The new street-corner plea: Buddy, can you spare a vote?


HAVE YOU noticed the disheveled, sweaty candidates and their campaign workers standing on median strips, holding signs and waving during rush hour? It's all I can do to keep from rolling down the window and giving them loose change. I saw a guy on a traffic island in Towson the other day and, if his sign hadn't been promoting a candidate for House of Delegates, I would have given him the quarters in my cup holder.

Far-flung support

More signs of dysfunction in the Kathleen K. Townsend camp? TJI reader Juan Alvarez recently returned to his home in Severna Park after a trip to the Outer Banks, and he reports having seen an Ehrlich-Steele-for-governor-of-Maryland sign in the Pine Island area of North Carolina, about 400 miles from Annapolis. Adds Alvarez: "And I did not see a single KKT sign anywhere."

Slow and steady...

At 77, Donald I. Dell is the oldest candidate among 14 campaigning for Carroll County commissioner. After three terms, Dell should enjoy the advantage of name and face recognition in this race for the three commissioner seats. Still, a resident chatting with the commissioner after a recent public hearing asked, "So, are you running?" Dell laughed and said, "I'm crawling."

Doing the wave

I like this game Mat Lam, self-appointed TJI Parkville correspondent, says he and his girlfriend, Meg, play with her 6-year-old, Tyler, while touring Baltimore in Mat's motorcar.

"We call it, 'Beep and Wave,'" Lam says. "The object is to choose a person or group of persons, point them out and blow the car horn at them whilst frantically waving, 'Hello!' (along with 'remember me' facial expressions) in hopes of getting a wave in return. For each returned wave, you get one point. A wave returned from a person in a vehicle in motion is two points. A wave returned by a person in a phone booth is 10 points (and well earned, I must say!). A 'snowball wave' is worth a good 15 points. This is a wave from a person exiting a snowball stand with spoon in hand. A 'grocery bag wave' is worth a hefty 20. The cop in a parked car ... is worth five points." But if the officer is writing a report, looks up and waves, the provocateur gets seven points.

I'm going to try this with my kids. I'm going to give 50 points if they can get a wave from either someone strutting Light Street with a cell phone to the ear or from the statue of Calvert. Both have an equal degree of difficulty.

Not for little eyes

A British actor once said, "Dying is easy, comedy hard." Being a parent is easy, being a grown-up hard. Every once in a while I get one of these - a scream from the back of a movie theater, a figurative slap upside the head of parents who don't seem to see the problem with exposing their young children to gratuitous, graphic violence in film and television. "Went to see The Bourne Identity at Beltway Cinema," reports TJI reader Cacky Riegel. "Lots of violence, a little sex, tons of dead guys being blown away. And lots of little kids in the audience. There was a toddler behind me munching on popcorn. His mom covered his eyes at the sex scene, giggling away. There was an 8-year-old in front of us, watching all that gore. She looked a little shook up at the end of the movie. There were kids all around us. Have these parents ever heard of a baby-sitter? Or maybe taking the kids to Scooby Doo instead? It was really sick. The manager said there was nothing he could do. He didn't like it, but he couldn't keep the kids out. And people wonder why kids get desensitized to violence."

Job loss express lane?

John Sweeney, the president of the AFL-CIO, finds it amusing that some consumers resent self-service checkout machines at supermarkets because they could displace workers or reduce future job opportunities. Sweeney doesn't think that will happen and, besides, he doesn't think there's much we can do about the advance of technology, anyway. His recent remarks indicate that our labor capo finds everything inevitable; we're headed for life-as-microchip, anyway, so workers of the world - get a life!

Which makes me wonder who's more out of touch - the corporate suits who constantly look for ways to jettison workers or union bosses who are supposed to represent them. There's no way large supermarket chains would invest in this technology if it didn't lead to more profits. It might be dressed as a convenience to shoppers, but it's really just more worker-elimination to make stockholders happy.

"Giant has NO BUSINESS trying to shift its labor costs to us, its customers," says a flier prepared for distribution at our favorite supermarket by a Baltimore attorney. "Are they going to pay us for ringing up and bagging groceries? Of course not. Have you seen the price of anything come down since they started this nonsense? Of course not."

The attorney protests on simple customer terms. He finds the self-service checkouts insulting and asks: What's in it for us?

"Pumping gas is one thing, but scanning and bagging groceries is quite another and enough is enough," he says. "If they get away with it in our grocery stores, there'll be no end of it. Next thing you know they'll expect us to manage our own Social Security retirement fund!"

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