Attacking invasion of the plastic bags

This Just In...

April 17, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

Now, let's talk about something really important -- the number of plastic shopping bags blowing through the Patapsco Drainage Basin. Have you seen them this year? They're swarming. From Glenelg to Glen Burnie, from Pylesville to Pikesville, from Arbutus to Arcadia, from Pigtown to Joppatowne, from Hereford to Thereford -- you get the idea -- these bags cling to tree limbs and chain-link fences. They're a menace. If he were not dead, Ed Wood would make a movie about them.

We had a long winter, see, with lots of snow-panic shopping; too many people making too many trips to the supermarket equals too many blue bags. And people get sick of these blue plastic bags, see, and they toss them. They just toss them! And the bags end up blowing down streets, and swirling with the wind, and sticking to trees and bushes and thick grass and small children.

Now, what to do about them? (The bags, I mean.)

Tell you what they did in East Baltimore. Starting three years ago, the Butchers Hill Streetscape Committee declared war on plastic bags in trees. Three "tree-debaggers" have been conducting regular patrols.

According to Steve Young, who lives over near Patterson Park, the debaggers' weapon of choice is a heavyduty Mr. Longarm Pro-Lok telescoping aluminum pole (Model No. 2324) with a utility knife blade attached to a yellow screw-on piece originally designed to hold a paint brush. "By carefully working the razor blade, we can remove bags quickly and effectively, without damage to the tree," Young reported to the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, which promotes community cleanups. "We carry our poles with the blade pointing up, out of the way of danger, we always wear gloves and we avoid situations where electrical wires are present."

I like this -- community spirit, the dedication of volunteers and a nod to jousting, Maryland's official sport. But keep your eyes on this, friends. I'm thinking, in six years, tree debagging will be an exhibition sport at the Winter Olympics. Or watch for it on ESPN2, or Home Team Sports. You think I'm kidding, but I'm as serious as a utility knife.

Right idea, wrong line

Bad enough you always pick the supermarket line where the cash register runs out of tape, or the computer goes down, or there's a price check, or the guy in front of you has a credit card that won't scan. Ever pick the wrong line at a state motor vehicle emissions test center? It can make you the angriest dog on Earth.

A friend drove into the Glen Burnie tailpipe-sniffing station at 9: 15 a.m. yesterday to find two of the four lines open. He did the obvious -- picked the shorter line, in the far left lane.

And, of course, the line of four cars in front of him didn't move.

And, of course, the cars in the much longer line, in the adjacent lane, moved steadily.

And, of course, an attendant opened the inspection bay at the far right, waving in cars that were just arriving.

Had he been a more excitable lad, my friend would have opened his car window and screamed. Instead, he waited, and after 10 minutes his line started moving again. Fifteen minutes after that, his '82 Buick klunker was examined. And (sigh) it passed muster. "My wife's Chevy is due for inspection in May," our friend says. "I think I'll try Lane No. 2."

Where, oh where?

Where, weather permitting, autograph hounds find visiting Major League Baseball players -- lunch hour, outdoor tables, Sfuzzi and Phillips Harborplace. ...Where, weather permitting, you might want to take a stroll and be pleasantly surprised at what you find -- along the Little Patuxent River, upstream of Foundry Street, Savage Historical Mill Trail, Howard County. ... Where, rain or sun, Baltimore City cops looking for drivers who run reds could make easy scores -- York Road at Gittings Avenue.

For the birds

It has been 13 years since we nailed the first bluebird box to that fence post on the upper pasture of an old farm. We had never seen bluebirds. Heard about them. Never seen them. Old-timers used to tell stories about seeing lots of bluebirds -- flickering and flashing royal as they darted across meadows -- from here to Maine. And then, in the middle of the 20th century, they started to disappear. There's plenty of science on why that happened -- clean farming, loss of habitat, too much development, too many people pulling down too many old, rotting trees, not enough good nesting sites.

First scientists, then bird lovers, discovered a solution: Put up those deep-well boxes in places that make bluebirds comfortable -- on the edges of farm fields, close to trees but not in woods. So, that's what we did 13 years ago, as an experiment. Within a week or so, a male and a female moved in; we named them Babs and Orson (after Barbara Mikulski and Orson Welles, but don't ask me why). Babs and Orson had three broods that spring and summer of 1983 (coincidentally, the last time the Orioles won the pennant).

The other day, I visited that old farm and I saw a flash of royal blue in a leafless maple tree. It was a male bluebird, perhaps a descendant of Orson and Babs, and he seemed to be scouting a birdhouse near the site of our long-gone original. I felt pretty good about that. I think this is going to be a good year for birds.

If you have an item for This Just In, give me a call on 332-6166, or drop me a line at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278-0001. Love to hear from you.

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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