By Jen Gourley
Santa has his elves, and Santa has his reindeer, but you know who else helps him out big time at Christmas? The people who work at the post office!
I’d been thinking about what a crazy time of the year it must be for postal workers, as they endeavour to get everyone’s letters, cards and parcels posted and delivered. I got in touch with Michaela Lawson, the owner/manager at Biloela Post Office & Tech Support, and she invited me to come and see just what it’s like behind the scenes in the lead up to Christmas Day.
It’s busy when I arrive at the post office. Cars are coming and going, and customers are lined up, with one woman collecting a huge box at the counter as I walk in.
Michaela (pictured) takes me out the back and shows me where all the parcels are stacked up for delivery. There are masses of them – big, small, Christmassy…
Michaela tells me that what I’m looking at is just one day’s worth of packages.
“80% of that leaves every day,” explained Michaela. “That’s one day, every day we seem to load up again.”
It’s a crazy busy time of year and the posties are working hard to get those parcels out.
“They’ve been sending out people to deliver on a weekend,” Michaela said. “Last week, we had Sunday delivery, this week, we had Saturday and Sunday delivery.”
And for those who work odd hours and aren’t always home to collect items, the post office has a parcel hatch available from 5am. “It caters for people going to work early or coming back from night shift and stuff like that,” Michaela said.
Then she showed me the cages. No panthers or leopards in these cages – lots of parcels and letters though! All the mail that comes from elsewhere is delivered to the post office in cages.
“On a standard week, on a Monday, we would get eight to 11 cages on a Monday, through the year. Currently we’re getting about 11 to 16 every single day of the week. And that’s even after they’re doing those weekend deliveries. There’s so many parcels.
“Two years ago, before Covid, they said we were at our highest (number of) parcels. So that would have been 2018’s Christmas, we were at our highest parcels coming in, then we hit Covid. And people are still too scared to go out. So, they’re still online shopping. And they’re not just doing it at Christmas, they’re doing it all through the year.”
So, what’s it like working at the post office in Bilo in the silly season?
“It’s a bit chaotic,” Michaela smiled. “We’re keeping up with it, which has been good, and people are quite understanding, which is helpful. We haven’t had any issues with people coming and being cranky, which has been great. Our biggest hold up at the moment, as the news talked about, was with Covid – some of our largest sorting facilities don’t have the people to keep up with sorting.”
Things are extra busy at the post office as well, Michaela explained, because some of the local businesses like to send out Christmas presents, there are quite a few contractors in town which adds to the amount of mail coming in, and people are wanting lots of happy snaps printed for this happy time of year.
“The photo machine has been going hot,” Michaela said. “On an average week, we may get 10 to 20 orders. Yesterday, I did 35 orders. So, having photos in town has been super helpful. People just throw a photo in a Christmas card or in a photo frame for Christmas. Last year, I had to replace it, so it was down. But I’ve noticed this year how much people needed it.
“There’s a lot of things we do here that people don’t realise as well. I mean, we photocopy, we laminate, we bind. Everyone’s been getting their (vaccine) certificates out lately. We’ve been photocopying and reducing and putting them in their wallets and stuff like that.”
The friendly staff are always so helpful and, therefore, appreciated, and that’s evident by the amount of chocolate stashed around the copiers and shelves.
“We have an overload amount of chocolate at the moment. People obviously don’t realise that I’m on a chocolate reduction,” Michaela laughed. “I’ve got boxes and boxes of chocolate just because of how much we, I guess, helped through the year. Christmas time they send us chocolates.”
There are other goodies out the back of the post office but these ones are stashed away. They are for a little girl called Makenna for whom the post office is like a second home. She’s Michaela’s daughter and she’ll be having her fourth birthday in January. But before the birthday presents, there’s the Christmas presents, and her Mum has got them wrapped and hidden on shelves where hopefully they won’t be found. There’s also a little bike with training wheels out the back. That’s not a present though – that’s Makenna’s mode of transport when she’s hanging at the PO with her mum. Maybe she’s in training to be a postie when she grows up?
“She’s very helpful. Very helpful,” said Michaela, with a wry smile. “She likes to go out and grab a parcel and just give it to people. And I’m like, ‘No, that’s not the right person’.”
On the wall behind the counter, there’s a large section covered with photos of Makenna, to help keep her adoring fans (and she has many!) up to date.
“This wall was originally created because Makenna was here from 12 weeks old until she was five months old. And people always ask how she is,” Michaela said. So I keep this wall up to date so that when people go, ‘How’s Makenna?’ (Michaela points to a photo) This is how she is this week.”
“Yes, I’ve still have everybody coming in, ‘How’s Makenna?’ and I even get little gifts for her. So yeah, she’s definitely a big part of the team for sure.”
So, we know about the littlest postie now, but how many other people are employed by Michaela? There’s a person to do the sorting, four people serving on the counter, plus three people who do the deliveries in Moura.
While a lot of workplaces have their Christmas shindig this month, that’s not the plan for staff of the Biloela Post Office.
“We’re not doing our Christmas party in December because it’s just too busy for us,” Michaela said. “So, we’ll do that in January or February, I think. Try and get the families together when we’re a little bit less tired.”
A bit of R&R is looking good for Michaela after a very busy year. Little Makenna will be at the post office on Friday, whizzing around on her bike and hopefully not finding her presents. Then Makenna will spend Christmas with her dad, and Michaela will head to Gympie to spend Christmas with her mum and her brothers.
“This is my first year not having Makenna for Christmas Day. When she comes back to me next week, then we’ll do our own little Christmas, the week after, so it’s like the spirit of Christmas keeps on living.”
The Biloela Post Office will be closed for the two public holidays next week, on Monday, December 27 and Tuesday, December 28, and will be open again from Wednesday. It will also be closed the following Monday for the New Year’s public holiday.
So, for a few days, the team can forget about the parcels and packages and focus on the people they love and put their feet up for a well-earned rest. Letters be thankful for such awesome customer service (ho ho ho).
Happy Christmas to the team at Biloela Post Office & Tech Support.