Tag along with Arlington’s Troop 3926, the Brownies who ordered too many cookies

John Kelly
Columnist March 18

Leslie Paul’s basement is getting back to normal now, but for a while there, it looked as if it had been flooded with cardboard boxes.

True, the boxes were full of yummy Girl Scout cookies, but the fact that there were hundreds of boxes — each one a case containing up to 12 individual boxes of Samoas, Thin Mints, Tagalongs, etc. — meant she had Too Much of a Good Thing.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

“This was our first time selling cookies,” Leslie said of Troop 3926, a new group of Brownies from Nottingham Elementary in Arlington. “For whatever reason, the way we read the suggestions on how much to order, I think we must have made a mistake between boxes and cases. . . . We ended up with 12 times what we needed, essentially.”

Boxes? Cases? It reminds me of that scene in “Spinal Tap” in which Stonehenge is re-created at one-twelfth scale.

Leslie — mother of Emma, 8 — is one of Troop 3926’s three “cookie moms,” the grown-ups who take on the not inconsiderable task of overseeing a vital and complex piece of American entrepreneurialism. They placed their order in January and went to Alexandria on Feb. 18 to pick them up.

“When we first got them, one of the people who was loading the cars said, ‘Wow, you have a lot of cookies,’ ” Leslie said. “When they were in my house I started panicking: ‘Hmmm. We do have a lot of cookies. I hope we can sell all these cookies.’ ”

The troop’s booth sale Saturday outside Westover Market shifted some of the stock, but not nearly enough. They still had 120 cases left — or 1,440 boxes, which, at roughly 20 cookies per box, meant more than 28,000 excess cookies.

The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital Area stepped up to help. A second booth sale was quickly organized for last Sunday at Market Common in Clarendon. Leslie’s basement became an informal “cookie cupboard,” too. That’s the cache from which troops experiencing a cookie deficit can draw supplies.

Like a commodities broker desperately trying to unload a rail car full of soybeans or feeder cattle, Leslie, a lawyer, spent Monday morning handling e-mails and phone calls from cookie-hungry troops. She thinks things are going to work out.

The money that Troop 3926 raises will go toward two things: funding its annual father- daughter dance and donating to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

I asked Leslie if there was a lesson to be learned from the Great Cookie Mix-Up of 2014.

“There is something called the Girl Scout Way,” she said. “It involves everyone helping each other and working together. I think that was definitely shown in getting the word out to other troops and in the way other troops have stepped up to help us.”

Doff your cap

I surrender. Winter has won. So relentless has this season been that I can’t even muster the energy to complain about it anymore.

In fact, in the manner of a Stockholm syndrome-suffering hostage, I actually found myself Tuesday embracing my captor and reveling in my favorite snowstorm aftereffect: the snow hat.

This is the layer of snow atop an imperfectly cleaned vehicle. You’ve seen them: The driver has cleared the front and rear windshields but not the roof. Sitting up there are four to eight inches of snow that will thaw and freeze, thaw and freeze, until the sheet goes flying up before crashing to Earth like something from a calving glacier.

Cute little snow hats. On some cars they look like white yarmulkes. On others, like the straight-sided kepis worn by French police officers.

Why are some drivers too lazy or clueless to clean their cars completely? Who knows. When it snows again, maybe I’ll ask them.

Dome, sweet dome

After my Tuesday column, McLean reader Dan Alcorn noted that something built a little more recently than the Jefferson Memorial echoes the architecture of ancient Rome. In the early 1990s, Dan served on the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Architect Cesar Pelli was selected to design a new terminal at Reagan National Airport. The airports board chose a Pelli design that included multiple domes, a device that was a favorite of our third president, who had one at Monticello and the University of Virginia.

Wrote Dan: “In order to stay within budget we eliminated 10 of the domes to lower costs, so that the final project had 54 domes rather than 64. The project was completed on time and within budget. The new terminal at Reagan National thus is a contemporary restatement of the classical form of the Pantheon followed by Jefferson in his architecture.”

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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