In the 39 holiday seasons Rick Lorang has spent at the United States Post Office, one thing is always remained the same.
There's more mail. A lot more.
On any given day, the men and women working at the Billlings Main Mail Processing Center off South 26th Street get their hands on around one million different pieces of mail.
Lorang, a general expediter, said once Christmas rolls around, expect that number to at least triple.
"We do what I would consider to be an impossible job seven days a week," Lorang said. "It's probably impossible to keep everybody happy and satisfied with the problems we deal with regarding weather, flight delays, truck breakdowns, whatever happens. It all effects the mail flow."
The sheer volume calls for more hours and reinforcement. The processing center has sign up sheets so employees can sign up for two to four hours of overtime during the holiday season.
They also bring in a few more helping hands, which will come in handy Monday, which is expected to be the busiest mail day.
"Everyone is mailing out at the last minute," said Ron Peterson, an 11-year veteran at the distribution center. "It's been really heavy mostly with the parcels and the packages right now; letters are probably normal volume where we are at now."
The sheer volume of mail has changes significantly over the years, Lorang said. Back when he joined the post office in the late 70s, he said there was no other real competition.
"There was no UPS or FedEX in Montana," Lorang said. "We had freight companies, we had Greyhound and the post office, so the parcel business that we had was absolutely unbelievable."
Lorang said that's the time when Christmas season for the mail would start in September as stores started stocking for the holidays.
"They would stock their Christmas stuff through the mail," he said. "First we received a lot of the products in for the store shelves, especially clothing. Then it would be bought and reshipped as presents.
"We would see the stores then coming back with a lot of volume for us to mail out after we had already handled it once getting it to them."
Once UPS and FedEX stepped in, he said there was a considerable drop in packages. At the same time, priority mail has increased.
"We are just as effective as anyone else because we are all facing the same restrictions as far as weather and time," Lorang said.
He said the number of letters and holiday cards has also dropped off, while number of places to deliver has exponentially grown.
"We have more and more places to deliver to, so it changes our operation a great deal," Lorang said. "What we have to do is keep things moving, it's got to come in one door, it's got to go out the other door and it's got to be the right door. It's got to be delivered to the right address.
"We work a lot of long hours and we do it together; it's teamwork, cooperation, and in fact, lots of times, it's a lot of fun."