Truth is stranger than fiction on county Web site

July 08, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

I have this uneasy feeling that it is the opinion of the folks over in the Washington County Commissioners' offices that I have lost my comedic edge. Fortunately, they appear willing to do something about it.

In order to restore me to my old, humorous form, they are pitching a couple of "batting practice fastballs" to help me get my timing back.

Most notable was a story in The Herald-Mail last week detailing a "Frequently Asked Questions" link on the Washington County Commissioners' Web site. The link is titled "Ask Martha."

I took one look at the accompanying picture and thought, Man, Martha Stewart has really let herself go. Be that as it may, I opened the link to discover the answers to Washington County's most common interrogatives.


I thought it could be good fun - you know, come up with a bunch of joke "FAQs" from the average Washington County resident. I even had a few in mind going in. So you can imagine my shock and horror when I saw the real FAQs were funnier than my joke FAQs.

Just to show you what I mean, here is a little quiz. Four of the following are actual FAQs that the county's Web site attempts to answer, and four are made up by me. See if you can tell the difference:

What is the status of my pending court case?

How can I collect back child support?

How do I get someone out on bail?

Do you have any grant funding available?

Can I get assistance with custody of my children?

Where do I get a liquor license?

What is the phone number for the unemployment office?

Where is Hagerstown City Hall?

Well, sorry, this was in fact a trick question because all eight are actual FAQs as set forth on the county's Web site. It makes me happy that Washington Countians "frequently" need to know how to get someone out on bail. We don't just let them sit in the cell and rot.

On a couple of the questions, however, you wonder how frequently they are asked - like "What is the difference between the county commissioners and the commissioners of the court?" (One does spend a lot of time in front of a judge, and the others should.) Or, "How do I get a pass for the County Commuter?" Really, that question actually comes up? I would have thought it would get asked about as often as people in a liquor store wondering where they keep the nonalcoholic beer.

Even so, the commissioners' list will not be complete until it has answers to:

  • What is the status of my welfare check?

  • How many hours on the treadmill does it take to burn off the calories in two bags of Cheetos and a value pack of Twinkies?

  • The bridge in front of my house has been closed for repairs since 1983; is there any chance it will reopen before my death?

  • Is the Great Drought Moratorium of ought-two still in effect?

  • What's a "treadmill?"

  • Do I need a permit to rescue a wounded deer?

  • I have a Wal-Mart close-by my house. But it could be closer. Any chance that they will build another one on my street?

  • I notice on your Web site you also have a link through which we can report potholes or bad roads. Wouldn't it be less volume if you had a link for us to report the good roads?

  • I'm a typical Hagerstown pedestrian; the green light means it's OK to walk out in front of oncoming traffic, right?

  • We just moved here from out of town; can someone please explain to us why you people find tip jars so fascinating? When you hold the tips up to the light, do you see naked chicks or something? Come on, you can't possibly be entertained by simply peeling apart numbers, so what is it? Really, you can tell us. Please?

  • If I allow a leaf to collect on my sidewalk, will I be fined by the City of Hagerstown?

  • I'm interested in constructing a Statue-of-Liberty-sized memorial along Sharpsburg Pike to the brave sons of the Confederacy who fought so gallantly in the War of Northern Aggression. Will this be a problem?

  • Where do I find the handbook on city-county relations?

  • I want to be a cloud seeder; which is the best cloud-seeding school?

  • Are your sewage fees reasonable?

  • Hagerstown Community College's new motto, "Stay Close Go Far," is OK, I guess, but wouldn't it have been better to go with "HCC - Like Hagerstown Business College, Only Bigger?"

  • Ten years is a long time; shouldn't your local paper be getting a new humor columnist?

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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