It's amazing what you can find in your soda, without even trying.
The day started out with a quest to find a Diet Sprite, something myteen-age daughter assured me tasted "good, not like those other dietsodas."
Knowing that the vending machines in my office building don't carry Diet Sprite, I decided to make a quick run through the Severna Park McDonald's to try and pick one up before work. To my dismay, they don't carry Diet Sprite either. Being a little late, I ordered a regular Sprite and buzzed up Ritchie Highway to the office.
A soda is avery necessary part of the work day (especially if you don't drink coffee). Just ask anybody who sits in front of a video display terminal all day. You type. You sip. You think. You type some more and so on.
Sodas can get pretty expensive if you drink them too fast, so it's an art to make them last as long as possible. I've gotten it down to making a large soda last all day (taking a break for lunch and drinking something else then).
About an hour before quitting time, the cup was feeling a little heavier than normal. I also felt this clunk, clunk when I swished the soda around in the cup. I thought to myself, "This is very unusual. The ice should have melted by now. It musthave been a really big chunk."
So I took the lid off to check outthis "super-ice." To my surprise, I found a plastic nozzle off one of McDonald's soda machines. I sure hope it was clean.
My co-workers urged me to give McD's a call, to find out how often this occurred,if nothing else.
When asked, the employee at McD's (trying unsuccessfully not to giggle) admitted to another incident involving an errant machine part. Embarrassed, the employee asked, "By the way, are you coming by here any time soon?"
"Sure," I said. It was, after all, right on the way home.
"Bring it by, and we'll give you a free meal," she said.
After hanging up, my office mates were quick to question whether I could include guests on that free meal.
It's tough to split a cheeseburger 20 ways.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Random thoughts collected in the course of a 4,400-mile road trip that carried your correspondent from the battlefields of Chattanooga, Tenn., to theGrapefruit League spring training camps of Florida to the stately old homes of Charleston, S.C.:
* Maryland needs to do something about its license plates. Those bargain-basement black-on-white jobs justdon't cut it -- especially when confronted with those spiffy little peaches on Georgia plates, or the Wright Brothers-inspired plates of North Carolina. Granted, those plates with the blue herons are a major step in the right direction, but you've got to pay extra for it. Ownership of a handsome license plate should be every Marylander's God-given right.
* And speaking about Maryland getting on the stick, why hasn't the Free State placed more monuments on Civil War battlefields? There's a nice one at Antietam, but nothing of any size at Gettysburg -- something that's bothered me for years -- and, as I found out, none at the Chickamauga/ Chattanooga battlefields in Tennessee andGeorgia nor at the Andersonville Confederate POW camp in Georgia. I'm not sure if any Maryland troops fought at Chattanooga, but I know 146 Marylanders died at Andersonville. Why no monument to their memory?
* People in Key West who speak with regret about never having seen snow -- like the one woman who was jealous of her husband, who'd actually seen the wet stuff while stationed at the Coast Guard yard inCurtis Bay -- don't know how lucky they are.
* Why aren't any "I Dream of Jeannie" souvenirs for sale in Cocoa Beach, Fla.? That is, after all, the city where Major Nelson kept that little blonde bottledup all those years.
* And finally, there is no place to better appreciate "The Wizard of Oz" than sitting in a Motel 6 in Florida, over 1,000 miles from home.
PICNIC WITH THE PLANES
It's spring again.The flowers are abloom in the O. J. Lighthizer Memorial median stripon Route 2. The Earleigh Heights pit-beef stand is doing a brisk business.
And the picnickers are lining up along the BWI glide path on Dorsey Road.
There they sit, side by side on the dirt trail thatsnakes back into the woods. Some have folding lawn chairs. Others, portable grills. All have their eyes glued on the approaching jets.
Heads swivel from right to left as the roaring aircraft line up and touch down, line up and touch down, line up and touch down. This goeson for hours.
Miss one and you don't have to wait long for another, especially around dinner time.
On weekends, some folks bring their children and dogs, Frisbee discs and footballs and make a day of it. Car doors are open, radios play. Someone usually has one of thosespecial radios that lets you listen to the pilots and the control tower.
Spread out the blanket, stretch out. Practice your lip reading and suck down jet fumes. Why, it's almost like watching the Mets atShea Stadium.
This stark "People's Park" sits right next to the county's idea of a park (trees, pond, bridge), Friendship Recreation Area.
At first, the Maryland Aviation Administration adopted a live-and-let-live policy, setting up BWI trash cans for the convenience of People's Park patrons.
But what makes the park so attractive is also what makes it dangerous. The area is in a Federal Aviation Administration "clear zone," and that means people and things shouldn't bethere, says Duncan Henderson, an MAA administrator.
Airplanes canmiss the mark or pieces fall off, and then folks underneath would get plunked in a big way.
State workers have put a long string of railroad ties on either side of the dirt roadway to prevent vehicles from parking.
But a silly bunch of sticks can't foil this crew; folks just push them aside every evening. And every morning work crews line them up again.
So, until the state coughs up enough money to put up fences or cement barriers, it appears it's power to the people.