Wishes, hopes and predictions for 2003:
WISH: That Montgomery County's leaders would see a bigger picture when it comes to the intercounty connector. By itself, a new road across Montgomery won't accomplish much, and won't accomplish it for long. But if the ICC were part of a new, full outer beltway that diverted through truck traffic from the existing Capital Beltway . . . Now you're talking about a real effect on real commuters.
HOPE: That Washington Redskins fans will keep a firm grip on reality. This team needs so much help that it might be four years before it can dream about the playoffs.
PREDICTION: That plans to reconfigure traffic along the downtown stretch of K Street will gather steam. As it stands, one parked delivery truck in the main traffic lanes can ossify traffic for five blocks. Buses and taxis should own the center lanes of K, and illegal parking should be enforced by a pack of vicious commandos. If they have a particular distaste for scofflaw postal trucks and delivery drivers, so much the better.
WISH: That jazz and folk music would appear somewhere on the D.C. radio dial. Yes, I know, these are mere niches in the market, and they won't make millions of dollars for anyone. But bluegrass and religious rock are niche formats, too -- and those have both been regularly available hereabouts for more than 30 years.
HOPE: That people will stop confusing Mark and John Warner. They are about as similar as Michael and Thomas Penfield Jackson.
PREDICTION: That there soon will be a Starbucks on every corner of downtown Washington. And you always thought that one company shouldn't compete with itself? Starbucks is standing that little piece of marketing "truth" on its head.
WISH: That D.C. snow-fighting crews would learn some physics. If you salt side streets while it's still snowing, the salt will get lost under the flakes that are still destined to fall. If you salt just as the snow stops, and before it has been turned into ice by passing vehicles, presto, traction.
HOPE: That the Prince George's County Historical Society will commemorate the Capital Centre in some way. It's sad that the "Spaceship Beside the Beltway" was deemed expendable after less than 30 years. It would be sadder if Prince Georgians never knew it had been there.
PREDICTION: That the hottest sector of the local housing market will be . . . (get a grip) . . . the District of Columbia. Traffic is so horrendous that the District soon will be an inescapable first choice for anyone who also works in the city (or nearby). The biggest demographic fuel for this surge: empty nesters. They don't have to worry about the quality of public schools anymore. Why shouldn't they live closer to the Smithsonian, Union Station and the snazziest restaurants?
WISH: That Toyota would dance with what brung it. Why does this brand rank solidly in the top three for new car sales in the Washington area? Because Toyotas are reliable and relatively cheap. So what's with the new crop of ads that suggest your pulse will begin to pound when you turn the key in a Camry? In your dreams . . .
HOPE: That Johnny Holliday's autobiography, "From Rock to Jock," will find its way onto every night table in the area. Mr. H. is a huge talent in his first field of radio. He's just as terrific at musical theater. And at hitting open 18-foot jump shots (I know -- he used to hit them while I was guarding him). Now comes a book that doesn't dodge warts or paint over past controversies. A hearty hooray to the voice of the Maryland Terrapins.
PREDICTION: That Alexandria's Torpedo Factory will have kittens. What a great way to reuse a clunky old industrial building -- by turning it into space for artists. What a great way to centralize artistic talent of all kinds. And what a great place to shop. All prices, styles, tastes. I can't imagine what's stopping Bladensburg, Hybla Valley and Frederick (among others) from rejuvenating old, boxy buildings in the same way.
WISH: That Maryland road maintenance folk would repave the Beltway on-ramp from northbound Connecticut Avenue onto the Outer Loop. It has been about as smooth as a washboard for more than 10 years.
HOPE: That Giant Food customers will be better about returning carts to those storage shelters in the middle of parking lots. Giant was very late to the game of letting customers push purchases right up to their cars. The area's most heavily patronized grocery chain might yank this welcome improvement if it has to chase carts all over kingdom come.
WISH: That the Veterans Affairs Medical Center would hire some public relations help. This excellent institution ministers to thousands of former military every day. But who would ever know it?
HOPE: That rush-hour crowds at Metro Center station will stop standing so close to the platform's edge. Rush-hour trains "dwell" at Metro Center for about 45 seconds on average, gang. That's more than enough time to sardine your way onto a train -- even if you start from the back of the platform.
PREDICTION: Someone is going to call me before 9 a.m. Jan. 2 and tell me that there's an epidemic of financial come-ons on the Web, all supposedly from Africans. The caller will urge me to notify the FBI, CIA, postal inspector and all the ships at sea, right away. Save yourself the time and trouble, Mr. or Ms. Caller. These come-ons are old hat to the authorities.
WISH: That you and yours will have a happy new year.
PREDICTION: Double ditto.