Post Office tour delivers for seniors

Pamela and Luis Martinez speak to the group about the current state of the United States Postal Service. Photos by James Kinneen

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

There are certain places you have likely visited a million times, but have never gotten a full view of how they actually operate. The Wellesley Hills Post Office building on Washington Street is likely one of those places. Last Tuesday afternoon, though, the Wellesley Council On Aging peeled back the curtain. A group of seniors - and an embedded reporter - toured the back rooms of the Post Office to get a full behind-the-scenes view of how it works.

If you were expecting conveyor belts and intricate security measures, that wasn’t really the case. Even if you’re sending a letter to a neighbor - Wellesley address to Wellesley address - the piece of mail goes to Boston first, where it encounters the aforementioned intricate machinery. Still, the Wellesley office had many different aspects the average people likely don’t know about.

Tour guide Pamela answers a question in front of a mail carrier cubicle, where every slot would represent an address.

Tour guide Pamela answers a question in front of a mail carrier cubicle, where every slot would represent an address.

Led by tour guide Pamela, the group was first introduced to the cage. What is the cage? Well, it’s a giant cage full of safes that the Post Office uses to house anything of significant value. There were also post-office boxes for people who wanted to keep their businesses separate from their home addresses, or wanted their mail there rather than at home. After someone spoke of needing a PO box because of their dog’s hatred of the mailman, Pamela noted that while family dogs attacking mailmen is a well-known issue, wild turkeys have apparently been known to attack mail carriers, as well.

The Wellesley Hills Post Office is unique in that it carries mail for both Wellesley College and Babson, while most towns don’t have any colleges. Each mail carrier had their own cubicle, where they sorted the mail that couldn’t be organized mechanically, with most mail carriers decorating their office spaces with calendars and pictures from home. When a woman on the tour sat on a cubicle stool to rest her legs during the tour, she asked “is this okay?”

Pamela responded with a joke: “It’s fine, but you’re going to have to sort some mail.”

The tour group was also introduced to manager Luis Martinez, who fielded a variety of questions about life as a mail carrier and how one works his or her way up the ladder. One man on the tour had worked as a mail carrier for a summer many years ago, and said that the orientation was following around a mailman for exactly one day. Martinez said while he’s heard stories like that from the old days, orientation is now two weeks. He also explained that some carriers use their own private vehicles rather than mail trucks, and that those carriers are paid for mileage. He also talked about package deliveries and showed the machine that scans package barcodes. He also admitted that so-called “junk mail” isn’t going to go away, as it is a great revenue source for the Post Office.

When Pamela was asked what part of the tour people like the best, she said that for the most part, people just like seeing the action in the back of a building they’ve seen the front of so often. To that end, on Tuesday afternoon the Post Office tour most definitely delivered.

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