Monday, September 6, 2010

My Kind of Towns

I'm probably not like most people (understatement!) in that whenever I see one of those "How Am I Driving? - call 1-800-WHO-GIVES-A-S" stickers on the back of a truck, van or team of horses, I am tempted to call and give a favorable report.  Heaven knows, those calltakers get a million calls a year about some trucker who made an illegal lane change while texting without wearing a seatbelt.  I like to spot something nice that the driver did and tell the company about it. 

Alternately, I like to give a literal answer to the question, "How am I driving?" by calling the 800 number and saying, "OK he's driving southbound...about 45 miles an hour...wait...turning...he is now headed eastbound...that's how he's driving.." I like to feel that I give people something to tell the family about over dinner.

How cool would it be to drive this thing?
So the other day I'm headed home on Cromwell Bridge Road, and just past the intersection of Cowpens Avenue, Cromwell Bridge narrows into one lane.  Most people, being mature and considerate adults, merge seamlessly in a zipper effect - one car from the right and then one from the left, forming one lane.  Inevitably, of course, there is a horse's patootie who zooms past everyone on the right and forces his (!) way to the head of the line, so that he can then get stuck behind a slow-moving piece of farm apparatus.  A giant forage harvester, or my personal favorite, the hay baler (above) that looks for all the world like a B.A. Praying Mantis, is usually headed up toward the farms anyway, so what's the rush there, hotshot?

But, the person driving a white passenger van at the head of the line graciously pulled up to allow Mr Hotshot to make his move, and I thought such courtesy was commendable, and dialed the 800 number plastered on the van.  I love calling on the Droid because I can just hit 'voice dialer' and bark out a number in any accent I choose.  I believe I did that one as James Cagney, or perhaps Bob Hoskins.  A young man answered the 800 number and was pleased to hear he was getting a compliment-call instead of a complaint; he wanted to know what road I was driving on.

"Cromwell Bridge Road, Baltimore County, Maryland, northbound, just past Cowpens Avenue," I reported.  Complete, yet terse.

The guy was all, "whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat road?  Are you on a bridge?  Near cow pens? What is the name of the road you are on?"

Well.  It's Cromwell Bridge Road.  The railroad bridge used to run through here, but now that we all have cars, no more railroad, although you can still see the old bridge abutments here.  Cowpens Avenue is so named because at one time there were....come on now...cow pens there!  Baltimore County is full of interesting names for roads and towns.  Rolling Road got its name for being the place where farmers would roll barrels of tobacco downhill to the railroad station in the old days. Near there is Johnnycake Road, where there was a tavern where travelers weary from their journey could get fresh hotcakes.  York Rd in Towson is the slow way - once the only way - to get to York, PA, where they call the same slab of concrete "Baltimore Pike."  York Road also goes through Cockeysville, a name that out-of-towners invariably find amusing, until they come down there and find that you can't swing a bag of groceries in that area without hitting someone named Cockey.  On the east side, people chuckle over a waterway named Bread And Cheese Creek.

Baltimore County is also famous for not having Baltimore City in it.  The two are totally separate jurisdictions.  Where I work, if I step out front and heave a baseball southward, it will be in Baltimore City by the time it lands.  When you see ball games, fireworks demonstrations, Harborplace, great museums, and the National Aquarium, you're in Baltimore City.  When you see a mall and drive past the mall for a hundred yards and you're on someone's dairy farm, you're in Baltimore County.

Here's where we fit in.
Our town names sound glamorous and Southern - Texas! Jacksonville! Phoenix! or prestigious - Butler! or hard-to-explain - Sparks! Fork! or easy-to-explain - Maryland Line!  But never - even though we have a town by this name, zip code 21020 - Boring!

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