Safety' question defies easy answer

This Just In...

April 22, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the following fax arrived from an old friend -- he's a Presbyterian minister in a seacoast town in New Hampshire four days after the fatal shooting of Rex Chao on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus made national news:

"Our parish has a church school that is small, but we are beginning to have some very successful graduates. This year one of our graduates has received close to a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins and it looks like she may be attending in the fall. I met with the girl's parents today and they are very concerned about their daughter's possible move there to attend school. I am interested in your opinion of the campus area of the city."

I assume this is a "safety" question. It's standard for a family in that situation.

What do I tell them? I tell them that, compared to most other areas of Baltimore, Homewood is generally a safe enclave. Nearby, Charles Village has been a different story; in the last year, it became the first city neighborhood to agree to pay more property taxes for safer, cleaner streets. There are public safety officers in the area and citizen patrols.

If the Chao slaying comes up, I say how it looks from here: A powerful gun in the hands of a deeply troubled person, with the worst possible result. The Chao tragedy was an aberration at Homewood, and maybe I should alert the parents of the Hopkins-bound girl to the story about the slaying murder a real psyche job -- that appeared in yesterday's Sunday Sun. That would make them feel better, right?

What more can I tell them? I guess I should mention the amenities of the Hopkins area. There's shopping at the Rotunda, though a cashier at the Rotunda Giant was shot there a few weeks ago. But that was an aberration, too, right?

The Hopkins side of Baltimore is leafy and clean, and there are strong residential neighborhoods nearby. Don't forget the Baltimore Museum of Art and Wyman Park. Henry and Jeff are opening a deli where the old Homewood used to be. The Papermoon Diner is a fun place to eat, and it's expanding. So, you see. . . .

And the city of Baltimore? It's "The City That Reads," though there's hardly any public confidence in the public schools and the Enoch Pratt Free Library is facing a serious cut in its operating budget. Baltimore's off-the-charts homicide rate went down in 1994 (but went up again last year). We have an estimated 50,000 heroin and/or cocaine addicts here. But, hey, the Orioles are hot again and NFL is coming back to Baltimore and a new $200 million stadium.

.` Does that answer the question?

Truth in transportation

The other day, while driving on North Charles Street, I saw the following hand-written handwritten sign taped to the rear of a Honda Accord: "Just learning how to drive a stick shift. Please don't pull up on me, especially on a hill."

I appreciated the honesty, the effort at full disclosure, the consideration of others, the driver's willingness to expose herself to scorn and ridicule. Here was a Maryland driver who seemed to be saying: "Watch out, everybody! I don't really know how to drive this thing yet!"

Which got me thinking that maybe this would be a better world if we'd all fashion such candid, individualized warnings and attach them to our cars. Mine would be something like: "Caution: Driver sometimes actually tries to slow down when he sees a yellow light."

But I can think of others that would be appropriate for many motorists: "One-handed driver. May be eating Filet-o-Fish, doing makeup, or playing glockenspiel."

"Driver has tendency to drive incredibly slow through big downtown parking garages, looking for a space on the lower levels when it's perfectly obvious there aren't any and we'd all be better off just driving directly to the roof."

"Driver never uses turn signals."

"On highways, driver likes to drive the speed limit or slower in left lane."

"Don't pull up too close if you have a headache or are unnerved by vibrations. Massive stereo system playing Biohazard at full volume at all times."

"My parents are rich. They bought me this car, and I drive like a fool on the way to school."

"Driver has suicidal/homicidal tendency to run red lights."

"Plastic gold crown on dashboard is air freshener, not symbol of cult membership."

Choosy buyer

You don't see this every day: A friend, shopping at Eddie's in Roland Park, stood and waited as a woman at the banana bin selected her half-dozen bananas one at a time, by tearing single bananas out of a bunch. Go figure that one.

Glad you asked

You can look it up: Most states have official birds, flowers, sports and mottos mottoes (I always liked Wisconsin's: "Eat Cheese Or Die.") Maryland has all the usual stuff plus an official state fossil (Ecphora quadricostata), state fish (the rockfish), boat (skipjack), dog (the Chesapeake Bay Retriever), and crustacean (you're on your own there, pal).

Down in New Mexico, the state legislature has decided that what our 47th state needed was an Official State Question. So, they came up with one (referring to the two main types of salsa popular there): "Red or green?"

So, OK. So I'll bite. I am now taking suggestions for an Official State Question for the state of Maryland. (My choice: "Want gravy on your fries, hon?") Send them to This Just In, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Or phone 332-6166.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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