By Justin Boron
A U.S. Post Office is an essential stopover for much of the holiday cheer spread throughout the nation.
Sophia Peyster, 42, waited in line recently with a box full of gifts for her family in New York and said she was waiting in her shortest line of this holiday season.
"It's pretty quick in here," she said of a the post office in Jonesboro.
Postal workers will have a tougher time keeping up with the crowds today, which officials say will be the peak mailing day of the year.
The Postal Service estimates that over 280 million stamps will be canceled, almost three times the number it averages on a regular day during the year.
About 1.5 million pieces of mail will pass through the processing plant in Hapeville, said Michael Miles, the spokesman for the Postal Service in Atlanta.
People start realizing "I only have another week to get this done," he said. "People just like to procrastinate."
One way to get packages mailed without having to wait in long lines would be to use one of the new automatic postal centers like the one in Jonesboro, Miles said.
"It's a lot like an ATM," he said.
At the machines, customers can mail packages and buy stamps with a credit card, Miles said.
Last minute deliveries will likely be accommodated up until Christmas Eve, he said.
But it can get expensive, Miles said.
To be safe, he said packages sent after Dec. 21 should be sent Express Mail even though parcels sent priority mail would arrive in two to three days.
Express Mail delivery starts at $13.65 for eight ounces and goes up by with the weight.
An alternative to the post office is a local courier service run by Rudy Miller, 53, out of his Jonesboro home.
Rudy's Rush specializes in deliveries throughout the metro area.
Recently, Miller was consumed by the delivery of three dozen cheesecakes.
His service also accommodates delivery to the 48 contiguous states.
The Postal Service offered the following packaging tips to ensure a delivery's safe arrival:
? Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents. Leave space for cushioning inside the carton.
? Package contents with shredded or rolled newspaper, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam peanuts. Plain air-popped popcorn is also good for cushioning; it's inexpensive and environmentally friendly. Pack tightly to avoid shifting.
? Always use tape that is designed for shipping, such as pressure-sensitive tape, nylon-reinforced tape, paper tape, or glass-reinforced pressure-sensitive tape.
? Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape, or cellophane tape.
? Put the delivery and return addresses on only one side of the package.
? Recommendation: Place an index card inside the package that contains the sender's address and the recipient's address along with a list of the contents. This will help us re-pack boxes that were improperly wrapped and came apart during transporting and processing and help ensure that the package is either sent to its destination or back to the sender.
? Take packages that weigh at least one pound into the post office for mailing. Do not put boxes into your neighborhood mailbox or expect for your mail carrier to pick them up for you.
? Stuff glass and fragile hollow items, like vases, with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage due to shock. When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.