It's amazing how low people will stoop to get their money's worth inpumpkins -- about 2 inches off the ground.
Faced with the challenge of buying as many pumpkins for $7.50 as they could carry, customers at the Florida Greenery on Ritchie Highway last week crouched, squatted and walked like primitive cave men to juggle as many as seven pumpkins in their arms.
Customers weren't allowed to have any help picking up the pumpkins, and they couldn't use aids such as blankets or bags to hold their bounty.
But the people persevered, in a splendid demonstration of naked American greed, love of bargains and courage against the odds. Pioneer resilience emanated from elderly ladies who fell smack on their bottoms trying to lug away four fat pumpkins in two small hands.
One woman insisted she wasn't leaving without five, said Kent Casper, owner of the Severna Park establishment. She promptly hit the dirt, legs flailing, pumpkins rolling in every direction.
"Some of these women came in here, and you could tell by looking at them they were just destined to fall on their asses," Casper said.
Businessmen threw away all dignity, stripping off paisley ties and elegant suit jackets to get on their knees and analyze, with American technologicalexpertise, which pumpkins should go where for the greatest carrying advantages.
"Let me get the balance here," muttered Michael Reynolds, general manager of the new Residence Inn in Annapolis, eyeing hispumpkins-to-be.
He spread out a tablecloth from the trunk of his car and knelt, as if in prayer. He started stacking his pumpkins. "I feel like I'm in Project Adventure," he said. "How many attempts do you get?"
As of yesterday, the pumpkin records were held by a NavalAcademy linebacker who carried off eight golden globes in his brawnyarms. Tied with him was a scrawny 18-year-old who also lugged away eight pumpkins by stuffing some up his shirt.
The heftiest pumpkin lift went to an Atlas who hoisted two 90-pound pumpkins, one on each shoulder, and balanced the 180 pounds all the way to his car.
"People are hilarious," said Casper, who has videotaped some of the more impressive pumpkin-carrying feats. "One fellow comes in here wearing a Ralph Lauren shirt and gets pumpkin juice and dirt all over it. He'd pay twice the cost of the pumpkins to get it cleaned. Ruining a $70shirt for a pumpkin -- it's crazy!"
Children, especially, love watching their parents stagger under the load of the pumpkins, Casper said. "The kids all laugh and get a kick out of it to see Mom or Dad fall over."
Michael Reynolds took his time moving pumpkins around to obtain the best physical advantage. His co-worker, Andrea Delligatti, helped by cleaning off the pumpkins intended for a children's party at the hotel.
But even after the pumpkins were cleaned up, Reynolds looked dubious. "What's it cost if I don't do the 'All I Can Carry' thing and just buy the 15 pumpkins?" he inquired, eyeing his immaculate shirt front.
Casper offered a bargain deal of $20, and Reynolds' ambition was rekindled. At $7.50, he would save nearly $13 bucks.
"There's incentive," he said. He rearranged the pumpkins once again. "Let me use these guys as bookends," he said, maneuvering.
Once he had six pumpkins in his arms, Reynolds scrambled for the car, head ducked to hold the top pumpkin with his chin, legs bent, back hunched.
"Good chin action!" said a bystander. But Reynolds was unfazed by mockery. He had his pumpkins.
GIVE MOTORIST A BREAK
Anatomy of an automobile breakdown:
Your car stops suddenly on a busy thoroughfare. You put on your hazard lights and try to determine what to do. Within the first minute, several dozen cars go by.
* 75 percent pass without looking your way or acknowledging there is a stranded motorist in the middle of the road.
* 20 percent give a sympathetic, "feel-for-you-but-there's-nothing-I-can- do" look.
* 2.5 percentstop and offer help.
* 2.5 percent try their best to make your rotten experience even worse.
In 32 years on this planet, I never knew about the last group. I've often passed stranded motorists and generally fallen into the first or second group.
But when I ran out of gas (stupid, I know) on Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie during Friday afternoon rush hour a couple of weeks ago, I found out about the small,but extremely vocal, group of motorists who truly believe that you've stopped your car in the middle of the road for no other reason thanto annoy them.
I mean, these people really take this personally.
Just seconds after my car died a few yards before Stewart Avenue, three cars passed on the right with their drivers leaning way out thewindow making every profane gesture and yelling every obscene expression they could get out in 10 to 20 seconds.
They were furious they had to change lanes, an action that probably held them up, say, 10 seconds.