Zombies handle mail at post office

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    At the TCU Post Office, Halloween is not just a holiday – it’s a way of life.

    At least that’s what employees said about post office manager Glen Hulme. Throughout his 20 years at the university, he has become known for wearing an extravagant female costume every year. In previous years he has channeled his inner Cruella de Vil, Little Bo Peep, Miss Piggy, Minnie Mouse, Tinker Bell and Snow White, just to name a few.

    This year, his costume will be from the popular television show “The Walking Dead.” He said he would dress as Lori Grimes, the wife of the show’s main character, while staff members take on other characters from the show such as zombies.

    The post office Halloween celebration is just one of the ways the mailroom embodies a fun, family-like environment. As care package season picks up around Halloween, final exams and Christmas, both the mail and the mailroom become more colorful.

    This week, many orange envelopes await students in post office boxes. Packages decorated with Halloween stickers line the shelves and display return addresses as simple as “Home” or “Your darling mother.”

    Ghouls, cobwebs and blood splatters decorate the counters where students pick up their packages. Those parcels will be coming from the hands of some frightening characters this holiday season.

    Hulme said the post office staff typically chooses a Disney or cartoon theme, but some of the younger employees pushed “The Walking Dead” this year.

    “They convinced me that this ‘Walking Dead’ is popular,” he said. “When I saw that it drew 16 million [viewers] one night and beat football, I realized, apparently, a lot of people watch it.”

    Merrissa Kuylen, a history graduate student and post office employee, said she tried to show Hulme the first episode of the series to familiarize him with his character. But Hulme didn’t last long.

    “Merrissa brought it in one day,” he said. “And I could only watch about three minutes of the first episode. I said, ‘That’s enough. I don’t pay money to scare myself.’”

    But his costumes sometimes give others a scare. Twenty years ago, during his first year at the university, he said he showed up to work in a Grim Reaper costume on Halloween and scared his co-workers, who were unsure of who was behind the mask.

    By this May, the post office staff had already chosen “The Walking Dead” as the 2013 theme for Halloween because they needed to give Judy Cartmill, coordinator of Mailing Services, enough time to sew the costumes. Hulme’s costume is handmade by Cartmill most years, and she also creates some of the other employees’ outfits.

    Cartmill said she has always loved Halloween and making costumes. She even made about 30 Oompa Loompa costumes for a production of “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” at the Artisan Center Theater in Hurst, Texas a few years ago.

    Halloween isn’t the only fun event in the post office. The staff coordinates the color of their clothing every week, wearing red on Mondays, pink on Wednesdays and purple on Fridays. Hulme even has a masseuse from the University Recreation Center come and give massages to the workers after the busy move-in season.

    During the Christmas season, Hulme purchases a white-flocked Christmas tree for the staff to decorate and place in the front window of the mail center. He also hosts a family Christmas party at his house every winter. One employee has compiled five photo albums of holiday photos throughout the years.

    Hulme said creating a family atmosphere has been his emphasis since day one.

    “When I came here, one of the things that was really attractive about TCU was a lot more family,” he said. “I came from working 20 years at the post office, and I promised myself if I ever managed anywhere, I would be more accessible than my bosses had been.”

    Cartmill said Hulme has done a great job on that account.

    “He’s a character and a half,” she said. “He is outstanding. He cares for everybody.”

    On busy days, Hulme orders lunch for his workers and helps the counter employees retrieve student packages. During August move-in, Kuylen said the post office receives about 800 packages per day, compared to around 400 a day during the rest of the semester.

    Among the daily flurry of packages, envelopes and magazines, the mailroom family cares for the students as well.

    Diana Wingard, postal machine operator for Mailing Services, said the employees at the front desk especially enjoy interacting with students.

    “We call it ‘the bar without alcohol.’ You’ve got a question or a problem, come up here and we’ll make you happy,” Wingard said.

    Postal assistant Regina James, who works at the counter, said she loves “her kids.” She said she commonly handles packages containing students’ cellphone cases, driver’s licenses, jewelry, books and winter clothes.

    In light of the repetitive nature of sorting and organizing other people’s belongings on a day-to-day basis, the TCU Post Office has created an internal family and a fun atmosphere.

    “There is a lot of routine, so when there are opportunities to change things up, we do so,” Hulme said.