Day to play or to work Holiday: Even the weather seemed to gang up on those who had to work on July 5. Many workers skipped out for a four-day weekend, but at least parking was easier for those who couldn't.

July 06, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Officially it was a working day yesterday -- just as jousting is officially Maryland's state sport.

Throughout the state, on summer's equivalent of the day after Thanksgiving, sparsely populated offices looked as if some medieval plague had swept through the work force.

Traffic flowed freely into mostly deserted parking garages in downtown Baltimore, and half-empty Metro cars whooshed into Washington from Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Meanwhile, the weather itself seemed to mock the poor slobs who did go to work. On the normally hot and humid Fifth of July, the air conditioning was outside. Each caressing breeze seemed to whisper, "Don't go into that nasty old office. Stay and play."

It was much easier to comply if you were The Boss. Chief executives from the governor on down left subordinates in charge in order to enjoy a four-day weekend.

"They're taking off and making the underlings come in," said a worker bee at one suburban company, who preferred anonymity to unemployment.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening set the tone for the state, taking "a well-deserved holiday" at an undisclosed beach, press secretary Judi Scioli said Wednesday. He was taking along a science fiction novel and a book of poetry, said Scioli, who took off yesterday as well.

Contacted about 10 a.m. at what he called "the home office," spokesman Clinton R. Coleman said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had not yet gone into his City Hall office but probably would be in later.

"The mayor never takes a day off. He does have no schedule today," he said. "It's safe to say his wife is trying to get him to take a day off, and we'll see who wins." As of 4: 50 p.m., it appeared that Patricia Schmoke had prevailed.

It was much the same in private industry. At Sylvan Learning Systems' national headquarters in Columbia, "maybe an eighth" of the work force was in, said secretary Linda Palarino. The chief executive and chief financial officer were taking the day off, she said.

At the Social Security Administration complex in Woodlawn, cafeteria manager Sharon DeLuca was preparing a limited menu of deli, salad bar and grilled foods. She was expecting to serve about 50 percent of the food she would sell on a normal workday.

But death never takes a holiday, so Dr. John E. Smialek, the state's chief medical examiner, was on the job. So were the construction workers rushing to complete the city's expanded Convention Center.

A reporter who set off on a walking tour of downtown Baltimore looking for signs of productivity found precious little.

At the city courthouse, the Circuit Court Civil Division's docket came to two pages. Normally it fills four or five.

"It's like dead -- borderline dead. We have a murder case that's trying to get started, but it can't get started because the lawyer is somewhere else," said Deputy Sheriff Stephen Church.

Lawyers? That's it. Surely the legal profession, with its abundance of workaholics, would provide some activity. But no. At the Church & Hoff law firm downtown, only five of 12 attorneys had shown their faces in the office and most of them had left before noon, receptionist Kia Harris said.

At Harborplace, a healthy throng of refugees from nearby office buildings was enjoying the nearly perfect lunchtime weather. One young woman, who works for a large downtown company, exulted that it was the first time in four years she had come to work without wearing panty hose. She asked not to be identified because of the strictness of her boss, who was -- you guessed it -- taking the day off.

Others in the lunchtime crowd were less cheerful about working on such a gem of a day. "It stinks," said Diane Hyland, a legal assistant at Thieblot Ryan Martin & Miller in the World Trade Center.

But for Geoffrey W. Cobb of Hampstead, it wasn't too difficult to take.

Cobb, who performs as a sword swallower under the name Thom Sellectomy, said office workers in the Harborplace crowd seemed to be extending their lunch hours to catch his entire show.

"It's nice," he said. "This is the first time I've ever worked here and I'm really enjoying it."

Pub Date: 7/06/96

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