&TC At first glance, Wendy W. Nugent seemed to be the kind of person you could stand sharing the same planet with.
She wrote a Letter to the Editor that appeared last Saturday in The Sun thanking Baltimore for being so . . . Baltimore.
She noted that her husband "will complete his one-year fellowship here and we and our children will return to our home state of California."
She said they had had "a wonderful time" in Baltimore even though they had been crime victims.
(Nugent is apparently unaware that Baltimore encourages visitors to become crime victims as part of its "Share the Feeling!" program.)
Nugent then listed some of the things she liked about the city (including "close proximity to Washington, D.C.," a feeling echoed, I am sure, by tens of people in Baltimore) and things she didn't like (including "wearing gloves, hats and heavy coats every day for five straight months," which makes me wonder if Nugent grew up in California or a blast furnace).
But then Nugent, whom I was beginning to like, really blew it. She listed what she "never figured out" about Baltimore. And first on her list was: "What constitutes the Inner Loop and Outer Loop of the beltway."
Two thoughts immediately occurred to me after reading this:
1. Why is Wendy W. Nugent throwing her life away following her husband around the country every time he gets another fellowship instead of cutting him loose, dumping the children and opening up a candle shop at Cross Keys?
2. Just how dim do you have to be not to know the Inner from the Outer Loop?
Then I figured, well, leaving aside Question One, Wendy is from California and the only loops they have out there are the fruit kind you pour into your cereal bowl.
The big cities of California are on the ocean and if you had a loop going around them, part of it would be underwater, which would be pretty bitchin', man, but the highway department just won't do it, you know?
And I was feeling smug and superior about how Baltimoreans can handle their loop until I picked up a copy of the Wednesday Sun. (If you're wondering why I read The Sun so much, there are two reasons: One, so I will know which merchants to patronize because the very best merchants advertise in The Sun. Two, I get it free.)
There was this story by Peter Jensen about how over the past two months "state highway crews have erected a dozen signs on the beltway with the designation 'Inner Loop' or 'Outer Loop.' "
This made me really angry. Taxpayer dollars that could have been used to give pedicures to the governor's dog now are being squandered on useless signs!
Why useless? Because when you are stuck in traffic with your engine boiling over and your kids screaming that they have to make winky-tink right now, what possible difference does it make whether you are on the Inner or Outer Loop?
And as the story points out the whole inner/outer designation is a creation of the electronic media.
I'm sure you have heard the traffic reports on radio: The chopper blades go "thwumpeta-thwumpeta-thwumpeta" in the background and the cool, professional voice of the traffic reporter says:
"The Outer Loop of the beltway is backed up from that really big intersection down there way the heck over to that big red factory over there. And the Inner Loop appears to be on fire. Wayne Wonka, NewsChopper 12."
But let me tell you something about radio traffic reports: Nearly all of them are made up.
Yes! Figure it out: How could most radio stations afford helicopters? Those babies cost a fortune.
And I have heard that over at WBAL the helicopter noise you hear is really Alan Prell patting his cheeks and saying "thwumpeta-thwumpeta-thwumpeta" into the microphone while Ron Smith pinches his nose and makes up the traffic report.
I do see, however, how some people could be helped by the new highway signs.
So, as a public service, I am providing more signs to help such people in their daily lives.
Because some people can use all the help they can get:
"SHAKE WITH THIS ONE." (Cut and paste on right hand.)
"PUT FOOT IN HERE." (Paste inside your shoe. Left or right.)
"THIS SIDE DOWN." (Put on your stomach if you don't want to snore.)