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12-16-02: It's mega mail day in Mercer County
The Daily Standard
    It's hard to imagine that 850 million letters and packages will flow into post offices across the United States this morning.
    But that's what the U.S. Postal Service expects to arrive today - the busiest mailing day of the year. In two days, most of the envelopes and boxes will be sorted and on their way to homes across the country, making Wednesday the busiest delivery day of the year.
    Just like shopping days this holiday season, mailing days are six days shorter due to the late arrival of Thanksgiving Day and that means it's crunch time.
    "Usually the last two Mondays before Christmas are the worst," said Celina interim postmistress Michelle Shields.
    Shields said Monday, Dec. 9 was the busiest day the city post office experienced so far this year as more than 40,000 envelopes and packages arrived at the office. But as Celina postal workers arrived this morning, it became crystal clear that today's haul would steal the heavyweight title.
    Despite the heaping piles of multi-sized boxes and envelopes surrounding them, workers appeared to keep the holiday spirit and didn't seem too overwhelmed by the paper mounds surrounding them.
    "It's just part of our job. It's our busy time of year," Shields said matter-of-factly. "We know it going in and we know what to expect."
    Fewer days to send holiday mail means fewer days to deliver it, and for carriers with walking routes that means heavier mailbags to haul from one front porch to the next. That, too, is just part of the job, Shields added.
    "Mail carriers have to be able to carry up to 70 pounds," she said. "Normally, though, the bags weigh an average 35 to 40 pounds."
    Shields, 35, said heavy loads are not as much a problem as the bigger packages, which can't be crammed into small mailboxes. The larger items force carriers to knock on doors seeking recipients.
    Area post offices told  The Daily Standard the holiday surplus won't force them to add extra help or extend hours to move the mail. St. Marys Postmaster John Grogean said his office is also knee-deep in seasonal mail and he, too, does not plan to extend business hours.
    "But we won't close the windows on anyone," Grogean said with a laugh.
    Grogean, who started as a mail carrier in Versailles in 1974, said the average type of mail falls off this time of year. Holiday advertising is mostly geared up for Thanksgiving time so it's mostly Christmas cards and gifts that currently fill the mailbags.
    "The big rush to send Christmas cards begins right away the day after Thanksgiving and keeps steadily rising all the way up to the 24th," he explained.
    Grogean, 49, said this time of year the office looks like a "mad house" when the first mail crews arrive at 3:30 a.m., but it doesn't take long before items are sorted and sent on their way.
    "By midmorning, we're looking pretty good," he added.
    One of the postal services "best kept secrets," according to Grogean, is the express mail delivery on Christmas Day. Any packages that arrive at the local post office on the 24th, can be delivered within that postal area on Christmas Day - for a price.
    "It's not cheap," he said, explaining that the cost starts at $13.65 for packages under 8 ounces. "And it goes progressively up from there."
    All post offices offer the service and usually only a few employees work Christmas morning to hand deliver the items. Grogean said he has performed the task many a time and considers it an interesting and worthwhile adventure.
    "It's awesome as a mailman to deliver a package on Christmas Day, just like Santa Claus," Grogean said. "People open their doors and look at you like, 'What are you doing here?' They're shocked."


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The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822