At Flower Mart, wear a hat and an ugly tie

This Just In...

February 27, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

I AM hereby announcing, here at the top of today's column -- and without the expressed written approval of my bosses -- the First Maybe Annual Baltimore Sun Ugly Tie Contest, to be held May 15 during the Definitely Annual Again Baltimore Flower Mart. This is a revival of a contest that used to be held in The Evening Sun newsroom back when there was an Evening Sun and the closets of editors and reporters still glowed with large, ugly, polyester, what-were-we-thinking? neckties from the '70s. Trust me. It'll be fun, and we'll have luxurious prizes for the winners. Details to follow.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled column ...

Not-so-fast cash

What did I say? I said Allfirst was probably going to make up for that huge loss in bad currency trading by charging us a little fee here and there -- maybe 50 cents on each ATM transaction for the next, oh, 50 years. They'd call it the John Rusnak Surcharge, named for the trader the bank brass have been blaming for the mutimillion-dollar loss.

That was a prediction, nothing more. Allfirst has made no announcement about increasing customer fees.

But what Joann White reported the other day made me wonder if the bank hasn't already made a move on this front.

Check this out: White went to the main Allfirst location on South Charles Street on Friday during lunch hour to make a $40 withdrawal from her checking account through the ATM there.

"Instead of receiving two twenty-dollar bills," she says, "I received one twenty and one five-dollar bill. My receipt reflects a $40 withdrawal from my account."

Ouch.

I figured there would be a Rusnak charge some day, but not so soon -- and not $15. (Do the lads at Allied Irish know about this?)

OK, I'm just having a little fun. I'm being hyperbolic.

Reality: ATM mistakes happen, but rarely, according to the Maryland Bankers Association.

And Joann White is not getting stiffed for $15 by Allfirst.

A customer relations rep advised her to fill out a form to get the balance of her withdrawal, and that's what she did. Only problem: "I was told I have to wait 10 days for them to investigate and then give me the $15 the machine did not."

Look on the bright side, Joann: Relatively speaking, 10 days isn't bad. It took Allfirst five years to notice a slip of nearly $700 million.

Let's just hope they don't bet your 15 bucks against the yen.

Political prodding

The mayor of Baltimore has been hitting "Annapolis" pretty hard the last few days, and here on the O'Malley Watch we're scoring this as a thinly disguised attempt to firm up his political base in Baltimore while squeezing money out of the Glendening administration under the threat of a possible run for governor. It's not hard to figure out.

Martin O'Malley launched 12,000 e-mails the other day to warn that state money for drug treatment might be cut when that's far from a given, even in this budget-crunch of a legislative session. ("People are dying," O'Malley said. "The final year of a tax cut seems to be more important than drug treatment dollars.")

And Monday, O'Mayor's blast at the state for proposing to withhold money for lead-paint abatement -- again, far from a given -- got him a nice splash of news coverage just as likely gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Kathleen K. Townsend picked up a bunch of endorsements in Prince George's County.

Drug treatment, lead paint -- two key issues in a city key to a Democratic candidate for governor. O'Malley is a keen campaign strategist, and he's smart to crusade against "Annapolis" -- even when his bark is too loud (or way premature)for the perceived offense. The guy's good.

The slurp cycle

Baltimoreans -- I love these people! -- are full of ideas for conserving water during this strange and spooky drought.

Today's tips come from Blaine Brooks. He suggests letting your dog lap the dinner dishes before putting them in the dishwasher; this avoids the dreaded "pre-wash rinse" and keeps the dishwasher drain from clogging. Also, Brooks says, people should save leftover ice from fast-food sodas (to water plants) instead of chucking the cube-filled cups in the trash. "Do you have any idea," he asks, "how much water goes to landfills?"

Ah, no, but I hadn't thought about it until this moment. Let me get back to you, BB.

Music to dine by

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