Stamped out

Dear Ace: How do the Downtown parking stamps work? Why do some businesses readily stamp the ticket you get when you enter one of our garages or lots and some do not? What gives? —Country Mouse in the City

Dear Mouse: Firstly, I must commend you on learning to drive a car, what with your tiny, furry little feet and complete lack of opposable thumbs. And Ace must also heartily concur that the randomness of Downtown parking validation is vexing in the extreme. Many’s the time that, after parking the Acemobile in its customary oil-stained spot, Ace finds himself unable to obtain that sweet free-parking validation that all Downtown drivers crave.

   To help unravel this conundrum, Ace talked to Bob Stroh, the general manager of the Charlottesville Parking Center. Bob cheerfully explained that, in our magnificent free-market economy, it’s up to local establishments to decide whether they want to pay for the ga-rage’s parking-stamp program. “It’s just like deciding if they want to buy uniforms, or whether they want to use china or paper plates,” he says. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, either. “It has a tremendously wide range,” he says. “Everyone has their own distinct code, and we track usage based on that. The range is huge.”

   So there’s definitely a monetary calculation involved: Is the price of providing free parking offset by the number of new customers it attracts? Some establishments obviously think not. And there are other considerations, as well. As one of Ace’s nonvalidating, off-the-record sources pointed out, “Our business hours are at night, so there’s plenty of free parking. The meters go off after 6pm, so we really don’t see the need.”

   Now, anyone who has at-tempted to find Downtown parking (even for their cute little mouse-car) during Fridays After 5 might disagree with this characterization, but there you go. As a driver, your best bet is to register a firm (but polite) vote for validation with the owner of any nonstamping establishment you frequent. If they think that enough of their customers desire it, they might just change their minds. (Or, in your case, call the Depart-ment of Health.)

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Stamped out

Dear Ace, I went to the 11th Street post office that’s near my house the other day to mail my boyfriend a mix CD as proof of my undying love and affection. However, when I got there the doors were locked, the lights were out, and the place looked empty. I was there well within normal business hours and it was not one of those crazy federal holidays. What gives?—Carrie Carepackage

Carrie: You gotta wait a minute, wait a minute, yesssssss, you gotta wait a minute, wait a minute, please, please Mistress Carepackage…and take in the clues. Closed during business hours? Empty? Granted, the federal government sometimes gets stuff done at a rate that would imply they are closed during business hours. However, the last time Ace checked, inefficiency, thy name is bureaucracy. So, honey, wake up and smell the glue: Your post office is closed, as in shut down, kaput, gone with the wind, finito.

   Ever the intrepid reporter, Ace donned his wire-rimmed glasses and phoned Lois Miller, Richmond District Communications Coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service, for confirmation.

   “Yessiree, Bob…I mean, Ace,” Miller said. “That post office has been closed since March 6.”

   Having been in at the 11th Street location since 1966, the 22903 post office has to be packed up and moved out by the end of March. The sudden evacuation is the result of a little landlord issue. No, the postal workers weren’t leaving junked cars in the yard. According to Miller, the landlord simply wanted to renegotiate the lease and the post office said, “Foggeta-boutit. We’re out.”

   As the post office looks for a new space to camp out—a search which Miller says may or may not land them a new location—those 400 to 500 people who had P.O. boxes at the 11th Street office have been transferred to the Downtown location where they have their very own section of the building, cordoned off behind a red rope, no doubt. For those just looking for stamps, packages and eye candy, the options are less limited. There are still post offices not only Downtown, but at Barracks Road and Seminole Trail that aren’t in any danger of calling it quits anytime soon.

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