Of the Baker City Herald

Postmaster Dan Pipkin expected to take in 3,000 packages and between 10,000 and 12,000 letters and cards Monday as the Postal Service does its part to help Santa accomplish his annual mission.

Inside the post office Monday morning the line was moving steadily as clerks staffed all three windows. Each window will remain open all week, Pipkin said, to get last-minute shippers in and out as quickly as possible.

In back, holiday music is piped in to cheer mail sorters each morning. Despite the large mail volumes, morale is good both out front and behind the scenes, Pipkin said.

After all, were bringing Christmas presents to everybody in town, he said.

Rachel Webb of Baker City had just one more gift to ship this week cloth napkins and a crocheted towel to a niece in Portland. Webb said her shipping chores this year were made simpler when her children in Southern California decided to take off for the holidays.

They said not to even bother mailing their gifts until after Christmas, so I think Ill wait until then, she said.

Not everybody in line Monday was there to ship Christmas gifts. Edith Bootsma of Baker City, for example, is at the post office at least twice a week to mail the items she sells at auction through eBay. On Monday she was shipping antique Christmas ornaments that should arrive via Priority Mail in time to grace the lucky buyers Christmas tree.

When people pay you right away, you dont mind shipping it out fast, she said, balancing three packages while waiting in line. Going to the post office often in Baker City is not as big a deal as it would be in a bigger city.

Terza Quezada held her young son, Govi, as she, too, waited patiently in the lobby. She said shes lucky enough to be able to ship Christmas packages through her business, noting she was stuck in line one day last week for 15 minutes to purchase a roll of stamps.

There was only one window open then, she said. That line was almost out the door.

People who loathe standing in lines have other options, of course. At Copy, Ship andamp; Mail in the Basche-Sage Place, customers can get their packages shipped through the Postal Service, United Parcel Service, or Federal Express but they pay a premium for the service. The company places a $2 handling fee per package, and between 25 cents and 50 cents for other shipments, from cards to overnight mail.

The fee didnt deter dozens of shippers Monday. Alisha Johnsrud, who worked the counter Monday, loaded up the UPS driver with 295 packages, including 73 dropped off over the weekend. That number represented the high-water mark of the two-year-old business.

Hes come in the past few days, taken a look at his pile of packages, and pretended to walk out, she said. Its important to maintain your sense of humor this time of year.

Johnsrud said there might be a practical reason people have waited until the last minute to ship their packages.

The weathers been so bad, I think people have been waiting for better weather before they shop, and now theyre realizing that its not going to get any better, she said.

In all, Johnsrud and her sister, Tinessa Johnsrud of Eugene pressed into service by the holiday rush added about 400 packages into the UPS, USPS and Fed Ex delivery systems.

Joyce ONeal, who owns Copy, Ship andamp; Mail, said the most surprising part of the Christmas rush often comes over the telephone.

You wouldnt believe the phone calls, she said. People want to know what is the very last day they can possibly drop their package off, she said. Theyre stressed, theyre in a hurry, its the last minute. Theyve shopped until they cant shop anymore, and they ask us, Please, please, just get my package there.

That, too, was the attitude that prevailed at The Copy Club in the Baker Tower, said manager Sarah Matthiesen.

People are a little upset when they learn that they cant get something there overnight for $10, she said. You can still get your package where it needs to go, but its going to be expensive.

Theres still time for those who put off the chore until the very last minute, but times running out, Pipkin said. Priority Mail and Express Mail packages shipped as late as Wednesday should reach their destinations by Monday, he said, as well as parcel post packages with west coast destinations.

By January 1, the Postal Service expects to have moved 20 billion letters, cards and packages around the world. Thats about 130 pieces of mail to every address in the nation.