Could someone please tell traffic reporters on TV and radio not to feel obligated to refer to the Ravens stadium by that new, lame name? Am I the only guy in this town who's not surprised that the money boys are having second thoughts about financing five new hotels in downtown Baltimore, all at the same time? Could we all agree that Billy Himmelrich, master of Stone Mill Bakery, is a genius? (The guy made chocolate fettucini with a sweet cream sauce for the Chocolate Affair at the Museum of Industry last week, and, as weird as it sounds, it was superb.) Could I be the only Baltimoron who thinks the Towson roundabout was a good idea, but the one planned for North Charles and Bellona, near the Beltway, could be a disaster? Am I the only one who wishes Super Bowl kickoff was 3 p.m. because, with its current Sunday night start time, it conflicts with "Masterpiece Theater"? Am I the only one who feels a tad guilty about paying 83.9 cents per gallon for gasoline? (That's what the sign said at a gas station in Randallstown the other day.) Could someone explain how "Chris" got to be an adjective, as in Ruth's Chris Steak House? Am I the only one who cringed when he heard a broadcaster say: "Hey, Hunt Valley, we're grand-opening your new Wal-Mart store!" (As Calvin said to Hobbes: "Verbing weirds language.") Has it been noted anywhere that the post office on Calvert Street sold out of the Malcolm X stamps on the first day of issue? Am I the only one who thinks $4.50 per ticket for a Ticketmaster service charge is obnoxious? Am I the only who thinks the rice pudding at Sip & Bite is excellent - even without raisins? Could someone tell me if that was Richard Dreyfuss' voice I heard in a car commercial the other night? Am I the only one sick of hearing the guy in the computer saying, "You've got mail"? (Ditto Kweisi Mfume saying he's not going to run for mayor.)
A kind stranger
A TJI reader from Howard County doesn't want me to use her full name, but she wants you to know her story. "I was at a very down point in my life," she says, "and I really don't want other people to know that. I just want to acknowledge an act of kindness from a stranger."
This happened a month ago, on the second day of the year. Sharon - that's her first name - was in the Metro Food Market, Columbia. She put about 10 items in her cart and pushed it to a checkout line. There was a man ahead of her with a gallon of milk. They made small talk.
"We saw a few other people coming and going and joked about kids wanting candy and moms trying to hold on to kids and groceries," Sharon recalls. "I didn't tell him anything personal. A teen-ager came up with something like a bag of candy in her hands, and the man told her to go ahead of him. The lady in front of him told the teen-ager to go ahead of her, too. The man remarked, 'See, it's catching on.' That's about the extent of the conversation."
When it was the man's turn to check out, he removed the plastic bar that separates shoppers' groceries and told the cashier to ring up Sharon's items with his.
"At first I thought he was joking, and then I saw he was serious," Sharon says. "He simply said, 'Sometimes it's simply better to be kissed than kicked.' He paid, and was gone.
"I'd never met him before and have not seen him since. His act meant much more than he could have known from our conversation. I wasn't dressed shabbily or anything. But life has been kicking me pretty hard. I had just a few dollars that I'd borrowed from an older relative to pick up a few groceries. I've been out of work for more than a year and have repeatedely been turned down because I'm 'overqualified.' For a relatively young person, I have various physical difficulties. That one act really lifted me, a wonderful way to begin the year."
Garbage in, garbage out
And then there's Elayne Smith, also grateful for something a stranger did. She's administrator of the nonprofit Community Counseling and Resource Center, Cockeysville. She knows what it is to keep an office organized and well-stocked with supplies. She knows the price of toner for the office copier! A hundred bucks a jug! When half a jug of toner went out by mistake with the end-of-week trash, Elayne was blue. But Monday morning, hope sprang from the cab of a Gerber's Dumpster-removal truck. "I told him what happened," Elayne says, "and he jumped into the Dumpster." Jumped deep. Out of sight. When the Gerber's man emerged from the trash, he had the jug of toner in his hands. Where do we find such men?
Belle is a hit
Mikie Mussina might not have thoroughly enjoyed his Orioles FanFest experience last weekend - see Friday's TJI - but apparently newcomer Albert Belle did. Albert, arriving in Baltimore with all that ugly behavioral baggage, performed with patience and grace as fans waited in long lines for an autograph or a photograph with the slugger. He signed autographs for 90 minutes, posed for photos for 90 minutes. Did interviews. Delayed his departure for the airport for an additional half-hour to sign more autographs. A new year. A new town. A new Albert?
A lot of people are disappointed with the name of the football stadium. TJI reader Frankie Sweetbreads writes: "I was hoping maybe Poe Enterprises of Pasadena would get the naming rights. Or maybe Birdseye Foods."
Or Perdue Park, keeping with the bird theme, through a Maryland company. Where's Jimmy? Was he brought into this act?
I'm still stuck on Slomin's Shield Stadium - that would have been poetry. And we could have had the Slomin's Shield man running around the sidelines, wrestling with Edgar, Allan and Poe. A guy can dream, can't he?