For just a moment, Finnbarr Dumphy stood at the end of the line. He was No. 12. Clutching an oversized envelope addressed to his granddaughter out-of-state, he turned abruptly and decided to return another time.
Not that he had any idea when the line at the Five Points Post Office might be shorter.
“There are better times than others, but it’s hard to know when they are,” said Dumphy, who does business at his neighborhood post office once or twice a week.
This time of year, patrons dispatching carefully wrapped Christmas packages and hand-written cards are certain to face a wait. But at the Five Points Post Office — with familiar clerks Joe and John, a tiny lobby dressed up with a greeting-card rack and a round, institutional clock on the wall documenting time spent waiting, waiting — there always seems to be a line.
Good news, customers of Five Points. The U.S. Postal Service has heard your complaints and is making plans to add a third clerk. Tuesday, spokesman Harry Spratlin said another employee will transition into Five Points “as needed,” though he did not have a start date.
The agency does not plan to reverse a three-year-old decision to close for an hour at lunch, 1 to 2 p.m., he added.
As it is, Shandon resident Christina Benner said, lines appear unavoidable.
“But they’re always so friendly,” she said during her inch up to the counter. “I like it; I wouldn’t go to another one.
“I walk here. It’s my neighborhood post office.”
A friend of hers popped in, barely keeping hold of two unwieldy boxes. The two women greeted one another over the heads of other customers before the new arrival mouthed to Benner: “I’ll go to Office Depot.” She left.
Another patron watched her retreating back and said she thinks she’ll try another branch as well.
Fred Pugh, who usually uses the Trenholm Plaza Post Office, which he said is just as busy, finds it exasperating when there’s a long line and one of the employees leaves the window on a break. “That’s what irritates everybody to death,” he said.
For whatever reason, sometimes there’s just one clerk at the counter of the Five Points Post Office, too, noted regular patron Bill Young. (Spratlin said they “kind of have to tag team” in the mornings when one of them steps away to deliver mail into P.O. boxes.)
Young continues to use the Five Points branch because it’s between his home and business. Plus, he said, he’s on “a first-name basis with both of the gentlemen” who work here.
Spratlin said the goal is to provide service in five minutes from the time a customer walks in the door, and the postal service has received complaints about long lines in Five Points.
“It’s been like it is now for the longest time,” he said. “We’re seeing that’s not working, so we are responding.”