Cleveland Park, 20008

Location: 3430 Connecticut Avenue NW Date: April 7 Time: 4:28 p.m.

Cleveland Park is an errand-running mother lode. A trip to trusty old P.O. 20008 offers a good chance visit its notable neighbors: Yes! Natural Foods, Magruder’s, Petco, CVS, Supercuts, and the Uptown movie theater, where I saw the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. But does the quality of the post office itself justify a sojourn west across Rock Creek Park into yuppie Mordor?

1. Automated Postal Center (APC) Strike 1: If you’re going to do any serious mailing in Cleveland Park, you’re going to have to talk to a fallible human.

2. Safety Glass Fortunately for this post office’s ambiance, Cleveland Park’s jet set rarely commits armed robbery. Not a pane of safety glass in sight!

3. Prompt Service I groaned yesterday when I strolled into 20008 behind Northwest Washington’s oldest woman who, as luck would have it, was wheeling a grocery cart overflowing with approximately 1,000,000 line-clogging packages. However, I was delighted to find not two, not three, but FOUR clerks on duty, and was in and out in five minutes! Since I’ve visited post offices where literally no one was manning the counter, I’ve got to admit: Cleveland Park keeps it moving.

4. Parking Cleveland “Park?” More like Cleveland “Keep-Driving-Around-the-Block!” (That’s funny because it’s actually very difficult to park in Cleveland Park. Get it? Whatever.) Forget about street parking during rush hour, and don’t think you won’t get a ticket if you park in 20008’s lot behind the Uptown and try to run to Vace for a slice.

5. Service with a Smile Though she’s waited on me for a decade, I doubt USPS cashier “Julia” knows my name. However, I nominate her as “Postal Employee Least Likely to Open Fire on Co-Workers And/Or Customers” for her even-keeled, semi-cheerful, high-quality service. I’ve never felt such a connection to someone who demanded to know if my package contained anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous.

6. Triflin’ Factor Beware Cleveland Park’s subtle Eurotrash vibe. Since they can’t understand red-blooded American USPS culture, diplomats used to parking wherever they want get angry (and hold up lines) when forced to choose between certified mail and certified mail with delivery confirmation. The triflin’ ESL posse did not make an appearance at 20008 yesterday, but watch out for 1) posh Euro moms with bratty Euro kids in tow trying to send an armful of packages to the Continent and 2) irked dudes in expensive Italian shoes wondering why they can’t send their “Mamma Mias” personal correspondence through media mail.

7. Customer Comments “This place can be good and friendly, but other days, it’s complete hell,” says Jeremy Fowler, a Cleveland Park resident who recently filed a complaint after 20008 wouldn’t pay an insurance claim on a damaged eBay item. “I don’t mind paying extra to go to [private shipping company Parcel Plus] across the street,” he says. (I interject: Mr. Fowler must be desperate for quality service, as Parcel Plus is staffed by meanies—-but that’s another story.)

Final Grade: No post office without an APC gets an A, and 20008 is driving its customers to the private sector? A solid B-.