It’s Route 2 on most maps, although a few might include “Governor Ritchie Highway” as well. To locals, it’s “_the_ Ritchie Highway,” as if we’re worried it might be confused with some lesser Ritchie Highway. For years, it was the only route to 50, which takes one across the Bay Bridge and onto the shore, but now we have an Interstate to do the heavy lifting to 50. (Which is a shame, because it means you don’t go past Ann’s Footlongs, an amazing hotdog stand that refused to sell out to a big mall, so it’s still there.)
Friday I was en route to a memorial service when I saw the sign “Aquahart Boulevard.” I don’t get down the Ritchie Highway very often — the last time was an impromptu visit last fall, to Ann’s Footlongs — so I don’t see the sign often. But when I do, I am:
1) 19 again.
2) Working as a lifeguard at an apartment complext pool, an end-of-the-summer job after eight weeks as a counselor at a summer camp.
3) Because I want to buy a pair of Frye boots.
4) On the receiving end of much unwanted attention from a Baltimore Gas & Electric worker who regales me with exciting stories about the dangers of his job. Poison ivy, mainly.
I offer him no encouragment. I’m not mean or rude, just cool. I am counting the days until I head back to college, excited to see all my friends.
One day, when it’s become clear that I’m REALLY not interested, he says: “How much do you weigh?” And quickly guesses a figure that was, I think, at least ten pounds below what I did weigh.
I shrug, not wanting to answer yes or no.
He says: “Because if you would lose twenty pounds, you’d be a kncok-out.”
Even then, I understood the dynamic in the conversation, that he wanted to insult me because I had not responded wit proper awe to his stories of on-the-job excitemetn at BG&E. Maybe I was a bit of the snotty college kid in what woudl have been a more working-class section of Baltimore. But it still leaves me a little breathless, the casual and — give the BG&E guy credit — astute cruelty of it.
On the way back up the Ritchie Highway, I listened to the ongoing coverage of BG&E’s attempts to raise the cost of electricity 72 percent, another kind of insult. I minded the one about my weight much more.
Please provide your stories of careless or careful insults that still sting, no matter how old you get.