A peak behind the scenes of the Telluride post office during the busiest week of the year
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the United State Postal Service will deliver more than 13 billion pieces of mail, with post offices in the far reaches of the country bringing holiday cheer to their communities.
One such post office serves the community in Telluride.
On this particular Monday morning in the middle of the holiday season, a line of people waits to mail letters and packages.
Others are waiting to pick up their parcels in time for the holidays.
Behind the scenes, the back of the post office is a maze of organized chaos.
“The last two years, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we had over 55,000 packages,” says Telluride Postmaster Roger DeLaney, “and we’re on track to be really close to that this year.”
According to DeLaney the post office gets around 1,500 pieces of mail per day.
“We organize the chaos the best we can, but there’s so much mail, and I have a hard time recruiting people. We’re running two people short, so everyone is making up for those two people,” he said.
The mail arrives at 8 o’clock in the morning.
The parcels come in huge metal containers.
At the same time, letters and magazines arrive in cage and are taken to another staff member to sort and deliver to PO boxes.
“It’s a continuous process because at some time today, DHL will drop off another 150 parcels, FedEx will drop off anywhere between 100 and 700 parcels, and UPS will drop off, probably, another 700 parcels,” DeLaney notes.
“So it continues throughout the day.”
Several employees pull a steady stream of parcels out of the containers, scanning them in, sorting them to either go to a PO box, or head out for delivery to Lawson, Aldasoro and Mountain Village.
On one side of the room are rows and rows of shelves with packages.
That’s where they sit when they’re too big for a box, individuals get a yellow slip in their PO box to let them know they have a package waiting for them.
“It’s broken down by the last two digits. Not only do we have the normal two digits,” DeLaney explains, “we also have an F shelf for the taller stuff, D, C, B, and A shelf, so the yellow slips are the code so we can find stuff. During Christmas, we’ll also do a G shelf, and an H shelf.”
DeLaney says that’s why the post office is so insistent on having those yellow slips.
“So we know where to look. Cause right now there’s probably thousands of packages back here,” he said.
“And there’s eighteen different sections they can be in. Hopefully we can get to a point this week where I can have a clerk at the Dutch door just doing yellow slips, because we want everyone to get their Christmas.”
DeLaney’s been working at the post office in Telluride for about four years, but he’s been with the postal service for decades.
“A lot of people like me that are veterans, end up at the post office. A lot of the structure is the same as the military. There are a lot of veterans that are employed by the USPS, it’s one of the largest individual employers of veterans. That’s probably what drew me here. It wasn’t necessarily for the money,” DeLaney chuckles, “I think it was just a natural continuation for me.”
But it’s the people, his team, that DeLaney says keeps him in the job. He likes engaging with the community, the kids who come in.
“Especially now, with the white beard, they’re not taking a chance because I might be Santa Claus,” he said.
“If they come in with a yellow slip, I’ll bring them back and they’ll help me find their packages, sometimes their parents want to come back to, and we’ll go for a tour. People will say ‘oh, it’s a miracle I got my package,’ and yeah, it kind of looked like it might be.”
In post offices across the country, the real life elves of the U.S. Postal Service are working as fast as they can to bring the holiday season to everyone, you may just need to be a little patient.
This story from KOTO was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.