There goes the neighborhood.
When the story broke this week about Baltimore County restricting cul-de-sacs, neighbors living on cul-de-sacs rushed to tell one another the horrifying news. One of the very reasons they paid too much for their homes was now the subject of government restriction. What will the county put the squeeze on next - 2 1/2 -car garages, 4 1/2 baths?
Hopping mad, cul-de-sackers boldly strayed from their property lines to seek consolation. An emergency neighborhood association might need to be formed. Resident lawyers might need to be retained. Children might have to meet other children.
But after an exhaustive search, the neighbors couldn't find their neighbors. So, everyone got in their Volvos and drove to find people they actually knew and by their last name even. It was all very traumatic for those involved, these solid Americans who later vowed never to leave their homes again whatever the bad news.
How could something so right come under attack by subversive groups such as the Baltimore County Planning Department? As everyone knows, the Baltimore County Planning Department is just a front for the Baltimore County Zoning Department.
Planners say that cul-de-sacs hide neighbors from neighbors, sever neighborhoods from other neighborhoods. What's created are isolated clusters of people who are forced to use their cars to escape their very own street. Hello traffic, goodbye humanity.
Technically, the county planners have a point. Cul-de-sac - from the French meaning "bottom of a sack" - is defined by Webster's on second reference as "a situation from which there is no escape." So, the planners are right: There is no escaping a cul-de-sac unless by way of an ocean-blue foreign sedan with modest gas mileage.
But where is Baltimore County's sense of suburban community? Is it so wrong to want to live at the bottom of a sack?
Some of our finest, community-minded Americans have lived on cul-de-sacs. Linda Tripp, who nearly toppled a president, lived on a cul-de-sac in Co-lumbia, which is from the Spanish meaning "cul-de-sac heaven, baby." News stories frequently pointed out Tripp's cul-de-sac (and, by the way, isn't the White House on a cul-de-sac of sorts?).
In stories about FBI agent Robert Hanssen's arrest for spying, reporters noted the man's $300,000 split-level home on - you guessed it - a cul-de-sac. No one famous ever lived on a through street or if they did, no one ever made a fuss over it.
At the core of all government injustice is petty jealousy. This theory has yet to catch on in the social sciences or in journalism but it's early yet. What good is living on a cul-de-sac if you can't sprinkle the fact into common conversation? Cul-de-sad-sackless people can only dream of giving the following directions to a party:
Take your first left on Whispering Pines Lane (you'll see a restricted golf course on your right), go the very end ...
Note: Cul-de-sackers never live on roads that "dead-end." That sounds too fatalistic, too hopeless, too much like a career.... when the road ends with grace and dignity, take the pipe stem off our cul-de-sac ...
Note: Use the pronoun "our" when speaking of a cul-de-sac; it's proper etiquette. Also, "pipe stem" is wonderfully evocative and a monument to creative public works. Never say take the "pock-marked, rutted road, with dead squirrel parts mashed on it." Pipe stems are clean and cute. No creature ever dies on a pipe stem.... once on the pipe stem, look for our ornamental street sign (from Watson's) that says No. 644. If our circular driveway is not available, feel free to park in front of our 2 1/2 -car garage - please use only the 1/2 side.
If that's full, please return home. After 6 p.m., the neighbors don't want you parking in our cul-de-sac.