From the lighter side of the news.

A matter of faith

The Lord's name was taken in vain -- in several different ways -- during a recent City Council lunch meeting.

While dining on grilled chicken breasts and Dots candy, the council erupted into a heated debate about whether it should stop asking ministers to conduct religious benedictions to begin its meetings.

Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector suggested that some might be offended by the mention of specific religious figures, such as Jesus.

"If we can't respect that we're nondenominational ... maybe we should just have a silent moment of prayer," said Spector.

Someone sneezed.

"Yahweh bless you," Councilman Robert W. Curran said.

"We could dispense with it altogether," chimed in Councilman John L. Cain. "There could be an atheist on the council."

"Thank God I'm an atheist," Councilman Kieffer J. Mitchell Jr. joked.

At that point, council members asked the support staff to leave the room so they could discuss a confidential personnel matter.

"Go out and pray for us, staff," Curran said.

-- Tom Pelton

Fighting the good fight

Last week, Mayor Martin O'Malley left an event in Baltimore to attend a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington to discuss concerns about federal funding for local homeland security. Before departing early, he apologized by saying, "Our troops are battling the Republican Guard, and I have to go south to battle the Republican Congress."

-- Doug Donovan

Giving his all

When the press schedule for Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. went out last week, he was slated to set a good example for county residents by giving blood at a Red Cross drive at 1 p.m. Friday, only six hours before he was scheduled to team up with County Council members in a charity basketball game.

Smith, 60, is in good shape from regular bouts on the treadmill at Gold's Gym in Towson. But not that good. Smith said his scheduler spotted the potential conflict and took care of it so he would be up to peak performance for the game against the Sparrows Point High School faculty.

"I'm not so sure my athletic performance is going to merit the adjustment of the schedule," he said before rolling up his sleeve Thursday morning. "I may not make a bucket, but at least I don't want to be carried off the floor, that's for sure."

-- Andrew A. Green

Now that's service

The customer is always right.

That's what the manager of the Subway sandwich shop at the corner of Calvert and Lexington streets learned Thursday when a man emerged from the bathroom and asked for hand soap.

"It's in the cup that's in there," the manager told him.

"That's not very hygienic," the customer said. "It should be in a dispenser."

The remark sent the manager scrambling to fix the problem all the while assuring the man that his shop had the proper dispensers.

That's the power of a customer, especially when it's the city health commissioner, Dr. Peter L. Beilenson.

"He'll shut you down. You don't want that," an employee said as he rang up an order.

-- Johnathon E. Briggs

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