Shrink the O.B. P.O. line!


To the Editor: 

Open Letter to Oak Bluffs Post Office

Dear 02557,

The current system is not working. Having a line that at times, goes all the way to the entrance of the Reliable parking lot, and requires every postal customer to have an hour or more to get one’s mail is too much.

This situation is not caused by the COVID-19 limitation of 10 people in the building. It is caused by how the management at the Post Office has decided to admit people to the building.

Prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, we self-sorted ourselves into two categories: Those who needed to go to a window, and those who only needed to get their mail from their box. For those customers who only needed to get their mail, it didn’t matter how many were in the window line; they could still enter the building, quickly retrieve their mail, and leave. Anyone who received a yellow package slip could either join the window line or, if the line was too long, come back another time.

But not now. Not in the COVID-19 era. Now everyone waits in the same line.

If all 10 customers inside are in the window line, everything stops: postal gridlock.

No matter what your business is with the Post Office, no matter how little time you will actually spend inside the Post Office, you are outside w..a…i….t…..i……n….…g.

Waiting while someone gets 10 money orders.

Waiting while someone mails 10 boxes of different sizes and weights, and needs a separate receipt for each box.

Waiting while someone has an endless discussion with the postal employee about their tracking app, which says “definitively” that their package is now in the Oak Bluffs Post Office, even though it’s not!

And if one of the 10 customers inside is COVID-19 positive and each transaction at the window takes five minutes, the infected individual will be in the building for 50 minutes, the building’s viral load increasing with every breath. It’s a small space with not the best ventilation; that’s not good for the customers queued inside, and it’s really not good for postal employees.

This is a bad design. So what is the solution? Simple.

First, have the line for the windows be entirely outside, and have it be a dedicated line only for window transactions. That means one person per window inside; everyone else in the dedicated window line outside.

Second, have dedicated entrance doors for type of business: enter/exit the left door for window business; enter/exit the right door for checking mailboxes (you must exit the door you entered in order for this to work).

Third, since now there are never more than two people inside at the windows, allow those customers who are only checking their boxes to freely come and go. Then, just like the old days, if you get a yellow package slip, you would get in the window line — only difference: You would go outside to get in line. Or (if the line is too long) come back another time.

So what does this accomplish? First and most important, it greatly reduces the amount of time any customer is in the Post Office, which reduces the chance of the building’s viral load increasing to dangerous levels. Second, all the time spent waiting is outdoors, not indoors — much safer for all concerned (especially the postal workers). Third, those who have no need for window services could quickly retrieve their mail and get out of the building. Fourth, when checking your mail, waiting in line will be a choice, not a forced necessity; a major improvement for the elderly, the disabled, or anyone who has a lot of other things to do.

Would this require a little getting used to? Sure. But we in Oak Bluffs are educable.

Would there be times when more than 10 people were in the Post Office? Perhaps.

But that would still be better than what we have now: 10 people continuously inside nearly every minute the windows are open, and if any of them are infected, spewing the virus into the indoor air for long periods of time. The less time anyone spends inside the building, the better for both customers and postal workers. Occasionally exceeding the 10-person limit for minuscule periods of time would be far better than what we have now.

One more suggestion. Get rid of the indoor stamped and metered mail slots. Why have anyone go into the building to mail stamped or metered items? That no longer make sense. Rather, have everyone put their stamped/metered mail in the outdoor mailboxes. But be sure to change the time of emptying the mail boxes to 3:30, to match the time the defunct indoor slots were collected.

Shrink the line!


Brian Hughes

Oak Bluffs