Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Buckingham Village, Parking, White Plastic Erasers

Buckingham Village and Our Neighborhood
Or: There is a “there,” here, Part 1.

If you’re a dog owner, then you understand that some people you only know by their dogs, people who you see and say to your spouse, “Hey, that’s Willie’s owner,” or “Isn’t that the guy who owns that huge lab?”

Rainbow’s owner was one of those people for me. I saw her at Costco the other day, but didn’t say hi. Where I usually see her is walking Rainbow in my backyard which is shared condominium space.

Or I’d see her anywhere throughout the neighborhood. She’s an older woman with graying hair and light blue eyes and skinny legs, who often wore a pair of shorts and an old T-shirt. She once told me, in her German accent, she walked at least five miles a day all over the county.
Rainbow was her grey-and-white schnauzer who, as often as not, was off his retractable leash to trot where he pleased, but never too far off the sidewalk, and never too far away from his owner.

Although I’d see her quite often in Arlington Oaks, she lived in Buckingham Village, at the corner of North Thomas and 4th Road, at least, that’s where I often saw her. She’d sit outside on a folding chair with a friend or two, in the dirt under the shade of an old oak. She and her friend never failed to say hello and ask of my children.

There’s a plastic tape barrier at that corner now. And I don’t want to get melodramatic, though it may be too late, but it hit me when I saw the barrier that I hadn’t seen her in weeks, and I should have said hello at Costco.

Perhaps I’ve just missed her (my family and I had been out of town for awhile) and I’ll see her again soon enough. Perhaps she never lived on but only visited that corner, or perhaps she’s been relocated within the complex, but it struck me that these are the times to come.
Whether you’re for the Buckingham Village demolition and reconstruction or against it, the face of Buckingham will change, and some of what made Buckingham the neighborhood we know will change with it.

With change comes disruption. I realize that I’ll be among the least bothered, and Rainbow’s owner will be (or maybe already has been) one of the displaced, but I don’t see any real way around it. The memorandum of understanding the county worked out with Paradigm looks like a good document to me, allowing change with the least disruption.

Still, it makes me feel ill.

Cheapskate Parking

It was blistering hot outside— told me it was 91 but only felt like 89 degrees last Tuesday, Aug. 22. In that kind of heat, I often find myself moseying over to Murky Coffee in Clarendon to score an iced coffee and use their AC and internet instead of mine. At times I get lucky, and a parking spot is open in front of the joint (there’s only five, so you have to get lucky), but as often, I head to the meters along Fairfax Drive behind Murky.

What burns my goat is that a guy can’t get lucky at the meters.

I pulled my VW into a spot that someone had just vacated, and to my delight (I’m a cheapskate, remember), there were four minutes left on the meter. But I’ve been mugged more than once before by these steely-headed bandits. Either the machines haven’t worked, or I’ve paid money into them to have them suddenly stop working.

So I was standing there, computer briefcase in hand, longing for cold iced coffee (remember, it only feels like a brisk 89 degrees), and there were four minutes on the meter. I can go inside, put my briefcase down and run right back out again, or I can choose what I chose.

I grabbed nickels and dimes and started to pump them, slowly, into the meter, just waiting for the meter to cut out on me. The first nickel in and I got lucky! It added four minutes. A dime added another eight. I got up to 59 minutes on the clock, and all I had left were two quarters.
That steely-headed hombre didn’t flinch—I saw his large adam’s apple bob up and down and thought I heard him say, "How many minutes do you think I have left? You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?"

I pumped a quarter worth of steel into him, and he gave me only one minute more.

Frustrated, I walked inside to get the iced beverage and returned one-hour later to see that the meter that fronted my car was a one-hour meter (d’oh!). The meters on the other side of the median, three feet away, are two-hour meters. It’s one median, a sort of makeshift parking lot, and the meters are different?

“That’s cruel,” I told Sarah Stott. She’s the parking manager at the county’s Division of Transportation. She chuckled and then told me over the phone about how the county has five different colors on the parking meter heads, each one represents a different length of time. From yellow at a half-hour to green, a full 12 hours. The county also has meters that take park smart cards. If I wanted a handy keychain to remind me of which color has how many minutes, I could swing up to her office on the 9th floor of county building in the Courthouse neighborhood and get one.

Kids in tow, I met Ms. Stott there on Friday. She’s a nice woman with a firm handshake and colorful shoes. The kids and I got keychains, little rubber ones that look like cut-out heads of parking meters.

By the way, those times when I thought the stupid meter was busted, could have been that I was pumping nickels into a blue, red, or green head—they take quarters, dollar coins and park smart cards ONLY. This, of course, would have been obvious to me had I only read the stupid meter.

“They’ll tell me they’ve put in two dimes and nickel,” Ms. Stott said on the phone, “And I’ll tell them that it’s quarters only, not twenty-five cents.”

To parents of first graders in the Arlington Public Schools—Great News!

The white plastic erasers, required in the backpacks of our kids next week are real. Thanks to the help of Monique, a wonderful young woman at the Staples in Bailey’s Crossroads, I found the box of four.

“They’re German,” she told me, after zeroing in and grabbing my daughter a pack.
(FYI, I grabbed the last box of “large” glue sticks. Sorry, find your own.)

The bad news, I’ve gone on-line to find a link to the supplies list, and the list I’ve linked to is different than the one sent home! Sheesh. Get it together APS, some of us are anal, you know.
Department of Corrections:

Scott McCaffrey, my friend and former boss who I don’t hold accountable for the list of subscribers the paper sends free copies to, tells me that I got some details from my last post wrong: the Sun Gazette arrives by mail to the nicest houses in Arlington, not on lawns, and the Sun Gazettes haven’t appeared in 7-11s for nearly six years. My bad.

But I still can’t get a local newspaper in my neighborhood. The Sun Gazette boxes near the post office on Glebe Road were removed years ago (I believe that was back when it was the Sun Weekly). This goes for the Arlington Connection, too. I would happily read and even spend money at their advertisers’ places of business, if only I knew who they were.

I get the Arlington Connection delivered for free by mail, according to their website, all Arlington residents can get a free subscription by calling 703-917-6465.
You are a fount of info. Thanks. I'll do it.
It's amazing how liberal elitist Arlingtongradians show more compassion for dogs (and public dog poop parks) and a bad cup of coffees than for the life of an aborted fetus that they basically all construe as merely a glob of tooth decay with a heartbeat.
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