A radical post office for those who can wait

By Kayla Burchuk

Originally created as an inside joke inspired by the pleasure of exchanging creative mail, EXPO (The Experimental Post Office) has transformed into an underground postal phenomenon.

EXPO is a small-scale postal system powered by human social networks, walking, and biking. Virtually anything portable can be sent through the system including letters, gifts, and random objects. The sender has three options to send mail. Relay mail is passed from person to person using mutual friends and acquaintances as a means of delivery. Foot mail is directly delivered to the recipient via walking. Kabuki mail gets delivered directly via bicycle and is specifically meant for local off-campus deliveries. All services are free.

In order to send Expo mail one must first locate one of the 4 mailboxes located on campus. Mail box #1 is magnetically attached underneath the stairs leading from the outside of Olin Rice to Shaw Field. Box #2 is a plastic bucket underneath the sink in the kitchen on the fourth floor of Old Main. Box #3 is in the Infoshop in the basement of Kirk and #4 is in the Veggie Co-op kitchen.
At the bottom of each mailbox there should be a collection of hand illustrated homemade stamps that designate the type of delivery the mail is. Participants are strongly encouraged to make their own stamps. Once the appropriate stamp is affixed to the delivery, the object or letter being sent can be left in the mailbox where it will later get picked up by any other EXPO participant and delivered to its destination. “Items may arrive partially eaten, late, or augmented, if deemed necessary,” warns the official flyer. Mail can be sent anywhere from across a residence hall to across the country. Hoarding mail is strictly prohibited.
EXPO began as an inside joke between Veggie Co-op roommates Mark Stonehill ’09 and Asa Diebolt-Williams ’09 when their room was informally dubbed “the Experimental Post Office” because of Stonehill’s penchant for carrying stamps on his person. As the joke developed, the name shortened to EXPO and the two friends began to imagine what a real experimental post office would be like. After a period of pondering and development, at the end of last semester Stonehill and Diebolt-Willaims installed the first drop box under the Olin Rice stairs.
Stonehill and Diebolt-Williams’ pet project expanded when others, inspired by the project, installed the boxes in Old Main and the Infoshop. The popularity of EXPO has grown through word of mouth and face-to-face interactions. It was a popular delivery option for sending Valentines and is now being used to deliver compact fluorescent light bulbs for Campus Wars.

EXPO breaks the norm as a radically unpredictable postal system in a society obsessed with speed and efficiency. EXPO aims to emphasize the importance of human contact in a world where roommates often e-mail one another to communicate.
Stonehill said he envisions a day when an EXPO box could be installed at the airport so that people could personally deliver the letters they pick up all over the world. Whatever the future holds, the project’s fate will undoubtedly be inspired by a passion for mail and the people that power it.