A FEW DOZEN harried taxpayers took a flying leap and entrusted a serene stranger who "looked like a social worker" to take their 2001 state and federal returns to the downtown post office Monday night, and guess what? The returns got there before midnight - about 10:30 p.m. - and Seska Ramberg didn't peek at one of them.
That's what she tells me. And one of her longtime friends, who by coincidence is a short-time friend of mine, vouched for her. (Is this a small town, or what? Smalltimore, Md.)
So if there's anyone out there suffering post-April 15 you-idiot anxiety about having handed your tax returns to a total stranger, you can relax.
"Please let everyone know that their returns were handed to a postal worker on Fayette Street," Ramberg said after seeing her unusual deed described in this space Wednesday.
Turns out, Ramberg is a social worker and has worked with abused women and troubled kids in the past - just as Holly Price, the TJI reader who told us the story, had surmised. (Price's guess of the mystery woman's age, 48 to 50, was short only by a couple of years.)
Ramberg, herself a last-minute filer, says she obliged at least 50 men and women who had been misinformed that the Lutherville-Timonium post office would be open to accept last-minute tax returns until 8 p.m.
Rather than drive downtown to get their returns postmarked, the strangers entrusted Ramberg to make the delivery for them. Ramberg, who sat on the floor in the outer lobby of the closed post office reviewing her tax returns, was surprised that so many people took her up on her offer and added their returns to the stack next to her.
"I was in that last-minute student mentality, and I realized I had no choice but to go downtown," Ramberg says. "I told people I would take their returns, and the pile started getting bigger and bigger. I bet the stack I delivered was between 15 and 20 inches high. I was a little paranoid of losing them ... but they all got there."
I guess that qualifies as a happy ending - at least for those due refunds.
The name game
I love this Oz Bengur, rich guy from Ruxton ready to spend at least $290,000 of his own bucks, for starters, on his first political venture.
I love the name - Oz. Better than Ozzie. Much better than Osman (his actual first name) or Osmond (Donnie's last). Just Oz. It's a name you might give a golden retriever, or maybe it's the name you gave a lab mouse during chemical experiments in college.
Anyway, it's a cool name, and easy to remember: Oz.
Almost as easy to remember as ... Dutch!
C.A. (as in Charles Albert) Dutch Ruppersberger, the outgoing Baltimore County executive, who will be Oz Bengur's opponent in the Democratic primary for Congress. Which is another thing I like about this guy, Oz. Instead of starting low and slow - say, Baltimore County Council, House of Delegates, or president of Towson University - Oz has his eye on Maryland's 2nd District seat in Congress. Maybe he sees it as the perfect lateral move from his job as an investment banker.
Dutch is a brand-name in Baltimore County, but Oz must think him vulnerable.
Remember all that heat Dutch caught for trying to take most of Middle River and Essex by condemnation so he could put up marinas and condos for rich guys? Oz must be thinking: "All those blue-collar people who wanted to turn Dutch into crab bait certainly will give me campaign contributions. And if they don't come through, there's always my old chums from Princeton, and my neighbors in Ruxton."
Plus, the new 2nd District stretches to Randallstown, where Dutch also ticked off a lot of people with that condemnation plan in 2000.
Oz already has made a daring move - he hired Julius Henson to run his campaign. Can you say, "Machiavelli"?
Henson is the guy who got Robert F. Dashiell in trouble for campaign violations in 1998. Dashiell, a school board member running for state Senate, allowed Henson to hire school employees to campaign on Election Day.
There was Henson's ugly rally-against-O'Malley in front of City Hall the next year. And last fall, Warren A. Brown made a quick exit from the campaign for city state's attorney after Henson, campaign manager for candidate Lisa Joi Stancil, dug up dirt on Brown's private life.
So, an easy-to-remember first name to match his opponent's, lots of his own money, for starters, and a campaign manager who likes the bare-knuckles approach - suddenly this campaign has promise. Suddenly, we're not in Kansas anymore.