Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Tale of Two Post Offices


Fritz Creek General Store, post office, etc.

When I think "post office" I would never picture the above building. It is an old log cabin that defies the sterile atmosphere most modern post offices embody. I don't think too much about it anymore, but it is still a different sort of set-up.

When we first planned our move to Alaska, we shared the house we were renting with the family we were renting from, and we also shared their post office box. They gave us the address as Fritz Creek, with a zip code of 99603, which is Homer's zip code. This gave Mapquest endless problems and it took us awhile to figure it out. Fritz Creek is at about Mile 8 of East End Road. There is no special clustering of homes near it as the homes are spread all along East End Road. Back in the early days of Homer before the reservoir was built, the creek was one of the reliable sources of clean water and folks would drive up there to get water. But they established a post office there for the folks who couldn't make it all the way into town.

The post office is officially in Homer, and although the road is in good condition now and for most people it is not much more effort to drive all the way to town, the post office at Fritz Creek continues on.Mail is delivered to Fritz Creek from the Homer post office daily. When I am placing a mail order and I give my address as Fritz Creek, it gives the rep pause when they respond that there is no Fritz Creek, only a Homer. I say, "Same difference" and to make them happy, let them mail it to Homer. Whether we put "Homer" or "Fritz Creek" as our city, the mail gets to us the same since all the post office boxes there begin with "15" which denotes it is a Fritz Creek box.

The Homer post office along the Sterling Highway
Besides sharing a zip code, these two post offices could not be more different. This was dramatically brought home to me a week or two ago when I decided to brave the Homer post office to mail a package. It had been years since I'd set foot in it, despite driving by it many times daily. The Fritz Creek post office is a couple miles out of my way to get my mail, but well worth every moment of time and cent of gas.

I walked into the Homer post office with my package after chatting with an acquaintance outside for 15 minutes. I held my breath, wondering how long the line would be. It was plenty long: 5 people ahead of me. Shortly after getting in line, another 5 or more folks added to the line. Nearly all of them were there simply to pick up packages, yet they had to stand in line for 15 minutes or more with the rest of us who had transactions to complete. When the postal clerk asked for the brown slip of paper from the first person in line, everyone in line started waving their slips as if to say, "Take mine! Take mine!" I struck up a conversation about the post office with the man behind me, giving my condolences that he actually got his mail at this post office which has stunningly slow service. Soon a bunch of us were talking about how I miss out on the best part of standing in line at the post office: seeing half of Homer and catching up on the latest gossip.

Contrast that with Fritz Creek where I walk by the two resident kitties as I head in the door, one with a dead mouse between his paws. The entrance is liberally papered with local notices and events. Four rickety tables are often seating locals who are enjoying the delicious sandwiches and desserts the deli cooks up fresh daily, and conversations flow as folks walk in and out of the post office, deli, general store, video store, liquor store and gas station. The floor is rough wood and it is dark but homey. McNeil Canyon School student artwork is posted on the wall in the post office area. I grab my mail, and if there is anyone at the postal window, it is an unusual day. My longest wait has been 10 minutes to mail a package at the peak of the Christmas season (contrasting with a minimum of a 15 minute wait in Homer), with 1-2 minutes the norm. The postal staff is friendly and we know each other. They frown on taking cell phone calls in the building, and I've heard they refuse to serve those who are taking a call. 

So while some might prefer the sterile but slow and unfriendly atmosphere of the Homer post office, I will continue to go out of my way to head up to Fritz Creek to get my mail for the comfortable, homey atmosphere where I feel like a person rather than "just a customer."

2 comments:

Pat Russell said...

Thanks for this report. We are considering buying a house off East End Road and wondered about the post office at Fritz Creek. We visited there this summer and found it quaint and comfortable. This just reinforces our opinion. Thanks. We are looking forward to moving to Homer/Fritz Creek.

Pat Russell said...

Thanks for this report. We are considering buying a house off East End Road and wondered about the post office at Fritz Creek. We visited there this summer and found it quaint and comfortable. This just reinforces our opinion. Thanks. We are looking forward to moving to Homer/Fritz Creek.