Monday, May 26, 2008

NYC Life Made Easier: Automated Postal Center

When I was a kid, I had an odd fascination with the post office. That distinctive smell of postage stamps and envelopes that hits you when you walk through the door was reassuring somehow. Everything felt very organized in post office world. Good things would be coming in the mail...if you waited long enough. Of course, I was at an age when mail addressed to me consisted mostly of birthday cards, letters from pen pals and long-awaited cereal box rebate toys.

I still have a fondness for post offices, but in NY, they always seem to have lines. And my nearest full-service post office is at least 10 blocks away, north of Ground Zero, and like I said before, New Yorkers prize efficiency. In LA, at least I could drive to the post office with my big packages.

Some time last year, we were walking in the neighborhood and noticed this empty little street-level store with these machines against the wall. Turns out, it's a post office...without postal workers. They're called automated post centers (APC). At first, I wasn't sure I could trust these machines. Was someone coming out regularly to calibrate these scales? Could I get my mail insured here? Or send my stuff priority? Turns out I can do almost everything I can do in a post office at this quiet little automated postal center. And usually, when I go, there's not a single other person there. Is nice. I like.

Anyone else have one of these in their neighborhood? I'm not talking about the APC's that are in the full-service post offices, off to the side, for those sick of waiting in line. I mean, these empty storefront ones. I did have a crisis of conscience at one point - how many postal workers would lose their jobs if these machines took over the world? Then I figured, the postal clerks don't seem very happy anyway, and this way, they can work behind the scenes, sorting and delivering the mail without interacting with the public. Should be a win-win situation, right? Still, the APC doesn't smell like the real thing...and I will miss browsing the pretty collectible stamps. They don't have those either at the APC.

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