It's too cold outside, so we're working the telephones today. First order of business: Somebody get me the bureaucrat in charge of forms for the state of Maryland.
Hello? Are you in charge of forms? Do you know about the problem with the State Employee Prescription Drug Claim Form? That's right, the one that still lists William Donald Schaefer as governor -- that man had his name on everything, didn't he? -- and Hilda Ford as secretary of personnel.
Apparently, the old claims form is still in circulation. I'm holding one in my hands. I got it from a state employee.
So why am I calling?
It's about the phone number on the back of the form. There's an 800 number listed for the Employee Benefits Division and when you dial it, you hear a breathy young woman offering to connect you to -- and I quote -- "the hottest, kinkiest orgy line around." (That's an employee benefit I didn't know the state offered.)
What's that? No, I am not making this up! I called the number about a dozen times yesterday just to verify it.
Take a walk, Charlie
Somebody get me Charlie Feaga on the line.
Hello, Charlie? Howya doing, pal? Look, I'm no public relations guru, but I have some advice: I think you ought to drop the indignant and defiant act on this land deal business. All that posturing is not good for your back, or your reputation, especially if you're thinking about running for Howard County executive.
Frankly, I think you blew this one.
Yeah, yeah, I know. You're a Howard County farmer and councilman. You have lots of friends out there, and if you had to recuse yourself from a zoning decision every bleepin' time a friend came before you, you wouldn't vote at all.
But -- see if you can follow me now, Charlie -- there's a huge difference between "a friend" and a couple of developers who buy an option on your family's 200-acre farm with the hope of turning it into 100 houses worth between $300,000 and $500,000 each.
If these same guys then want your official approval on some other land deal -- well, that's exactly when you get up, put on your coat and say, "I think I'd better take a walk on this one, folks."
Why would you do that, Charlie? Charlie? Are you still there? Why would you take a walk? I'll tell you why. Because it would stink to high heaven if you didn't. It would look like you were doing a little favor for a couple of guys who just enriched you and your family.
I know: You're an honest guy. So honest you should never have done what you did next.
A few weeks after these guys bought the option on your farm west of Ellicott City, you voted in favor of a zoning amendment that allows the construction of an assisted care facility in Fulton -- against the advice of the county planning department. And you don't see where there's a conflict of interest? "I'd do the exact same thing," you told The Sun's Dan Morse this week.
Come on, come on, Charlie. What kind of attitude is that? I thought farmers had more common sense than that.
I'll leave you with a thought from an old Latin instructor: "Expergiscere et coffeam olface." (See bottom of column for translation.)
Coexistence on the rink
We went ice skating the other day in Mount Washington and, though the rink was crowded, a good time was had by all. What I enjoyed: Little girls practicing their figure eights and middle-aged guys showing off some old hockey moves. Somehow, these two forms managed to coexist, with no collisions, from what I could see. And, believe me, if anyone was going to see a collision (firsthand), it was me. ... This Just In: "Inside Edge, A Revealing Journey into the Secret World of Figure Skating," brand new from Scribner, by Washington Post writer Christine Brennan.
A TJI reader gripes that he's had it up to here (gesturing to nose) with brand-name stickers on apples and pears in the supermarket produce section. D'accord! Is this annoying, or what? Used to be that you'd get a sticker once in a while; now every red delicious and Granny Smith in the pile has one. I'm looking at a bowl of reds, each one with a white plastic oval noting the state of origin (Washington) and brand number (#4016). Who needs it?
It was OK with bananas; Chiquita came off with the peel. But with apples and pears, sometimes you miss the sticker, and a piece of it ends up in your dental work. Bad enough we have to wash the latent chemical film off apples, now we have to tear off the sticker and rub away the sticky stuff. It's just another small and annoying and burdensome and unnecessary and crassly commercial development in the decline of Western civilization. If you ask me.
Smell the coffee
"Wake up and smell the coffee" is the Latin expression used in today's second item. That was discovered in "Lingua Latina Multo Pluribus Occasionibus (Latin for Even More Occasions)," by Henry Beard (Villard Books). ... Contact This Just In at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. The phone number is 332-6166. Die dulci fruimini.