The line inside the U.S. Post office on Southeast 9th Avenue in Cape Coral told the story Tuesday. People waiting, packages in tow, some more patiently than others, so they can send off the last of their Christmas packages to loved ones.
Carol Johnston had a couple stuffed envelopes full of gifts in hand as she walked to the back of the line. She anticipated a 45-minute wait, which was a whole lot better than Monday.
"I was here yesterday and it was more crowded. I looked at the parking lot and said 'Oh, no.'" Johnston said. "I just left."
As it turned out, Johnston's wait was much shorter that she thought. With all customer service stations fully manned and with some customers trying their luck at the self-serve kiosk just outside the lobby, lines flowed smoothly.
It will be this way the next day or two as the deadline for packages to arrive before Christmas Day gets closer and closer, said Debra Mitchell of the U.S. Postal Service.
Her advice, get them out now.
"It's been busy the whole week. Monday was the busiest," Mitchell said. "People realize it's do-or-die time. It'll die down on Thursday."
Once Thursday arrives, about the only thing that's guaranteed will be express shipping. Even priority shipping is a crap shoot at that point, Mitchell said, for various reasons.
"They say Dec. 21 is the cutoff for priority, I'm more comfortable with the 20th," Mitchell said. "Keep in mind we can't control the weather, and if people aren't home we don't keep it at the doorstep."
Mitchell said that even with the tight deadlines, the Postal Service is doing everything it can to ensure packages get to where they need to be by Monday.
The customer service desk is fully staffed, trucks are making multiple runs and the USPS goes the last mile for companies such as UPS and Fed-Ex to deliver packages, Mitchell said.
"It's cheaper for them to pay us for the last mile," Mitchell said. "You may see us come at eight in the morning. We do what we can to get them out there."
As far as exact volume, Mitchell couldn't answer. She did say on Monday there were 10 semi-tractors full of parcels between Monday night and Tuesday.
But while volume for packages has gone way up from the previous few years, oddly enough, Mitchell said the number of greeting cards has gone way down.
"I've been seeing in the letter volume there aren't as many cards. It's a labor with greeting cards. It takes time and many people don't have the time," Mitchell said.