- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Thousands of Christmas gift-givers waited patiently with good humor and spirits in long post office lines yesterday.
The impatient ones just went to other post offices with shorter lines. It was important to get packages in the mail so they would arrive before Christmas.
"I should have brought a pillow," said John Domingues, 50, of University Park as he took position behind 10 package-carrying patrons in line for two clerks at the post office in the 6400 block of Baltimore Avenue in University Park.
"I love this post office," said Kate Bennison of Takoma Park, who had driven to the Baltimore Avenue station to mail four boxes of gifts to nephews and nieces. There would be five more boxes to be mailed to relatives in Texas, California, Georgia, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Iowa.
"The line was too long," said Barbara Culbreath, who had been to a post office nearer to her home off Bladensburg Road in Northeast.
"I was there for 10 or 15 minutes and it hadn't moved from the time I got there," said Ms. Culbreath.
She then drove to Customs House Post Office in the 3100 block of Bladensburg Road where, within five minutes, she mailed a Christmas package to her goddaughter in Columbia, S.C.
"That's why I came over here," said Margaret Hoes, who was born and raised in the District and now lives on Fifth Street NE. Her neighborhood post office also had a long line.
Dorothy Leissa of Bethesda was prepared for the long line at the Kensington Post Office. She brought along coloring books to occupy her daughters, Sophie, 5, and Greta, 3, while she waited to mail a package and letters.
"That wasn't bad. We waited maybe 10 minutes," Mrs. Leissa said.
"We've been busier than usual," said Kensington postmaster Joe Messett.
Many people prepare packages during the weekend to be mailed on the Monday before Christmas. But because the holiday is on Wednesday this year, gift-givers are mailing a week early, he said.
As result, four clerks were at the mailing stations instead of the usual two or three. And in the back, boxes were stacked several feet high and cloth-lined carts held thousands of letters, mostly Christmas cards.
Rodney Wade, 48, of Frederick, Md., a Kensington postal employee for 19 years, had been on the job since 2 a.m., typical of the 14- and 15-hour days he works during the Christmas season.
While Mr. Wade and others employees were busy processing mail being sent across the country and around the world, they expect to be equally busy right up until Christmas Day with incoming mail for Kensington residents.
Woodridge Post Office in the 2200 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE also had short lines. There was one clerk on duty.
That was surprising because Customs and Woodridge are among the post offices closest to the sorting and distribution center on Brentwood Road that was closed 13 months ago because of anthrax contamination.
Now named the Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr. Processing and Distribution Center after two postal employees there who died of inhalation anthrax, the center is in the last stages of decontamination.
Yesterday, crews began dehumidifying the 17.5-million-cubic-foot center and workers in protective clothing were beginning to enter to remove 8,000 spore strips.
The strips will be examined at laboratories to determine if decontamination was successful, said Postal Service spokeswoman Deborah Yackley, and the 1,600 employees may return to work there in late April.

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