Getting by with makeshift post office

September 12, 1994|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer

John Olecski does not have to say a word to answer the most-asked question at the Linthicum post office.

"I don't know," says the sign he holds up to customers, who ask when the facility will move back to its permanent spot in the Linthicum-Shipley Shopping Center.

Mr. Olecski and the rest of the staff have been in a makeshift post office across the street at 518 Camp Meade Road since July 18 when construction crews began removing asbestos from the floor.

"When you answer the question for 299 customers, by the 300th customer, it starts to get a little old," explained Postmaster Carlos Wharry. "This adds a little humor to the situation."

Although the quarters are cramped at the temporary office, employees and customers are not grumpy, Mr. Wharry said. But everyone hopes the adventure will be over before the month is out.

"Nobody is jumping up and down and yelling," Mr. Wharry said. "We are getting to know people's names and faces this way."

That personalized touch materialized when the temporary office lacked the space for post office boxes. Customers who used to (( be able to walk in and empty their boxes without talking to anyone now have to stand in line and ask a clerk for help.

"So we have two lines going and since we have gotten to know people we sometimes have their mail ready for them," Mr. Wharry said.

While the asbestos was being removed from the building, it was "sealed off like an envelope," he said. After it was removed from the floor, workers saw that the concrete floor was rough.

"It was pitted in some places," Mr. Wharry recalled. "And there were some odd things about it."

Like the 18-inch-by-6-inch pit near one of the walls and several drains.

"The post office is about 45 years old, so we have no idea what was there before it," Mr. Wharry explained. "We think it might have been a restaurant."

The floor was the biggest problem for employees. The tiles never completely adhered to the floor.

"It was the black gooey stuff that seeped out between the tiles," he said. "It would make puddles on the floor, especially when the weather was warm."

It made walking interesting.

"If you stepped on a tile, the black gooey stuff would shoot right up at you," he said. "The glue apparently had some type of reaction to the asbestos and it never dried properly."

There was a two-week delay while construction workers figured out how to fix the floor surface so that it might be more receptive to a new coat of adhesive and tiles. In the end, they finally settled on pouring another thin layer of concrete, Mr. Wharry said.

If they get that done this week, it should be only about an additional two weeks before the $7,000 project is finished, he said.

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