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[NO PHOTO OF ARLINGTON STATION 22201 IS AVAILABLE, AS YOUR CORRESPONDENT’S CAMERA RAN OUT OF BATTERIES AT A PARTICULARLY INOPPORTUNE MOMENT. BUT, IN LIEU OF A PHOTO, IMAGINE A STATELY, GOLD-TOPPED, CLASSICAL BUILDING – A BUILDING NOT UNLIKE THE U.S. SUPREME COURT, THE U.S. CAPITOL DOME, OR THE WHITE HOUSE. INDEED, IMAGINE A RESPLENDENT BUILDING THAT COULD APPROPRIATELY HOUSE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, HIS BEAUTIFUL WIFE AND CHILDREN, AND HIS PUREBRED PORTUGUESE WATER DOG. NOW, UN-IMAGINE THAT PRESIDENT, FIRST FAMILY, AND FIRST DOG, AND REPLACE THEM (IN YOUR IMAGINATION) WITH A NUMBER OF BUSTLING POSTAL WORKERS IN BLUE UNIFORMS MERRILY BUSTING THEIR HUMPS BENEATH A GOLDEN EAGLE (YES, AN EAGLE SOMEHOW CRAFTED FROM SHINING GOLD, OR AT LEAST GOLD-PLATED) TO DELIVER YOUR MAIL ON TIME. GOT IT? THAT’S ARLINGTON STATION. THERE’S ALSO A PHOTO HERE.]

A 10-part series in which Justin Moyer, part-time musician, part-time journalist, and full-time USPS enthusiast visits a bunch of post offices in our nation’s capital so you don’t have to.

Location: 3118 Washington Boulevard Date: 4/17/09 Time: 1:03 p.m.

While my USPS expertise does not necessarily extend to jurisdictions beyond Washington, D.C., I do occasionally like to sample the customer service at P.O.’s outside Chocolate City to see what, if anything, I’m missing. I employ an analogy to bolster my argument: how could one claim to be a food critic if one only ate and reviewed Chinese food?

1. Automated Postal Center (APC) Dear USPS: Please remove the APC from Arlington Station and immediately remand it (if a machine can be remanded) to the inadequately-staffed Martin Luther King Station at 1400 L St NW. 22201’s incredibly efficient clerks do too good a job with a relatively small number of relatively agreeable customers to have to compete with a machine, John Henry-style.

2. Safety Glass From the well-groomed, straight-teethed, shiny, happy citizens of Arlington, Virginia, the American postal worker has nothing to fear.

3. Prompt Service At 1 p.m. on a Thursday, this USPS was a ghost town – the cashiers outnumbered the customers! Would that every USPS was so gloriously vacant.

4. Parking Arlington Station’s only bad grade – no parking lot and semi-unavailable metered street parking. Well, then again…hell, it’s not even that hard to find street parking, and what does it cost, a quarter? Why do journalists always have to criticize? Finding fault with Arlington Station’s parking is a bit triflin’.

5. Service With a Smile Dear “Lyn”: I’m not sure why your name doesn’t have two “n’s,” but I do appreciate the apologetic way you informed me that the price of a first-class stamp would soon rise to 44 cents. I believe your comment was “Price goin’ up – we’re still messing with you guys.” (“We” = the USPS in general, not the employees of 22201 specifically, I assume.) Is this quote correct? If so, I applaud your ability to make a friendly joke out of what may be (for American small businesses in these trying economic times, etc.) a crippling two-cent increase. We’ve got to laugh to keep from cryin’!

6. Triflin’ Factor I always welcome a trifle-free USPS experience. No insane yuppies/bitchy moms/grumpy bearded dudes with a sense of entitlement/smelly homeless at 22201! Hooray!

7. Customer Comments The stream of customers at Arlington Station is less like a stream, really, and more like a very slow trickle. As a result, good “man-on-the-street” quotes were unavailable. However, a historical marker outside the post office is worth quoting in its entirety: “In the first half of the 20th century, Arlington County changed from a handful of separate neighborhoods to a cohesive community with its own identiy and government. The establishment of a central post office was a major factor in this transformation. Built in 1937, the Arlington Post Office was the first federal building constructed in the County. Lobby murals depicting scenes about Arlington history were painted by Auriel Bessemer in 1939. In 2000, it was named in honor of Joseph L. Fisher, former US Representative from Virginia’s 10th District. This building is a designated Arlington County Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

Final Grade:This would be an “A” if not for my (minor) parking quibble. A-.