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July 24, 2005

Tougher Than You Think

Tom McLaughlin

Humor by Tom McLaughlin

The winds of the Sahara desert, the breezes that waffle Death Valley, the Santa Anna's that blow and bake Southern California together cannot compare to the dryness of reading any publication having to do with planning, zoning or appeals.

Crossing the Mojave naked, or surviving a deposit in the center of the Gobi Desert is much easier than crawling and clawing ones way through the incomprehensible tomes published by the Frederick County government. I know. I tried.

I got this brilliant idea that I could be of service to my community by volunteering to serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission or the Board of Zoning Appeals. I sent in my name with a resume and cover letter indicating my interest. I knew I had to be interviewed by the county commissioners and I thought what wonderful experience learning about the government process and to make informed decisions for my fellow citizens.

I went to the county bookstore and purchased the books I thought I would need. Many were not available because they were undergoing revision or printing. I was glad I had started going to the fitness center because these were heavy volumes were suitable for maiming an irritable wayward neighbor who uses your lawn for his dog's bathroom.

I took the stack to Ocean City and grabbed one to leisurely read while perusing my favorite hobby of girl watching. I felt I could read a paragraph or two between observing the wonders of the outflows of skimpy two-piece bathing suits.

I opened something called "Frederick County Comprehensive Plan Volume 1." Volume 2 does not exist - or so I was told - or it is being revised - or somebody is thinking about writing it - or something.

The first sections deals with an elaboration of the obvious: history; repeating the obvious; statistics; more repeating the obvious; and she wore an itsy bitsy teeny weenie polka dot bikini. as my mind wandered to other more entertaining views. I concluded this was not a place to read this insanely boring material.

I went back to Middletown and opened the volumes again with notebook in hand to record important facts and figures and discovered there weren't any. I endeavored to find the Zoning Rules and Regulations but they were not available, undergoing another revision or printing, I guess. Now I knew why nobody knows what the hell is going on when the materials for decision-making are not available. Bang!

I got as prepared as I could for the big interview. I felt I was entering an exam without having read some of the required books, which was no fault of my own. I had my suit pressed and cleaned, selected a conservative white shirt and tie - I decided the Mickey Mouse tie was inappropriate but when I mentioned this to a few wags they informed it was the best tie I could possibly wear - and sat down. I was informed the interview was to be recorded and televised which made me almost quit, but so many people knew I was a fool I may as well prove it on cable television.

I was able to make good eye contact and rapport with most of the commissioners except for Mr. (John) Lovell who kept his face and eyes downward as if he didn't want me to recognize him from a possible encounter from the past over a shady lady.

The questions were impossible. One was a paragraph long and reminded me of the dreaded math problem of two trains leaving from opposite ends of country, at different speeds, through several time zones and what day would they pass each other in Chicago.

One asked if a person built a structure in violation of the zoning code, what would I do. My answer was I would make him/her tear it down but, by glancing at the non-verbal communication of the commissioners, was absolutely the wrong answer.

The torture lasted for about 45 minutes with me answering, "I don't know, there will be a learning curve or I am a quick learner" as the response. Suffice it to say better, more informed and more able candidates were selected for the two positions. I will try again when the next vacancy occurs but will be better prepared - leaving the beach bunnies out of this picture.

Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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