SPRINGFIELD — He’s no Grinch, no Scrooge.
And Joseph “Louie” Locke is no bureaucratic slowpoke when you need help expediting those last-minute Christmas packages.
He’s as jovial as Santa himself.
“Oh, I think he’s awesome,” says Gretchen Jenness of Springfield, who came to the U.S. Postal Service’s Gateway branch on Tuesday to make sure a package would reach her daughter Jamie in Colorado Springs, Colo., by Christmas Eve on Thursday.
“Just very helpful, very friendly,” Jenness says of Locke. “You’d think he just walked on the job, he’s got that much energy.”
Locke, 52, actually became a regular in the Gateway office lobby last Christmas. He’s been a postal clerk there for a decade but had worked in the back, sorting packages.
An on-the-job wrist injury in 2013 left him in a brace and only able to work with one hand, Locke says. “It’s the only one-handed job I can do,” he joked.
Actually, four of the largest post offices in the Eugene-Springfield area — Gateway in Springfield and the main, southside and westside offices in Eugene — provide “lobby assistance” at holiday time, according to Lisa Bodtker, the Postal Service’s custom service support supervisor for the Eugene-Springfield area.
“Louie does a great job,” she says. “We move a lot of people through in a short time.”
Locke’s constantly chatting up customers, moving all around the lobby.
You good there?
Come on over here!
OK, young lady, there’s your box.
How you doin’? You got everything you need?
As two or three clerks work behind the counter, “Louie the Locke” works the line of customers. The nickname is what they called him in his Navy days, before he retired and moved with wife Maggie from Michigan to Springfield in 2003.
“How can I help you?” he asks a woman at the front of the line of more than 15 customers. “A million dollars?”
She laughs, then says she wants a certain kind of stamp.
“We still got snow stamps?” Locke asks a clerk at the counter.
He moves on to the next in line.
“Only $200,000 for you,” he jokes with the customer.
He comes to Sandy Capps of Eugene, who is third in line.
She’s fine. Locke helped her find the right box a few minutes earlier.
“Thank you very much,” Capps says. “Awesome help, and Merry Christmas, sir.
“He’s so nice to me,” Capps says to the woman next to her.
Locke moves on to help someone at the “self-service” kiosk.
“Any lithium (batteries), perfume, anything flammable?” Locke asks.
She laughs and says “No.”
When Jenness walks in, dressed from head to toe in an elf costume that would make Will Ferrell envious, Locke says: “Oh, bless my wretched soul.”
“It’s just the holidays,” explains Jenness, 58, of her attire. A regular at the Gateway post office, Jenness says her husband, Kelly Jenness, gave her $10 to go stand in line so he wouldn’t have to.
But she doesn’t have to, either, because Locke takes care of her at the self-service kiosk.
“Come up here, young lady,” he says. “PIN number and hit that button right there.”
Locke’s customer service “is somewhat unusual in this day and age,” declares Jenness, an instructional assistant at Spring Creek Elementary School in Eugene.
“I think people are just too rushed,” she says. “And he takes the time to get you through and make you feel like you’re the only person here.”
Linda Cheney, 68, walks in with her latest batch of Christmas cards.
“There’s one of my sweethearts, right there,” Locke says. “She brought me candy yesterday, thank you very much.”
Locke takes her delivery of cards from behind the counter.
“He’s absolutely wonderful,” says Cheney, of Springfield. “He brightens my day. I come every day, and sometimes I’m just stressed from work. He just cheers everyone up and really adds spirit to the post office. He treats everyone like they’re special.”
Locke claims it’s just a path of least resistance:
“It’s easier to have fun than to be grouchy all the time.”