Sketched Dec. 9, 2014
The busy holiday season means stressful trips to the post office are back. But the slow, impersonal transactions I’m accustomed to are not what I witnessed at the little-known post office inside the old federal building downtown.
What I found was a scene befitting a Norman Rockwell painting of small-town America.
Jeanne Edwards, who is 55 and has been with the post office for 38 years, stood behind a counter wearing a Santa hat and greeted many regulars by name. There was Alex, the lawyer; Gary, who works at a store nearby; and some others she said have followed her here from previous post offices where she’s worked.
The small talk didn’t make Edwards miss a beat, though. No sooner would a person finish paying than she was already talking to the next: “How are you, darling? I haven’t seen you in a while!”
When I asked Edwards where she gets the patience to run this one-person operation all by herself, the busiest time of the year, she just smiled. “I just like to be friendly,” she said.
“Handling all those packages is like spreading all that good karma around. I feel like a Christmas elf.”
Here’s an interesting, postal-related fact about this historic Art Deco building, which opened in 1933. If you go past the security check, you can see the original mail chutes that connect every office floor. Edwards said they stopped using them because they jammed too often, and that meant having to drop a heavy piece of wood through the chute to dislodge the mail stuck in the pipeline. According to a sign in one of the letterboxes at the bottom of one of the chutes, mail collection from the beautifully decorated brass letterboxes stopped in 2002.