Mitzvah is served at Baltimore deli


September 23, 1996|By Dan Rodricks

Those who have never been to Attman's Deli on Lombard Street -- what can we say to these people? You've been deprived. You've missed not only one of Baltimore's great pleasures but one of Baltimore's great scenes, especially at lunch hour. Rich atmosphere, campy signage, smells that compound cravings, loud and friendly sandwich makers, a mob of customers, all of them mad for good deli, all of them calling out answers to the question, "Who's next?" as they wait in line along the glass counter.

David Bush manages that counter. Last Friday, during rush hour, he looked up to see a woman waving a stack of bills.

"For me?" Bush asked.

"No, I found it on the floor," she said. She was 30-something, smartly dressed, probably for an office job. Bush took the woman away from the crowd and counted the money -- $381 in $10s, $20s and $50s.

"You found this?" Bush asked.

"Yes," the woman said. "It was on the floor, and people in line didn't notice. They were stepping on it and kicking it."

A man approached -- another 30-something, in a sweat suit. He claimed the money had dropped out of his pocket. Bush asked him to describe the wad. "A little shy of $400," he said anxiously. "Should be some $10s, some $20s and $50s."

Bush gave the man his money.

The man gave the woman a $20 reward.

"It happened to me once," she told Bush. "I lost a bit of money, and I prayed on it and the money was returned. I promised myself and God that, if it ever happened that I found some money, I would do the same thing for someone else."

There's a good word for what she did -- mitzvah.

"That's right," David Bush said. "For her it was a mitzvah."

Neanderthal thinking

Is anyone in Carroll County getting it? For the past decade or more, the county has allowed virtually unfettered development, which has led to all sorts of growth problems and, in some cases, the near ruination of Carroll's rural way of life. (Been to Hampstead lately?)

The state, meanwhile, wants Carroll and other exurbs to discourage sprawl, encourage wiser and more efficient growth, and stress the revitalization of older neighborhoods and existing infrastructure. In other words, it wants the counties to do the smart thing.

But here's a dose of the business-as-usual mentality the state is up against.

At a symposium Friday on school construction, with state officials and private builders and designers on hand to advise Carroll commissioners on how to economically build the eight schools needed in the next six years, contractor Bernie Schisler, who owns Kraft Construction and whose school-building career goes back 40 years, came up with this original idea: Build new schools, don't renovate old ones.

"You put a new dress on the old girl, but the old girl is still there," said Schisler, who obviously never attended a symposium on gender-sensitive speech.

Don't laugh too hard at the Neanderthal thinking. There's plenty of it around. And when it comes to development in this state, the 'dozerheads are stilling winning the day, the month, the year, the decade, the century.

Great bad ideas

I was in Frazier's Tap Room in Hampden the other day with Ingmar Burger, at-large correspondent for This Just In and man of great ideas. He told me his latest.

"I'm going to build the Maryland Museum of Bad Ideas," he declared. "It'll feature exhibits of stupid things we have done or almost did, and it'll keep their memories alive. For instance, one display will be the 'herinal,' which if you remember was the female urinal they wanted to install in Camden Yards restrooms. Either good taste or good sense buried that one."

Bad ideas. I like the sound of this.

"But," Ingmar said, "it can't be some dumb idea you just dreamed up, either, like Art Modell driving in an open convertible in Cleveland's Columbus Day Parade. It has to be something we did, or at least thought about doing."

I pondered it awhile, then they started to come to me -- the Highway To Nowhere (Interstate 170 from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard west to . . . nowhere); Wally Orlinsky's 73,000-pound Inner Harbor birthday cake for the nation's bicentennial (great idea, but it rained); the time Harry Hughes, as governor of Maryland and chief booster of tourism here, took his summer vacation at the Delaware shore; the time the city police wanted to buy four-cylinder Volkswagen Rabbits for patrol cars. (Cops just shouldn't drive cars named after fluffy animals.)

"Now you're getting it!" Ingmar shouted. "This is going to be big. Future generations will thank us."

I've never seen Ingmar so excited. Send us your bad ideas.

Write to Dan Rodricks, This Just In, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 9/23/96

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