Info Age is driving motorists to anxiety

This Just In. . .

December 03, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

FEAR OF ROAD rage and general anxiety about the lack of privacy in the Information Age must be driving Maryland motorists to demand that the Motor Vehicle Administration block access to their records.

"Someone you accidentally cut off can now find out where you live," says an anonymous warning making its way across the state on office fax machines. "I fear that my college-age daughters might be tracked down by some deviant who sees them on the road," wrote a Howard County man in recent e-mail to TJI. "Anyone who has your license plate number can find out where you live."

Actually, there's nothing new in public access to driving records. (In Maryland it goes back to 1943.) As a matter of fact, for several years, the MVA has sold driver record information to lawyers, insurance companies, other drivers and junk mail marketers. Last year alone, the state made $12.9 from the sale of driving records. The MVA will still sell the information -- at $5 a pop -- to those who request it, unless you do something about it.

Now you can do something about it.

Under state law that went into effect Sept. 1, you can contact the MVA and have your driving records blocked from access (though government and law enforcement agencies, licensed private detectives and security guard services will still have access, no matter what). About 1,000 motorists have been doing so each day, according to the MVA. Here's the toll-free number to call to block release of information on your driving record: 1-888-682-3772. It's best to call at night or early in the morning.

This has been another FYI from TJI.

Not worth bragging

I just had to laugh at the Shakespearean pretension that sprang from the lips of influential Prince George's County attorney Peter O'Malley last weekend. He was recalling the heady rush to get the Capital Centre in Landover opened on time for the first Bullets game there in 1973. "Those of us who worked to make the Capital Centre a reality, we felt like a band of brothers," said O'Malley, in the role of Prince Hal. "It was a great sense of accomplishment."

Wow. The Cap Centre as Agincourt. Could O'Malley be talking about the same place the rest of us remember?

Wasn't the Cap Centre -- I know, I know, the US Airways Arena now -- considered obsolete within about 10 years of its construction? Wasn't O'Malley's friend, Abe Pollin, complaining about losing money there by the early 1980s? Hasn't there been talk about constructing a new arena for the last, oh, 15 years? Didn't the arena serve as a home for the Caps and the Bullets -- I know, I know, the Wizards now -- for only 24 years?

It wasn't exactly a marvel of architecture and future-think, was it?

It was an ugly concrete block at the end of a ramp in some isolated spot in suburban Maryland, and just about everyone hated to drive there.

The words of Shakespeare were writ large and lovely, for the ages. The Cap Centre was built fast and ugly, for a mere millisecond on the big clock of life.

Let NBA invest in this one

Which almost makes it easier to accept the idea of replacing Cole Field House at College Park. It, at least, has been used in five decades.

Still, the University of Maryland wants to spend $106 million -- more than half of it in taxpayer money -- for a place to play basketball?

Wait a while. Let's not open the vault yet. Let's try something different this time.

Since NCAA basketball is really the farm system for the National Basketball Association, why not let the NBA subsidize new college arenas, starting with this one at College Park? Let's drop the pretense of amateurism and fully privatize the arrangement. Why not? The NBA can put up a third, private investors can put up a third and some corporate sponsor -- Fila? Jiffy Lube? -- can buy the name of the new arena to cover the remainder of construction costs.

Holiday sightings

Christmas has officially come to Ruxton. Monday on Bellona Avenue we saw a Land Rover with a wreath attached to its grille. . . . If you're on Charles Street tomorrow evening for the holiday lighting of the Washington Monument, check out Henry Wong's new An Die Musik, next to Sotto Sopra. It's nice to see Wong and his partners back in action with an inviting store emphasizing classical, jazz and blues recordings. The next step, Wong says, is an adjoining coffee house with portable CD players so customers can sample music as they sip their joe.

A different world

A conversation between two men, one in his 60s, the other in his 40s, during a hike on an overcast November day:

"Why is there no bridge where the road meets the river?" the older man asks.

"There used to be a covered bridge but I heard kids burned it down some time in the 70s."

"Right, right," the older one says. "I remember now. But I thought they rebuilt it."

"They did, and then some kids burned it down again."

The older man stops the hike, shakes his head, smirks, grins, then laughs ironically. "My God," he says, as if asking the sky, "what happened to us?"

And, just like that, from out of nowhere, the younger man says, "Well, someone killed JFK."

The two men look at each other, stunned but somehow not surprised at the words. They both seem to accept the answer, vague but palatable theory about a fault-line change in American life. They say nothing more about the long-gone bridge and resume their hike.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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