"A big truck comes in about 6 o'clock, and if gets out of here at 6:15, I'm doing good," Whittenberg said. "Nowadays 6:45 is good."
The Postal Service will deliver 20 billion letters, packages and cards between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the busiest mailing day expected to be Monday, Dec. 19.
"Doing the job, you don't pay much attention to dates, when it picks up and when it declines," Whittenberg said. "You're hustling to get those packages out because if they don't get delivered, that means somebody's Christmas. You're just working to get the packages and the other mail out."
According to the U.S. Postal Service, total mail volume on Dec. 19 is expected to rise to 900 million pieces of mail, up from 670 million pieces on an average day.
About 100 million first-class letters are processed every day. That number increases to 150 million a day during the holidays. About 1 million packages will be delivered every day through Christmas Eve. The busiest delivery day will be Wednesday, Dec. 21.
As bulk mail clerk, Whittenberg sorts mail into different containers and said he's noticed more packages than cards -- although the post office gets tons of cards.
"It hits you all at once and it doesn't let up. You don't have time to look and see what it is and know which classes of packages are mailed more than others," Whittenberg said.
But there are things customers can do to assist postal workers and to ensure their mail arrives safely and in time for the holidays.
Make the "To" address clear and plainly visible, Whittenberg said.
"And by all means, please put a return address on it," Whittenberg said.
If a piece of mail contains a wrong address or is packaged wrong and has no return address, the postal service has no way of knowing who to return the package to, Whittenberg said. The mail is then sent to the "dead letter office" in St. Paul, Minn.
"They're the only ones authorized to open and retrieve dead mail," Whittenberg said.
Sheila Richardson, post master at the New Madrid Post Office, said mail without return addresses is very common, too.
"It's important to put return addresses on mail because, especially since 9
-11, its considered target mail if not done correctly," Richardson said. "And also If someone's moved away, we need a way to get the mail back to the sender."
In addition to including a return address, customers should make sure anything breakable or damageable is packaged well, Whittenberg said. "If you don't package well, it can come open in shipping, and the contents could be lost," Whittenberg said.
Packaging well includes, for instance, using bubble wrap or a lot of newspapers with a glass item, Whittenberg said.
New Madrid Post Office employees have also been busy with holiday packages and cards, and Richardson anticipates more business as Christmas approaches.
"Mail early," Richardson advised. "It keeps the rush down."