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Going postal 

The line of package-toting customers flows into the lobby of Old Colorado City's post office as a toddler performs a chortling chorus of whine-moans. With only eight days until Christmas, window clerks Debbie Hatfield (rear) and Lydia Dodson (front) are transforming a typically unpleasant errand into an unexpected yukfest. Dodson, with a lipstick smile, wears a standard Santa stocking cap while Hatfield dons a set of reindeer antlers, whose musical features she's only too happy to demonstrate. Her battery-operated hat plays "Jingle Bells," ad nauseam.

"John! Hat! You're out of place!" Hatfield yells.

Reluctantly, window clerk John Simpson (right) -- the straight man to Dodson and Hatfield's Heckle and Jeckle -- places a Santa hat equipped with two white rope braids on his head. If Father Christmas moonlit as a rabbi, he'd look something like Simpson. The line erupts into laughter and applause.

Shtick is the word for what Hatfield and Dodson have developed and honed over the last four years of working together. They share a rapport with their customers and each another, and any postal patron quickly recognizes that the West Side P.O. is no post-and-run stamp stand.

By way of one-liners, there's Dodson's staple response to "Do you take credit cards?"

--Yes, and we return them too.

Or her equally goofy retort to "Do you want my driver's license?

--No, thanks, I've already got one.

Customers like OCC resident George Desis come for a good-natured heckle. "They'll make you laugh when you're down," he said. "They're lovely people."

According to manager Sue Luck, customers from Manitou Springs, downtown Colorado Springs and even the Ivywild neighborhood south of downtown travel to the West Side for the service and good humor.

"On the West Side, it's different," Dodson explained. "We've got that small-town atmosphere." Or as she explained to a customer, "Going to the post office should not be a dental experience."

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