A KISS IS JUST A KISS UNTIL YOU'VE MET INDY
Actually, says 16-year-old Brian Burke, kissing a 12-foot, 65-pound female Burmese python isn't as bad as you'd think.
But he readily agrees that kissing females of his own species is better.
It wasn't easy for the senior class of Atholton High School to win Brian the privilege of kissing Indy, the snake, but they did it. So there he was on the football field at halftime of the Homecoming game Oct. 12, puckering up with the python while everybody stood around laughing.
The animal kiss is a tradition at Atholton, an activity sponsoredby the school Student Government Association to have some fun and raise some money for class activities.
FOR THE RECORD - In Wednesday's Howard County Sun, the credit on the photograph of Atholton High student Brian Burke kissing a snake was omitted. Jessica Weber took the photograph.
The Howard County Sun regrets the error.
In the weeks before Homecoming, students contribute loose change for their class treasuries. The class that raises the most money wins its president a chance to kiss whatever animal the SGA provides. This year, the seniors won Brian the honor by raising $47.
"Actually, I was a little bit nervous at first," he said.
A normal reaction, said Bobby King, kennel technician at Petland, the Montgomery County pet store from which the SGA borrowed the python. "When you see a snake this big, everybody kind of flinches a little. I'm sure the guy who had to kiss it said, 'Oh, no, do I have to?' "
It could have been worse. Brian was pretty sure they had lined up a cow, which could have posed problems of a somewhatgrassy breath. In fact, Petland technician King said the SGA member who came into the store initially asked about borrowing a rat, but liked his suggestion of a snake.
Pythons aren't poisonous, King saidreassuringly. "They're a constrictor." Well, at least Brian didn't have to hug her, or vice versa.
Indy has returned to her quarters at the pet store, but she is not for sale. She belongs to one of the employees, King said.
Whatever she thought of being kissed by a human, she kept it to herself.
NOT BAD, BOSS, NOT BAD
On first glance, there was nothing unusual about the 911 operator in the county office building Monday.
He looked very professional, if not a little tense, sitting in front of his console awaiting the next call. A constant drumming of his fingers was the only sign of discomfort.
Now that the county's 911 service has been enhanced, the next call could be anything -- a fire emergency, a police emergency or simply a request for information.
In the 45 minutes that he had been working the console, he had received only one call, a non-emergency. He was making small talk with other console operators when someone called, "You're up next!"
He stopped the chatter and sat up straight in his chair. As the phone beeped in his headset, a small box next to his computer flashed the name, address and phone number of the caller.
In the split-second between seeing the name in the box and answering "911," he showed a flash of intensity and total concentration. Then, just as quickly, he slouched involuntarily.
"You want to report a bicycle your son found three or four weeks ago?" he said.
The other operators smiled.
County Executive Charles I. Ecker's coach, standing next to him, went to a list and gave him the code for a "recovered property" call. The 911 computer automatically sorts incoming calls -- 5,900 last year, more expected this year now that the system hasbeen enhanced -- so that emergencies are handled first.
As he typed the bicycle incident into his computer, he asked the caller if shewere the person identified as the caller. She said she was.
"Since this is a non-emergency call, someone will be contacting you later today to follow up your report," he told her. He then pressed a couple of buttons, and the woman's name, address, and phone number, along with the information he had taken from her, was copied to the police department.
"How am I doing?" Ecker asked a co-worker.
"This isthe slowest time of day, but you're crushing the county now . . . sir," she said. The "sir" came awkwardly after a long pause. Ecker introduces himself to employees as "Chuck," but many find it hard to address him that way.
Until now, Ecker had been one of the gang. Except they were wearing 911 T-shirts and jeans and he was wearing a sports coat, tie and slacks. He'd taken a turn at the console to draw attention to the county's enhanced 911 system -- a system that Ecker's publicist says is perhaps the most sophisticated in the East.
His job done, Ecker waved goodbye. The co-worker who had been at the console next to his, stood and called out to him. "Ah, . . . sir . . ."
Ecker turned and smiled.
"You're still wearing your microphone clip."
It was the only flaw in an otherwise perfect demonstration.