The town that time forgot

August 29, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

Always great to return home to Hagerstown after some time in an idyllic mountain setting, but gosh, what a bad time it was for me to leave.

A critical time, really, since I must have missed my shot to comment on a couple of important items that by now have doubtless been resolved.

Obviously the County Commissioners will have been brought to bare - or is it bear? I have bears on the brain, but I'll get to that - over the whole John Howard salary/income/asset/derivative/payment-in-lieu-of-work flap. The county couldn't have kept this one up. You don't just hide behind your attorney/sorcerer, who has conjured up some weird "confidentiality agreement" out of thin air, and expect to get away with it for more than a day or two.

And darn, I missed the whole hospital shake-out. I trust the trauma center is up and running again, because when I left the politicians were about to step in and solve things.


All that going on and I missed it because I had to go climb mountains and fight bears and now - what's that? Oh, I forgot. This IS Hagerstown, the city where time stands still.

Really, it's as if the second I drove into Pennsylvania, a still-photographer with a black drape over his head and a big box camera up on a tripod poofed a freeze-frame plate that I drove right back into 10 days later.

Seriously, things don't move this slow in that soap opera town of Springfield on "Guiding Hospital." You know, where Brooke puts a gun to David's head and pulls the trigger and you go on vacation and 17 days later the hammer's only three-quarters of the way down.

If we got in a race with a glacier, in about a decade the glacier would pass us and the mountain would be gaining. I don't understand why so many local preachers breathlessly warn us about the imminent rapture, because even the Almighty would have difficulty bringing meaningful change to Washington County in less than an eon and a half.

That must be why we're called the Hub City; we're always spinning our wheels. Try driving through town. It used to amaze me that when I went to Sharpsburg it would take me longer to get from downtown to the outskirts than it would to get from the outskirts to Sharpsburg itself.

And this, even when there was no appreciable traffic to speak of. Oh sure, there would be the minivan with the "I brake for yard sales" bumper sticker stopped in the middle of the road for no apparent reason, but we're used to that. It's like driving in quicksand and you don't know why.

The traffic lights have worse timing than your insurance bill. I think they must be affixed with sensors that turn them to red every time they detect a vehicle has broken the 15 mph speed barrier.

So no, there is no change in the Howard situation and there is no change in the trauma situation, just as there has been no change in the stadium construction issue that has been hanging over us for seven years or the fire-and-rescue funding issue that has been hanging over our heads for 22 years.

We're fast at blaming, though, you have to give us that. The police are blaming the surgeons, the surgeons are blaming the hospital, the hospital is blaming the medics, the commissioners are blaming the attorney, the attorney is blaming the law and everyone's blaming the press.

That last point is especially goofy, since if all involved would do their jobs or resolve their own foibles in a timely matter there would be no controversy to blame the press for.

Geez, I've got a ton of problems here at the paper - the deadlines are unreasonable, I can't get a raise, they won't let me download enough porn off the Internet - but do you see me blaming the County Commissioners?

And now look, I've wasted a whole column spewing hatred and venom like some trashy cable gab show and I never got around to telling you about the bears.

If the trauma center hadn't shut down, this never would have happened.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. You can phone him at 301-733-5131, extension 2324, or e-mail him at

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