It takes mail carrier Curtis Hastings about 11 minutes to deliver letters to the homes on Adaline Street. His pace is quick as he drops each bundle into mail boxes and slots. Sometimes he rouses a dog on the otherwise silent street.
He trudges through patches of snow, dodges decorative reindeer and escapes the snare of Christmas light wires.
This is Hastings' 18th Christmas working for the United States Postal Service. He's covered this route - Bath Street to Telegraph Street; Curry Street to Mountain Street - for seven years. That's long enough to recognize everyone's name and to deliver an incorrectly labeled envelope to the right home.
"I've noticed this year that people have more evenly spaced out sending their gifts," he says, while packing envelopes into his canvas mail bag. "Usually there is always the big rush at the end, but this year it was more spread out. It started before Thanksgiving."
Monday was the year's busiest mailing day, with more than 900 million cards, letters and packages entering the nation's mail stream. Most of those items reached post offices for delivery Wednesday. From 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Carson City mail carriers delivered about 1,500 large packages. Acting Postmaster Dave Dayton said that's a small increase from the previous year. In the Reno, Sparks and Carson City areas, carriers delivered about 4 million pieces of mail on Wednesday.
Hastings, 40, who lives in Stagecoach, feels the strain of the final days before Christmas on his mind and his back. He still has one more package to send to his family. Today he's delivered 12 big boxes to houses on his route. Hastings takes a long, oblong box out of his mail truck and walks it up to a house. No one is home, so this one is left on the porch.
He's noticing that more Christmas gifts are arriving straight from the company, such as the Home Shopping Network or Amazon.com.
These gift givers are keeping ahead of many holiday shoppers who wait until the last two days before Christmas. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, Dec. 22-24 were among the busiest shopping days of 2004.
-- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.