ON THE eve of their official merger in the eyes of the U.S Census Bureau, Baltimore looked longingly into Washington's eyes. "I'm not good enough for you," she said with a sad face. "You're so driven, so worldly, and I'm just a shot and beer town with a lot of smokestacks and beehive hairdos."
Washington, clad in khakis and a polo shirt, nervously stirred the swizzle stick in his Evian. He tried his best to comfort her.
"Driven is an interesting word," he said. "What does it mean, really, my dear? So what if my metro area is the eighth largest and yours is 21st? It doesn't matter that my metro has the nation's biggest concentration of working women, mathematicians and scientists. And that the leader of the free world calls me home, and our football team is the classiest in . . ."
"OK, OK, Washington," she pleaded. "I get the message loud and clear. You are even more arrogant and self-centered than I thought."
Washington looked positively stricken. He cleared his throat and tried to maintain his composure in the face of this assault on his demographics. But he did not raise his voice. Considering he is the world seat of power and prestige, decorum is in order.
"My dear Queen City of the Patapsco River Basin," he began. "I have half a mind to call the Census folks and ask them to call the whole marriage off. But I must compliment you on your scrappiness. I never knew blue-collar ports without a pro football franchise could be so defensive."
On that note, Baltimore stood up and began to walk out of the diner, where they had gone after catching the late movie. But she stopped in her tracks, wheeled around, and slung some mud back at her beloved suitor. "You know, buster," she shouted, careful not to call him "hon" as she was in the habit of doing, "I feel very sorry for you! You're so in love with yourself, so sure of your own righteousness."
Washington looked uncomfortable. But he didn't interrupt.
"What it reveals is your own insecurity. Under that bravado beats the heart of a very unsure man."
He began to speak but she told him to let her finish.
"I don't care how many lawyers you have in a one-block area of L Street. And what a dumb name for a street. I bet that guy L'Enfant pulled an all-nighter to think up that one. Oh, and that Beltway of yours is a great place to spend a week."
Clearly, Baltimore wasn't about to roll over. Her will was as sturdy as the marble steps in tightly-woven neighborhoods like Pigtown. Her resolve was as tough as a hard-shell crab.
Washington looked pensive. Downtrodden. Depressed. He was as low as the highest building, which is 12 stories. (Baltimore has a real skyline, but I'm only the narrator in this story. Can't play favorites.)
At last, he spoke. "My dear," he said softly, "I am truly sorry, deeply sorry. He seemed sincere. "I don't mean to come across (( as a jerk, but I guess when you're as unique a town as I am, it goes to your Capitol dome, uh, head.
"However -- and this is painful -- if you strip away the veneer, you will discover that I am still the murder mecca of the U.S., my streets have potholes so deep they have elevators, the roaches need to be registered, and home prices are so ridiculously high they make you want to move to, well, Baltimore, Baltimore."
He caught his breath and took a swig of mineral water.
"Between the two of us," he continued, "and please don't quote me on this because I'll deny it -- I don't have a good feeling about the 'skins. They may not repeat, as Super Bowl champs. The thrill is gone. Will you forgive me?"
"Of course," she answered.
The pair locked hands across the Formica tabletop and gazed lovingly at each other, as Frank Sinatra sang "New York, New York" on the jukebox. Their love hadn't diminished.
"So, my dear, this month we shall wed and become one," he said sweetly. "But where shall we live?"
They thought about it for a second, and then she delivered a six-letter reply: "Laurel!" she said. "It feels like a little bit of both of us."
"Laurel it is, hon," Washington said right back, sinking into the vernacular and sort of enjoying it.
Tony Glaros, of course, lives in Laurel.