The "happiest time of the year" is by far the most stressful time of the year for the clerks and carriers that man the Sisters Post Office. They're busier than elves in a North Pole workshop.

The rush starts right after Thanksgiving and lasts till about a week past Christmas.

The Sisters Post Office normally handles 400 to 600 parcels a day, according to Officer in Charge (OIC) Tony Schlichting. At this time of year, that number more than doubles.

"We're doing anywhere from 1,000 up to 1,500 parcels a day," Schlichting told The Nugget.

The staffing, however, remains the same.

"I've got four clerks and I've got five HCR (hand carry route) drivers," said the OIC. "Our office is considered small enough that we don't qualify for... extra assistance."

Each morning, pallets stacked above man height with Amazon boxes arrive and have to be sorted, along with heaping binfuls of other packages.

The upshot is that when tracking shows that your package has arrived at the post office, it might be buried under a mound of other packages. And your mail may not be in your post office box until the afternoon.

"We try to do our best to see that our customers get what they need and what they deserve," Schlichting said.

It's just very difficult to keep up with the volume and demand.

"I've got clerks working 10-hour days," said the OIC.

The clerks are working six days a week; the carriers are working seven. The HCR drivers are often out on their routes until 8:30 or 9 p.m.

The Sisters Post Office also handles parcels for UPS and Fed Ex - but they don't know in advance, nor do drivers, which packages will be routed that way.

The OIC is asking for a little patience from the Sisters public, who are understandably eager to get their packages in hand. If a clerk can readily lay hands on a parcel, they're happy to retrieve it, but if it's not on the top of a pile, "it's just too much to try to dig trough the containers until we get to it," Schlichting said.

Schlichting also noted that the Post Office is returning parcels every day because the shipper requires a street address, but the customer doesn't get street delivery. The OIC offers a work-around:

Use the post office's physical address of 694 N. Larch St. and include your P.O. Box number as a "unit code" with that address. Packages addressed that way will not be sent back, Schlichting said.

On behalf of his weary and stressed crew, Schlichting wants Sisters to know that they're doing their best.

"I just want the customers to know that we're doing every thing we can to get their packages done."