Whither the Year 2000 clock? Millennium: With countdown sign gone from Annapolis' Lawyers Mall, we offer some alternatives.

September 23, 1998

WITH THE REMOVAL of the millennium clock from the plaza known as Lawyers Mall beside the State House in Annapolis, the question of where to put it remains. The Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000 is looking for another conspicuous spot, not necessarily in the state capital.

These digital "countdown" signs bring to mind a bustling commercial space such as Times Square in New York, rather than a quaint historic district like downtown Annapolis'. The flashing numbers belong near their brethren: other blinking signs, jumbo television screens and bright billboards. Because Maryland has nothing on the order of Times Square, finding an suitable locale won't be easy.

There are a few possibilities, however.

The giant guitar (with flickering neon chords) and oversized flaming shish kebab at the Power Plant at the Inner Harbor might be Maryland's closest approximation to Times Square. We did notice thousands of New York tourists, in town for the Orioles-Yankees games last weekend, flocking there like swallows to Capistrano, perhaps because it felt so much like home.

On the other hand, if the bent of the 2000 Commission is to make the information utilitarian, the clock could be erected as an overhead sign on the Baltimore or Capital beltways. Motorists could then keep precise tally of the valuable minutes they are wasting while sitting in traffic. Placing it above the often-backed up toll booths at the Fort McHenry Tunnel could serve the same purpose.

The other possibility is to place the sign in mothballs. There's a macabre, countdown-to-doomsday feel to the effort. Rather than focus on the quantity of time, or lack thereof, the body politic should be focusing on how to make better use of the time left this century. Suggestions toward that end would be more valued than a twitching clock.

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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