Friday, December 11, 2020

Holiday Queue


12/7/20 Northgate post office

Other than the readerboard at Ace Hardware promoting “Corona Hours” back in March, I haven’t really sketched much that shows what the pandemic looks like – chiefly because I avoid all places and circumstances that might enable me to sketch masked people. I’ve wanted to – partly because I miss sketching people so much, but more because documenting current events is something urban sketching can do well. I won’t risk my own safety, though, for a sketch.

A few days ago when I was dropping off a pre-paid package at the drive-up mail box, I found an opportunity to sketch safely from my car. With less than three weeks until Christmas, the postal service is overwhelmed more than ever. While long lines at the post office before the holidays are normal, this year they are snaking out the door and around the parking lot so that everyone can stand safely distanced.

This sketch was a huge compositional challenge. As I often am, if I were mainly interested in sketching the gestures of the people in line, I would have drawn them larger, especially to include the important detail of masks. But if I drew the individuals larger, I would have been able to fit only two or three on the page to indicate the appropriate distance between them – another important part of this story. (I’ve seen some sketches of queues or crowds, and the sketchers will note that the people were actually more socially distanced than was being shown in the sketch; they, too, were challenged by this dilemma.) Since my story was about the long line at the P.O., I chose to show more people and make them smaller, but some of the masks got lost.

PSA: I recently discovered that PayPal has a shipping service that enables making prepaid first class and Priority Mail USPS shipping labels with tracking – at a slight discount. All you need is a postal scale and a PayPal account. That means you can drop small packages (within the US only) into the mail box without standing in line for the kiosk or counter. The catch is that PayPal doesn’t promote the service, and the link to use it is very difficult to find! Here it is! (Bookmark it afterwards because you’ll never find it again.)


  1. Seems like a handy service. I'm not shipping anything this year. In fact everyone in the family agreed we weren't doing gifts this year. I made a quick stop at our post office but the line was still just up to the door of the building and everyone that was going in was masked. I can imagine trying to get the line of people and the building in one sketch. Nice!

    1. Anything we can do to relieve the pressure inside the post office is a good thing this year!


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