Southeast Station, 20003

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: 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE Date: 4/15/09 Time: 11:16 a.m.

Though I’d never visited Southeast Station before today, a trusted confidante informed in an email in re: “A Particularly Painful Post Office” that this “Post Office [sic] on Pennsylvania by Eastern Market really, really sucks balls.” What USPS reviewer wouldn’t want to investigate this testicular claim?

1. Automated Postal Center (APC) I thought that a P.O. on Pennsylvania Avenue less than ten blocks from the U.S. Congress and less than twenty from the White House – a USPS facility built for the convenience of our nation’s public servants who walk their dogs on Capitol Hill’s lush lawns and push their well-groomed children’s expensive strollers down their exclusive neighborhood’s wide thoroughfares – would be rockin’ at least one APC, maybe two. I thought wrong.

2. Safety Glass Southeast Station’s staff must implicitly trust the numerous other government employees this P.O. presumably serves – like the Grateful Dead, 20003’s cashiers operate “without a net.” (I’m mixing metaphors here, but by “net,” I mean “safety glass.” That is, 20003 doesn’t have any. Get it?)

3. Prompt Service I was 15th in line at Southeast Station today, a personal worst. Two cashiers at the front of a 15-person line and no APC? This place needs some TARP money.

4. Parking Street parking only, and it costs a quarter for ten minutes. I found a spot out front and counted myself lucky.

5. Service With a Smile Evaluating the attitudes of postal employees on April 15, a.k.a. “Tax Day,” is a little bit like asking an woman giving birth if bringing another soul into the world is really worth the painful havoc that baby is wreaking on her pelvis, lower back, and genitals. Thus, though no clerks were particularly friendly during my rainy-Tax Day visit to 20003 (and, truth be told, I wasn’t feeling very talkative either), I’m inclined to give everyone a pass. This time.

6. Triflin’ Factor I suspect most triflin’ M.F.’s at 20003 aren’t behind the counter, but in line. Case in point: a “former House Committee” employee I interviewed about the quality of service at Southeast Station gave me a decent quote, then told me about plan she has for constitutional reform called the “Serve Your Country Amendment.” This amendment would ensure that all members of Congress and the President – and, in fact, the entire Washington “establishment” – would be forced out of Washington “like every 12 years” so that they don’t become “entrenched.” While I applaud this worthy sentiment, I wondered how a woman I’d watched struggle with certified mail forms 1) could successfully alter a document that doesn’t even have room for an basic Equal Rights Amendment (for women! for all women! for your mother! for my mother! etc.), 2) thought a City Paper blogger with no business card or laminated press credentials could somehow help her cause (which has no organization, constituency, or website behind it), and 3) could, ironically, turn out to be crazier than the obviously-homeless woman wearing an overcoat of rags trying to get a piece of mail to Charlotte, N.C. by Friday (especially since I’d approached this potential constitution-amender instead of the rag-overcoat wearer because the former seemed, superficially, sane).

7. Customer Comments “They need more help,” says Paris Singer of Capitol Hill. “There should be a simple way to know how to get certified mail.”

Final Grade: My correspondent was right: this post office does indeed suck balls. F.