Between The Lines

BETWEEN THE LINES

December 22, 2003

Duck mystery solved

There isn't much to laugh about when parking in Baltimore, but at least the city Parking Authority has a sense of humor. Last week we reported the authority's automated phone line (443-573-2800) offers an odd option for callers:

"To hear a duck quack," a recorded operator states, "please press seven." Pressing seven connects callers to, what else, the sound of a duck quacking.

But why?

Jeff Sparrow, the authority's executive director, said it's a way to learn if callers listen, as instructed, to all options rather than just lazily pressing zero to reach an operator. Obedient callers typically comment on the duck, he said.

That wasn't the only reason: "We had some extra space on the voice system," Sparrow said. "And we thought it was entertaining."

They were right.

- Doug Donovan

It's the thought ...

Eddie C. "Big Eddie" Wilson, who was recently on trial for 11 counts of perjury, made a headline or two in recent weeks after firing his lawyer and representing himself during his two-day trial in city Circuit Court. He lost the case, but not his Christmas spirit.

Wilson was convicted of fraudulently bailing people out of jail by pledging properties he didn't own. Soon after, he sent a handwritten Christmas card to assistant state's attorney Elizabeth A. Ritter, who prosecuted him.

The card began: "This card is sent first to offer my sincerest congratulations for your trial victory. I don't have a problem giving credit where credit is due."

The card ended with warm wishes for Ritter and her family. It was signed, "Big Eddie."

- Allison Klein

May we have this dance?

He put his left hip, right hip and whole self in before shaking all about.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., preparing to announce the formation of a committee on preschool readiness Wednesday, dropped in at the Randallstown library's morning story time and joined a half-dozen little ones in the hokey pokey.

When that was through, Smith read them a book called I Love Animals. The kids had no trouble identifying pictures of a pig and a "horsie." But the turkey was a bit of a challenge, so Smith reminded them to think of their Thanksgiving dinners.

He then talked of the importance of engaging young minds during their most formative years. The goal of his committee, he said, is to send kids to school prepared to learn.

And that's what it's all about.

- Sara Neufeld

Better wind your watch

The meaning of forever was pondered by a municipal board last week.

During a debate over Loyola College's plans to build athletic fields on 50 forested acres south of Cold Spring Lane, city development chief M.J. "Jay" Brodie reassured the city's Board of Estimates that many of the trees will be saved.

"Twenty-six acres of the woods will be in a perpetual forest conservation easement," Brodie told the board and community leaders from Woodberry during the meeting.

"Perpetual. How long is that?" Mayor Martin O'Malley asked.

"Forever," Brodie replied. "And that's a long time, Mr. Mayor."

The mayor paused to think about this for a long while.

- Tom Pelton

Block party

Porn purveyor Larry Flynt says his Hustler Club has brought more class to The Block. One needn't step foot inside the plush strip club to ponder his claim.

Check out the messages scrolling across his Baltimore Street marquee in bright red letters:

Be entrepreneurial: "$500 Hustler Honey search every Monday. ... Bring down your wife or girlfriend and she could win $500."

Spend quality time with that special someone: "Swinger Wednesday. ... Couples get in free."

- Scott Calvert

Tunes for toys

One of the truly magnificent gifts of Christmas is to behold the brothers Minnick - Daniel and Joseph J. "Sonny" - conducting the singing of "The 12 Days of Christmas" at their venerable Dundalk restaurant.

With more than 100 spirited folks this year attempting to remember their lines and sequence in which their table stands and sings, the golden rings invariably wind up in the pear tree or the pipers find themselves a-milking.

Daniel, who owns Minnick's, and Sonny, chairman of the Baltimore County delegation to the House of Delegates, patrol the big room with cordless microphones.

Of course, the true purpose of the night, as it has been for more than a decade, was collecting toys and money for underprivileged families. The crowd donated more than 350 gifts and $755, all of which will be distributed through the county Police Athletic League.

- Joe Nawrozki

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