Parole optical store owner was masterful at her craftThere...

ROUTE 2 -- A weekly journey through Anne Arundel County

July 08, 1992|By Phil Greenfield With a little luck, you can go home again

Parole optical store owner was masterful at her craft

There are days when you just have to scratch your head and wonder just how many of us really know what we're doing.

A popular dinner theater that plays to a sold-out crowd on Thursday night is suddenly closed by an underfinanced, over-chutzpaed owner the very next day.

Tens of thousands of dollars are spent to wall in "open-space" schools because, 15 or 20 years ago, some twinkie at the Board of Education forgot that classrooms full of kids can get noisy.

Full-blown highway construction begins again in earnest, just in time for the beginning of the bumper-to-bumper summer season despite an abnormally mild winter and a relatively dry spring.

The more I observe such thoughtlessness in our midst, the bigger a fan I become of those individuals who really and truly know what they're doing, and who really and truly do it well.

I've been thinking a lot about competence lately since the death of one of the Annapolis area's true pros a few weeks back.

I didn't know Geraldine Brilliant personally, but I was one of her real fans. Brilliant Optical over in Parole Plaza has been one of Annapolis' thriving establishments for years, a situation due in no small measure to Brilliant's sense of people and her knowledge of the eye-wear business.

To say she ran the store is to dismiss with faint praise. She ran that store the way Toscanini ran the NBC Symphony Orchestra. She was Schwarzkopf and her store was the Desert Storm press corps.

And how she ran that place.

In all the times I've been there, Brilliant's has never been less than mobbed. Amid everything, there was Geraldine Brilliant attending to a half-dozen different people on all sides of the store, never missing a beat. The look of determination on her face was always tempered by the calm of someone who knew her next move before she made it. And never far off was that smile of self-deprecating good humor that permeated the entire room. "I'll get it right in my next life," I heard her say.

Once I was in there, browsing hopelessly through scores of frames -- many of them probably women's, for all I knew -- when Brilliant hurried by on her way to perform the 173 tasks she had designated for completion in the upcoming two minutes. Noting my predicament, she detoured to a neighboring display, grabbed a pair and handed them to me. "Try these. They're what you want," she said, never breaking stride.

And excellent frames they've been for the past few years. "Who was that masked man?"

So, as I enter middle age, I guess I've become more and more of a sucker for competence. Let us always be appreciative of those around us who are excellent at what they do, whatever their calling. With doltish actions surrounding us on so many sides, such people are more precious than ever.

You are respected for both the quality of your work and your handling of people, Mrs. B. From where I sit, you got it right in this life.

@ The great adventure is over. I have finally found -- and bought -- a house so that I can move back to Anne Arundel County after a 4 1/2 -year absence. The tree-lined streets of Linthicum have a new boarder, and I couldn't be happier!

Well, maybe someone could slice the mortgage in half.

Regardless, it's good to be back in the land of 'Naptown, impact fees (which were none of my concern, since the house I bought is 70 years old), Route 2 traffic and the Old Mill Pancake House (yeah, I know it's not called that anymore, but it should be).

A few random thoughts on moving and Anne Arundel in general, as I wait anxiously for light rail to finish so that I can ride to Camden Yards without paying $5 to park.

* I was quite surprised -- and in fact, pretty darn annoyed -- to learn that truck rental companies will no longer accept reservations for local moving jobs. Seems the big bucks come from one-way moves (where the truck stays in the city to which you are moving), and so nobody gives a hoot if you just want to move 15 miles down the road. In fact, one local agent for a major rental company said they are under orders to provide one-way movers with any available trucks, even if they show up while some local guy is filling out the rental papers.

All this meant that I was up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, frantically calling every rental agency within a 20-mile radius and feeling none too happy about it.

* The post office makes you pay additional postage if it has to forward a parcel to you. It cost me $1.48 to receive a videotape mailed before my change of address reached the video club. Sounds like double jeopardy to me.

* North Arundel Cable offers a wonderful selection of channels that makes Comcast Cablevision of Baltimore County look meager by comparison. You get Home Team Sports for free (Comcast charges a hefty monthly premium fee), as well as American Movie Classics, WGN out of Chicago and the Comedy Channel. Comcast offers none of the last three and charges only a few fewer dollars per month.

* I really appreciate the mailing from County Exec Bobby Neall, which was chock full of useful information -- like where to find and scream at all the County Council folk -- and really made me feel at home. Just one thing, Bob: My fiancee is not a Mr.

Chris Kaltenbach

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