Even the 7-Eleven seemed stark, empty and boring.
It was after 10 p.m. on a weeknight, and there was no music playing in the store, no cars in the parking lot, no movement anywhere.
Except for night-shift store clerk Anita Jackson ever so slowly refilling cup dispensers.
The quest was to find nocturnal fun in West County on a cold, boring weeknight, and if anyone knew of hip happenings after dark, it would be Jackson.
She's not just a store clerk, she's a coffee-and-doughnut provider to bored police officers and an acquaintance to people with a night life, who wander in and out of her store on Annapolis Road every night.
"Fun? Fun?" she asked, almost giggling. "Not at all. It's, like, dead in Odenton."
On this 40-degree weeknight, it's so unhappening that Jackson hasn't even seen her string of regulars who come in to sip coffee, stand around the counter and chat with her to pass time.
"They talk about their problems, things that are going on at home," said Jackson of Fort Meade. "I feel like I'm a bartender sometimes."
The row of bars near Jackson's store didn't offer anything cool either. At Kim's Lounge, a dim affair in the back of a liquor store, only four people -- including owner Kim Fazio -- were huddled at one end of the bar.
They quietly sipped their beers, chatted and passed a mike around to sing Korean songs on a karaoke machine. Business is usually slow on weeknights, Fazio said.
But she said she can always count on a handful of regulars to come by a few nights a week.
"Too much work, too much stress in head," Fazio said. "They try to lose their stress here."
And then a Korean army song started up, and the four began singing and clapping along.
A little farther away on Laurel Fort Meade Road, Club Paradise was even emptier. The spacious nightclub, which owner Kyong Kim said is packed with hundreds of ballroom dancers on weekends, had about five employees to its one customer.
The man, who sat morosely at the bar, refused to talk and seemed oblivious to the singer belting out Korean love songs from the 1950s on a flashy stage with a glittery silver backdrop.
Bowling, however, was popular. At Greenway Bowl on Telegraph Road near Route 32, dozens of people took turns bowling in a "fun league."
Manager Linda Belcher said sometimes as many as 200 people stop by after work on weeknights to bowl.
Marvin "Doc" Lute, 28, who has a bowling team named the "Fat Boys," said they have a Tuesday night ritual to while away time at Greenway Bowl.
As the group sat around a table in the bowling alley's poolroom, smoking, drinking and listening to Frank Sinatra on the jukebox, Lute, a computer programmer from Pasadena, elaborated: "Pinball for two hours, bowling for three hours and beer for an hour."
Richard Holesapple, a truck driver from Odenton, said he goes three nights a week just to bowl, because there's nothing else to do in the area for fun.
"It beats doing nothing," he said. "If I weren't here, I don't know what I'd be doing."
Pub Date: 11/20/97