We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
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: 1400 L St. NW
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Full disclosure: 20043 and I have a long, troubled history. When I worked a few doors down from MLK in the early ‘oughts—-before MP3s, MySpace, etc.—-I spent many frustrating lunch hours waiting in often-prodigious lines to mail promotional CDs around the world. This left me time to practice anger-management techniques and fill out USPS customer comment cards (since discontinued) bemoaning MLK’s poor service (which eventually earned me a five-minute consultation with a USPS supervisor and a free book of stamps). How has the past decade treated my former postal nemesis?
1. Automated Postal Center (APC)
Perhaps in response to my numerous, articulate complaints, USPS parked a truck outside of MLK for many years to handle customer overflow from long lines. Post-Inconvenient Truth, this carbon-emitting vehicle has been replaced by a trusty olde APC—-a convenience often inexplicably ignored by MLK’s Gucci Gulch clientele who demand human service.
2. Safety Glass
USPS employees need protection from other government workers—-20043’s safety glass is as thick as any east of the river.
3. Prompt Service
Like Judas amongst Christ’s Apostles, I was 13th in a one-clerk line at MLK during my recent visit. The unsubtle brutality of this arrangement (“Can you believe there’s only one clerk at lunchtime?” etc.) was eventually addressed by a noble USPS employee who encouraged all determined line-waiters to use the APC and helped me fill out my certified mail forms. Still, mailing my taxes took a totally unacceptable 30 minutes.
Downtown D.C. ain’t car-friendly, and neither is this P.O.
5. Service With a Smile
“Ms. Kingwood,” my cashier, was all business, but you can’t expect the only cashier at MLK to swap babka recipes while angry waiting lawyers fume.
6. Triflin’ Factor
Customers: when waiting in a long USPS line, it’s best not to roll your eyes. If I see you roll your eyes, I feel compelled to smile to express sympathy or say something useless like, “Long line, isn’t it?” or “Waiting, waiting, waiting.” I prefer not to engage in small talk of this nature, so please—-save the triflin’ eye-rolls for the long lines at the DMV.
7. Customer Comments
“There weren’t a lot of people working here today, so that sucks,” says Stella, a glassy-eyed, surnameless young woman whose self-esteem, ability to think freely, and will to live have been permanently damaged by the Soviet conditions under which USPS expects her to mail her personal and business correspondence (in my opinion). “Other than that, they’re great,” she added. I expect Stella took the Metro home later that day to a small Alexandria apartment and, after preparing a bland microwavable meal, tuned into the 700 Club, The O’Reilly Factor, and or the Mormon-sponsored vampire film Twlight.
Final Grade: Though MLK’s service has improved since 2000, it remains a high-profile USPS failure—-a ship of fools which sails for anyone who (1) works near Farragut Square, (2) wants to get their taxes in the hands of the IRS before the Ides of April, and (3) can’t spend their lunch hour hiking to Dupont Circle’s much-better equipped P.O.’s. F.