chat with when you feel lonely and bored. No selfie that appears at the tap of a finger and times itself so you don’t even have to close it. NO. For this you are going to turn, twist, jimmy, shimmy, bang and clang. You have to prove your mettle and then, just maybe, the iron gate will open and reveal your reward. At Princeton you have to earn your mail, just like the knights of old.
And if we want to think WAY out there (as if we haven't been doing that already), perhaps the mailbox locks have played a critical role in the EEB department’s ongoing plot to create a meningitis B epidemic, research the disease and eventually create a vaccine. These locks have been gathering germs for years, collecting a wide array of bacteria. I’ve heard that late at night, EEB grad students sneak around Frist, exposing every lock to bacterial meningitis. (The gastro outbreaks these past two years were the unfortunate mistake of a young pre-med hopeful who now goes to DeVry University online.) When unsuspecting students grow frustrated with their impenetrable mailbox locks, falling to their knees to gnaw on the cold, unforgiving metal, the insidious strain enters their body. The opening credits of “House” may have been onto something...
Whatever the reason, experiencing Frist mailbox locks is a rite of passage. These locks remind you that life isn’t always fair. You can do everything right and sometimes things just don’t work out. But most of all, the locks teach you about the nature of perseverance and disappointment. Keep turning, keep trying and eventually you will prevail! Except when you do, there won’t be anything in your mailbox but a Business Today from last year. Locked, but not loaded.