They never ask for directions


December 27, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

As he gets ready for life as an ex-governor, Bob Ehrlich might be wondering what the hardest adjustment will be. William Donald Schaefer asked one of his predecessors that very question, as his own days as governor were growing short. Marvin Mandel didn't have to think about it: "Learning how to drive again."

This from a governor whose transition - from Government House to Big House - was more precipitous and painful than most.

"It's not that you don't know how to drive a car. It's that you don't know how to get to where you're going," Mandel told me the other day. "When you don't drive, you're sitting in the back seat. You're doing your mail. You're looking at documents - I signed every letter that came out of my office personally. Not watching where we were going over those years - the roads changed, new roads - and without realizing it, you lose track of that."

Mandel found that out the hard way just days after leaving office in 1979. He and his wife, Jeanne, headed for the airport.

"We were going on the first vacation we'd had in a long time," he said. "We drove out the driveway and we got out to Ritchie Highway, and I said, `Do you know how to get to the airport?' She said, `Well, I'm not sure.' And I said, `Well, I don't know.' Just about that time, a state trooper drove by. I waved to him, and he stopped and I asked him, `Can you tell me how to go to the airport?'"

The trooper started to explain. But recognizing the familiar - and visibly confused - face, he changed course. "He said, `Just follow me; I'll take you there.'"

The position has been filled

Ehrlich probably will take Mandel's cautionary tale to heart. Shortly after he lost re-election, the Gov told The Junkies on WHFS: "Best thing about being governor was not driving."

But Schaefer didn't hesitate to get behind the wheel when, in his 70s, he left the governor's office in 1995. He'd had a driver since he was first elected mayor in 1971. But Schaefer being Schaefer, he wanted to be in the driver's seat.

"He drove for about a month, and then it was clear that could not happen. He didn't know how to put gas in the car," said former aide Lainy Lebow-Sachs.

After an officer pulled over Schaefer's meandering car - "the policeman thought it was some drunk driver," Lebow-Sachs said - he agreed to hire a driver. Three years later, Schaefer won the comptroller's job, which entitled him again to a state car and driver.

Now that Schaefer, 85, is leaving public office again, does he plan to drive? Lebow-Sachs said a chauffeur has been hired.

Connect the dots

Shell out for a baby sitter every time you go out to plot the socialist revolution and pretty soon your net worth is looking lumpenproletarian. Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse in Mount Vernon has a solution. The "worker-owned and collectively managed" outpost of "radical politics and culture" offers a "radical children's activity corner." ... Charley Mitchell of Lutherville offers further proof that Milton S. Eisenhower, the former Johns Hopkins University president and brother of Ike, was a wit. In an e-mail, he wrote: "During the Carter administration I took MSE to speak to the Baltimore Jaycees. A question following his talk was the inevitable `What's it like to be the brother of the President, and can you identify with President Carter's brother Billy?' (then selling his short-lived Billy Beer). MSE's quick reply brought down the house: `Well, there's no beer called Milton!'"

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