Sporting dark shades and a short-sleeved shirt, Patrick Fisher stands tall and proud in the shimmering sea of cars.
He's a '90s man, tough enough to stand the strain of breathing exhaust fumes in the 100-degree heat. He's an off-duty police officer, with a clean uniform, a gun tucked in his holster and a bashful smile. Most importantly, he's a human traffic light.
Fisher and some of his colleagues have spent the past three months working the mean streets in Glen Burnie's new shopping hub. Before heading out in his patrol car in the afternoon, Fisher stands for several hours in front of Leedmark, the new $10 million "hypermarket" that offers everything from live trout to television sets under one roof.
When the French chain decided to build a store on seven acres off New Ordnance Road, company officials didn't include a traffic light in their plans. The county's zoning code does not require a trafficstudy for single stores, only for subdivisions or shopping centers.
A day after the store opened to a huge crowd in late May, Leedmarkofficials realized the traffic was downright dangerous. New OrdnanceRoad already was packed with cars heading between Ritchie Highway and nearby Route 10 or leaving the area's industrial centers and discount stores.
"The combination of us and all the other traffic was hazardous," acknowledged Thomas Lenkevich, president of the Glen BurnieLeedmark store. "We realized we needed to get some patrol officers in to direct traffic, or there would be quite a few accidents."
More than a dozen officers signed up for rotating shifts to direct traffic into the Leedmark entrance seven days a week. Neither the officersnor the company would disclose the going rate for working as a stoplight.
"I can't say," Fisher said, when asked how much money he makes for roasting on top of the hot asphalt.
Many officers seized the opportunity because the county police department has cut back on overtime pay this year, Fisher said.
"There's definitely a lot of traffic out here," he said in snatches between directing a steady stream of cars at lunchtime Monday.
Leedmark just received the green light from the State Highway Administration this week to install a traffic signal at the intersection, Lenkevich said.
The device should take over for the officers in mid-September, he said.