Gus' Stoney Creek Inn is the kind of bar that opens its doors early in the morning. By 8 a.m. the drinking establishment on Fort Smallwood Road is open for business, and these days, the television is tuned to the Cable News Network for the latest on the war in the Persian Gulf.
"We turn it on at 8 and it's steady on 'til we close at 2," says barmaid Linda Jenkins. But do the customers actually pay any attention to the tube burning in the corner of the bar?
Edward Jenkins, Linda's ex-husband, is drinking beer at Gus' Friday afternoon. He breaks in to answer: "They watch and they listen."
Riveting television, this shooting match in the Middle East. At home, at work or at the neighborhood bar, television sets worked overtime last week. Business suffered at movie houses and video shops. Libraries were even quieter than usual. Book stores sold "Middle East Crisis" kits -- maps of the region with a chronology of past conflicts --to armchair generals.
The sitcoms and sporting events stepped aside for network news coverage and CNN, winner of accolades for its coverage of the start of the war, was for many the channel of choice. Cable systems in the county reported an increase in orders for new service last week, and they said many of the new customers said they wanted to be wired into CNN.
Terry Hicks, general manager of United Cable Television of Annapolis, said orders for new business were 30 percent higher than normal last week. "From listening to customer service representatives, it seems a lot of people are interested in CNN," he said.
Richard Oldenberg, regional manager for North Arundel Cable TV, said, "We've had 15 to 20 people who called and asked for CNN to be hooked up or said: 'How fast can you hook it up? If you can't doit in one day, forget it.' "
Back at Gus', Linda Jenkins explained why they tune in to CNN and leave it there: "It seems like everything's been first-hand with them."
Across the street at Capt. Buck's (ice-cold Bud draft is 80 cents, but the regulars, mostly retired, seem to prefer Pabst Blue Ribbon), a wide-screen television was tuned to war news on NBC. Barmaid Joanne Trovato said she'd rather have it on CNN in the bar -- she says she watches it non-stop at home -- but the cable was disconnected after a dispute over a pay-per-view boxing match.
"But we got it on (Channel) 2 or 13. We're always getting the news. When all this happened, everyone was glued to the TV," Trovato said. "We put the TV on and leave it on."
Roland Brack, 79, was working on a rock and rye Friday when he described the attitude of the bar regulars toward the news on the television. "Go over, that's it, get 'em Bush. Knock them SOBs out of there," Brack said.
At home, Brack said, he's found himself switching from channel to channel with the remote control, often ending up on Channel 31 -- CNN on his system.
Some not satisfied with the background information available on television were buying books like "The Rape of Kuwait," the best-seller among a group of books on Middle Eastern history and politics displayed at the counter of B. Dalton's in Marley Station. But the biggest seller has been the "Middle East Crisis" map, said an employee who cited store policy in declining to give her name.
At county library branches, the requests for books and information on Iraq peaked after the invasion of Kuwait in August, but special displays of books and magazines on the area were being "snatched up," said Diane Rey, spokeswoman for the county library system. She said televisions were turned on in library branches immediately after the invasion Wednesday evening.
Since then, many of the branches have been quiet, especially during the evenings.
"Even though the library tries to provide the most current information possible, we just can't compete with CNN. They want information that is up-to-the-minute," Rey said.
Steve Diddlemeyer, assistant manager at the Movies at Marley Station, said business was "dead" after the invasion last week, but he was hoping the weekend's business would be normal. He was encouraged by a good turnout -- 30 tickets sold -- for a 10 a.m. Friday showing of a new movie. The film, "Flight of the Intruder," is about U.S. bomber pilots in 1972 Vietnam.
Video store owners reported business was very slow the first couple of nights following the invasion. Business started picking up a little bit Thursday night when some customers were apparently tired of seeing war news on all channels, said Verna Bozek, an employee of Arundel Video in Riviera Beach.
She said customers, favoring light entertainment, left war movies on the shelf. "They don't want anything depressing," she said.
At Blockbuster Video in Severna Park, business was down at least 20 percent last week, said assistant manager Adrian Cool. "It's been noticeably slower this week and we all know why," he said.
But by Friday afternoon, Blockbuster was seeing evidence that maybe all this news coverage was a bit much.
Dan Bachman was leaving the store with a cowboy movie and a box of popcorn. He'd been watching the news all week, and he said, "They say the same thing over and over again."