The guy didn't know when to quit.

He stood there in the line of ahandful of people, clutching his letters, and then decided he didn'twant to wait in line any more.

He wanted service, and he wanted it fast.

And he said so. Thenhe started cursing.

Helen Weishaar had never heard anything like it, not here, not in the Ferndale Post Office, where she has held court as postmistress for 13 years.

Even now, six years after that incident, her first and only customer ejection, her recollection is marked by anger and shock.

"It was Christmastime, and he was yelling,cursing and such," she says. "He was even downing the Postal Service. I could hardly believe it."

Which brings us to some useful advice: If you plan to visit Helen Weishaar's post office -- a storefront shop that shares the faded green facade with and pays the rent to theadjoining Law Bros. Hardware -- don't down the U.S. Postal Service.

Not that you'd have much cause to here.

For you'll rarely find a line or anything resembling a big modern-day mail operation, the kind with service windows and real lines and people who don't seem at all like the friendly folks in TV ads.

Rather, you'll find service like it used to be, say the regulars, in a place that could have comeright out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Behind the turquoise door that needs a paint job, hang straw hatsand wreaths and crocheted flags, owls and signs side-by-side on the Pegboard that covers nearly two entire walls of the little one-room shop. Prices are below each item.

Winnie List, Weishaar's partner of 10 years, who oversees the shop four of six days a week, made all the handcrafts. She keeps making them because people keep buying them.

Nearby, in front of the mail counter, hang listings for high school events, craft shows, daycare, accordion instructions and a Saint Patrick's Day gathering.

The old post office, actually a substation run by contract with the Glen Burnie Post Office, steadfastly clings to its ways.

Seemingly caught in a time warp, it defies change at a time when county planners proudly display artist's conceptions of a "revitalized" Ferndale thatlooks much more like Columbia.

This vision shows trees sprouting from wide "pedestrian walkways," a light-rail train making its way past the store fronts -- none of which look much like they do today -- and yuppies sipping drinks under umbrellas at sidewalk cafes.

But Weishaar is convinced the post office will remain a small hometown --and personal -- operation, whatever the planners predict for the surrounding Ferndale.

The regulars would have it no other way.

Many who would never even set foot in a community association meeting find out the latest on the revitalization plans, light rail and more inthis little room. Some regulars, without mentioning the names of people who live practically next door to the big Glen Burnie Post Office, go out of their way to take care of their mail here.

Others comefrom as far as Millersville and Pasadena, while commuters who work at the National Security Agency and Westinghouse frequent the place pretty regularly.

"People just seem so happy to get away from all that rush," says Weishaar. "They're just happy to escape for a little bit of time, at least. And it's the people that make me never want to retire," says the slightly graying mother of two sons, who wears jeans and a yellow ribbon on her jacket.

She knows most of those people pretty well. From behind her counter, she's watched the generationschange.

The babies she once coddled have grown up, and some have left town. Older residents have died or just stopped coming around. Their children and grandchildren make regular stops now.

Weishaar has laughed with the regulars a lot over the years. She's cried with them and mourned with them and prayed with them.

Lately, a lot of the letters and packages have been addressed to young men and women inthe Persian Gulf.

"I've seen a lot of these kids grow up, and I feel so bad for the people mailing these letters," says Weishaar. "Their eyes just fill up with tears, and my eyes fill up with tears, too.We just pray they all come back, that they'll have mail to send fromhere again."

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