THE SCENE--County currents and undercurrents

THE SCENE--County currents and undercurrents

November 07, 1990


Columbia's street names have been joked about for more than two decades now. But I'd like to take up their defense.

Having lived in one of America's most remote suburbs, New York's Hudson Valley, I can appreciate unique street names.

I was a police reporter up there, and one of a police reporter's basic skills is being able to pinpoint people and events on a map.

The problem was that people would call and leave messages for me about some newsworthy incident (which the police often wouldn't talk about until hours later), but neglect to leave the name of the town.

So a note about a shooting on Clinton Avenue, named after New York's first governor, could be in any number of towns along the Hudson River, and each one had a different police department.

Every town had its share of the universal names, such as Main, Water, High and Grand streets; streets named for the presidents and founding fathers, such as Franklin, Grant, Hamilton and Jefferson; and Dutch names such as Hasbrouck and Van Dusen.

But Columbia's founding fathers, wisely expecting their town to be a part of a much larger world, planned on preventing such confusion.

In the yet-to-be-built 10th village, for instance, that proud tradition continues with such proposed street names as "Myriad Field," "Hurrying Tide" and "Fragrant Cedar" from Walt Whitman's poem, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed." Endings such as "lane," "court" or "place" will be added later, according to a inter-office memo from Howard Research and Development, the Rouse Company's Columbia development arm. A long list of other names exists with phrases from the works of Whitman and James Whitcomb Riley.

The beauty of such names is that chances of mixing up street names are practically nil. Where else, for instance, would you find a street named "Transparent Night?"

Where, indeed, would one be able to sleep peacefully on "Bugle Trill" place, test a smoke alarm on "Wilder Fire" court or "Burnt Stick" way?

Or in what other locality could one experience the joy of picking up after the neighbor's dog on "Scented Gift" lane?

I, along with forward-thinking people everywhere, think Columbia's street names are wonderful and should serve as an example to the rest of the nation.

But a word of caution: In Howard County, it's probably not a good idea to use certain names for schools, in view of the school board's temperance-minded decision to rename "Whiskey Bottom Road Elementary School."

So just get "Barley Corn" and "Mellow Wine" out of your minds right now.

SOURCE: Erik Nelson


For some interesting reading that is both humorous yet sadly beneficial, pick up a pamphlet at the Howard County police station titled "How to Spot a Con Artist."

The lessons to be learned go beyond just identifying a practical joker or a sneaky used car salesman.

The pamphlet, published by the national Criminal Justice Services Department, identifies the traits of hoods who may come to your doorstep with schemes such as "medical quackery," "lonely hearts," "computer dating" and "psychic fraud."

"The clever con artist is a good actor who disarms his victims with an affable 'nice guy' approach," the pamphlet says.

"But behind this friendly exterior is a shrewd psychologist who can isolate potential victims and break down their resistance to his proposals.

Each conquest is part of a game in which he must 'best' his fellow man."

The typical victim is an elderly female who lives alone. Several weeks ago, in Howard County, a Fulton woman was bilked of $1,000 by two con artists posing as policemen.

Although that con game was the only one reported to police this year, it is believed that many more of the incidents go unreported because the duped victims are embarrassed, said Gary L. Gardner, a police spokesman.

"We really stress that anyone who sees anything even remotely strange in their neighborhood should call us," Gardner said. "Some of these guys operate for years because no one reports what they're doing."

The pamphlet warns us that any deal that sounds too good to be true is probably not true. Cash-only deals, today-only come-ons, and hasty sales pitches are chief among the con man's arsenal of trickery.

"The typical con artist is amoral -- but seldom violent -- and mobile, with an excellent sense of timing," the pamphlet says. "He sincerely believes his victims deserve their fate. And, if caught, he'll probably strike again later. Con artists are seldom rehabilitated."

Most successful con games are old schemes updated for today's circumstances. The old "salting the gold mine" scheme is still practiced by experienced con men, "but today's salting occurs in living rooms, not abandoned mines."

The cleverest of tricksters will make a few legitimate deals -- such as selling color televisions at super-bargains to a handful of people -- and then attempt to swindle a larger populace.

When the suspicious consumer inquires about the cut-rate price, the con man will refer the potential customer to one of the "salted" people who got a legitimate deal.

After feeling assured that they are in fact getting a deal too good to be true, the pigeon regretfully learns later that their money is gone.

The pamphlet warns that "Anyone can be a victim, even a person who considers himself too intelligent or sophisticated to be 'conned.'"

SOURCE: Michael James

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