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Many celebrate July 3 with a day off from work


Rush hour failed to materialize yesterday, offices were half empty and many who did show up wore shorts and polo shirts.

It was surely a day of temptation -- a holiday without portfolio -- as countless thousands of workers celebrated the Third of July, the moral equivalent of the Friday after Thanksgiving.

A sure sign that there would be no business as usual was the absence of the normal Beltway bottleneck as many workers took advantage of vacation time or annual leave days to stretch out the long weekend. The state police reported traffic was lighter than normal.

"The streets were pretty deserted this morning," agreed Deborah Ross, a spokeswoman for the city's health department, one of the unfortunate who did not get the day off.

It was a good day to be the boss.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening took a vacation day. Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann took the whole week off.

At Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Chairman Christian Poindexter was on vacation. The generators still produced electricity.

At Bell Atlantic-Maryland, President Daniel J. Whelan took the day off. Calls still went through.

Raymond A. "Chip" Mason, chairman of Legg Mason, was one of the few Baltimore chief executives who could be found at the office yesterday.

"They have better sense than I do," Mr. Mason said.

State, city and county government offices were open, but some employees who deal with the public found they didn't have a lot to do, probably because many assumed that offices were closed.

"A lot of time the public gets confused when you have a holiday in the middle of a work week," said Elise Mason, associate city solicitor.

Not everyone was happy with the bliss.

"It's been too quiet," moaned Pat Gossett, a clerk typist with the city's Office of Employment Development, who said the day seemed to be dragging on forever.

But others were happy they weren't being pestered by the workday's normal interruptions.

"It's been more productive for me," said Anne Greek, an employment technician in Baltimore County's personnel department.

In Howard County, the normally buttoned-down bureaucrats looked like they were outfitted more for a barbecue. Before embarking on his vacation, Mr. Ecker declared yesterday a "casual day."

"It was a very wise thing to have done," said Howard County Administrator Raquel Sanudo, "because half of the building did not have air conditioning."

A skeleton crew was on duty at Baltimore City Circuit Courts, where 12 of 26 judges took the day off, leaving empty courtrooms and a circumstance reminiscent of a more innocent time: No trials for violent felonies on the day's docket.

The courts were as empty as a bench policy set several years ago would allow, said Robert J. Ignatowski, assignment commissioner. Still, several misdemeanor trials got under way, keeping a smaller-than-normal pool of 100 jurors busy. Civil cases were being settled. And Judge Clifton J. Gordy Jr. could still be found presiding over felony arraignments in Courtroom 203, reminding a quartet of defendants of the rights and privileges that evaporate with a guilty plea.

Instead of the routine motions and pleadings, romance was in the air at the Anne Arundel County courthouse, where 40 couples applied for marriage licenses, twice the number taken on any given day. In addition, court officials performed a dozen weddings yesterday.

One couple arrived wearing Orioles T-shirts, with the bride holding a bouquet of orange carnations tipped with black paint (the traditional O's colors of course), said Deputy Court Clerk Sharon Aulton. The couple's first stop on their honeymoon was ** to be last night's Orioles game against the Minnesota Twins.

Although some office workers may have felt like Maytag repairmen, other businesses were booming. The Inner Harbor, which is in the midst of its 15th birthday celebration, had crowds one would normally see on a weekend.

The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall ticket office was abuzz with those purchasing tickets for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's annual July Fourth concert tonight at Oregon Ridge. "At the Meyerhoff today it's been fun and crazy," said Mia Mochin, assistant manager in charge of ticket sales.

"The phones have not stopped ringing. It's not been a dead day here."

And for a select few, July Fourth is the busiest time of year. Especially for anyone in the fireworks business.

Charles Shivery, a co-owner of Elkton Sparkler Co., gave most of his employees two weeks off after they made 36 million sparklers for July Fourth revelers. But he and five other office and warehouse staffers were shipping last-minute orders yesterday.

He expected to be back today.

"I haven't seen my family in so long," he lamented.

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