Crash! Thud! Shh! Visitors, welcome to Charm City

The Baltimore Sun

Each year at this time, I like to let out-of-town visitors know about some of the neat things Baltimore has to offer, aside from our world-class humidity.

First up is a brand-new attraction this summer: outdoor dining demolition derby.

You know how in some cities, when you're at an outdoor cafe, there's not much to do but eat and chat with your dining companions and watch people go by?

Well, we don't have that problem here.

No, eating outdoors here can be pretty exciting.

In fact, there's a chance that, just as you're reaching for a dinner roll, a car may jump the curb and plow into the restaurant and wipe out a few tables next to you.

It's actually happened twice recently, at a restaurant in Federal Hill and a Starbucks in the suburbs.

OK, two incidents of this nature do not exactly signal a trend.

In other words, we can't guarantee this sort of excitement at every one of our outdoor restaurants.

But this should tell you something: The owner of the Federal Hill joint wants the city to install some sort of concrete barrier to protect his outdoor diners.

I know, I know ... what a killjoy, right?

But until those Jersey walls and concrete planters go up, relax and enjoy yourself at our outdoor cafes, out-of-town visitors!

But, um, don't relax too much, if you catch our drift!

If this is your first visit to Baltimore -- or first visit in a while -- you may also notice a strange sound everywhere you go in the city.

It's a dull sound that goes something like this: THUD, THUD, THUD.

Don't be alarmed.

This is just the sound of people opening their BGE bills and passing out from the shock of the 50 percent rate increase and banging their heads on the kitchen table.

See, for years, those of us who live in this area were told by utility company bigwigs that we had really low electricity rates.

But now that our rates are much, much higher, we're being told they're not that high at all.

In fact, we're being told they're normal!

That they merely, ahem, "reflect the current market rate."

Oh, yes, that's a good one.

It cracks us up, too!

Low rates are bad, high rates are normal -- isn't that something right out of the book 1984?

But speaking of electricity, if you out-of-town visitors are really bored, you may want to chat up our local citizens and ask them to explain exactly how someone goes about enrolling in the new BGE rate deferment plan.

Be forewarned: It's kind of complicated.

Do you have a law degree?

Have you taken a graduate course in rhetoric?

If so, you can probably follow along as they outline the details.

But make sure you have, oh, two or three hours to kill before you do this.

On the other hand, if you're pressed for time, just read the full-page ad BGE took out in The Sun titled "Important Information About Electric Rate Stabilization."

That baby should only take you about 90 minutes to wade through -- again assuming you have a post-graduate background.

Sometimes, though, we know that you out-of-town visitors just want to get away from it all and be alone when you go on vacation.

If so, a great place to do this is Camden Yards during an Orioles homestand.

There will be hardly anyone there, and it'll be very quiet.

Do you like to read?

An Orioles game is a great place to read!

Bring your favorite book, and if anything exciting happens to the O's on the field and people in front of you start jumping up and down and cheering, don't be afraid to get in their faces and say: "DO YOU MIND? I'M TRYING TO CONCENTRATE HERE!"

Baltimoreans are very understanding people.

I'm sure they'll back off with that silly cheering.

Plus, there are lots of Orioles games where not much happens on the field, anyway.

So you can pretty much count on getting through, oh, eight or nine chapters, easy, before the game's over.

Anyway, enjoy your visit to our fair city.

Spend lots of money!

And stay on your toes at those outdoor cafes.

The service may be slow. But the drivers aren't.

(Editor's note: Beginning this week, Kevin Cowherd's column will appear Mondays and Wednesdays.)

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