To time in this space during this election year...


January 15, 1994

FROM TIME to time in this space during this election year, we will suggest campaign issues for candidates desperate to find them.

Our first proposal is to rid the state of Maryland of its equivalent of the Berlin Wall.

We refer, of course, to the telephone company's nefarious decision to divide the state into two different area codes: dear old 301 and new-fangled 410. Translated into regional rivalry, this has made all suburban Washingtonians 301ers and all true and good Baltimoreans 410ers.

No wonder our two metropolitan centers are practically ready to go to war over a form of combat known as professional football. No wonder the mythic barrier punctured when one drives northeastward out of the District of Columbia into the Real America has suddenly been imbued with the imprimatur of our own Baby Bell.

Remember when Ronald Reagan went to Berlin and cried: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that Wall." All of us geo-political types thought he was talking "Gipperish" (if we might coin a word). But the Wall came down a lot sooner than even the Germans dared to hope.

So our campaign proposal issue No. 1: A candidate desperate for an issue should arrange a press conference at the door of C&P headquarters (Gerry Brewster knows how to put on one of these affairs).

And then, in the best Reagan manner, he/she should cry: "Baby Bell, take back your darn 410 area code. Unite all Marylanders under the banner of 301."

* * *

WHILE chastizing our own Baby Bell for taking away our unified area code, the state's telephone utility has another sin to answer for: taking away our home-grown C&P name.

Sometime this year, the Chesapeake & Potomac Co. of Maryland will transmogrify into a more generic nomenclature: Bell Atlantic-Maryland. For 111 years, we've called it C&P, just as they have for local divisions in Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. In Delaware, they've gotten used to Diamond State of Delaware and to the north, the two phone firms are known as New Jersey Bell and Bell of Pennsylvania.

Now there will be nothing but generic confusion: Bell Atlantic-New Jersey; Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania, etc., etc. Then there's the parent company, good old Bell Atlantic, the soon-to-be giant mega-communications company speeding down the information highway.

Still, we mourn the loss of C&P. We could identify with it, just as we could identify with local entities such as Maryland National Bank and Read's Drug Store before they were swallowed up and renamed. (Maryland National gained a year's reprieve when Nationsbank realized too fast a changeover might hurt business.) Local names will make a comeback, though. The public, Gallimaufry is sure, will demand it.

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