There are a lot of things they do here to help statehouse newcomers figure out the labyrinthine ways of state government. They provide you with pocket reference books containing the photos of every legislator. They give you seating charts for the Senate and the House. They provide incredible numbers of phone directories, and churn out endless schedules of what's coming up and when.
But nobody tells you how to get where you're going. And, as any page, runner, lobbyist or reporter can tell you, mastering the legislative geography is far more challenging than mastering the legislative process.
Perhaps the whole thing was designed by some architectural humorist, who willfully mimicked the unpredictable twists and turns of the legislative process when he designed the various corridors, staircases and tunnels that connect Maryland's government buildings here.
If that was the aim of this latter-day Daedalus, he certainly accomplished his purpose. Getting there is not half the fun in Annapolis. Getting there is half of the work.
There are essentially four key buildings you have to know about here. There is the statehouse, the domed and marbled edifice where the legislature convenes, where the governor and his aides have their offices, and where there are always odd-looking people whispering to each other behind some column or other.
Then there are the stately red-brick office buildings, the James Building where state senators hang their hats and hold their committee hearings, and the Lowe Building where the 141 delegates have offices.
And finally, there is the legislative services building. There are few people and lots of paper - mostly bills - in the legislative services building. But that's not why you have to know about it. You have to know about legislative services because, wherever you are, you have to go through legislative services to get wherever you're going.
All of this is because of the Tunnels.
Once upon a time, there was only one tunnel, a modest little affair that shuttled people out of the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] , across State Circle and into the old Courts of Appeal building. When they tore down the Courts of Appeal building in the early 1970s and replaced it with the legislative services structure, they left this little tunnel intact.
Then the cry went up for more tunnels, so that everyone who spends his days here scurrying from office to office and building to building would not have to face the Annapolis winter head-on. So more tunnels were built.
Added to the profusion of out-of-the-way staircases, the obscure offices and the hidden hearing rooms, (not to mention the hidden bathrooms - almost none of the women's rooms is labeled as such, and most are locked) the new tunnels were the final touch needed to make this place completely incomprehensible.
Suppose, for instance, you're on the second floor of the statehouse talking to one of the governor's aides, when you realize you have to be at a budget committee hearing in the Senate Office Building in five minutes. Immediately a wave of fear passes over you, because you know you could be all day getting there.
You head for the elevator. If it has a button in it that says "T" (it's the button below "G") you're in luck, the elevator will deposit you in the first tunnel you have to go through. If not, you have to go to the ground floor then search for the elevator with a "T" button.
Once in this tunnel, you stride ahead purposefully, with every purposeful stride echoing in your ears. You emerge in the legislative services building in a green hallway next to the copying center and the bill room. If you ask where the tunnel to the office buildings is, people will point straight ahead. Most of them forget to tell you you have to go down one floor to get there.
Once downstairs, you'll find that the next tunnel is really two tunnels. Halfway down it, you turn left if you want to go to the Senate building.At the end of that branch, you open a door and find yourself face to face with a sign that says "Use Stair or Elevator." But no matter which you use, you are deposited in a long basement corridor that has no signs indicating where anything is.
Eventually, you will open the right door and find the stairs that take you upstairs where the offices and hearing rooms are. It may take you years to find the elevator that does the same thing.
Even if you have mastered all this, confusion lingers in other areas.
The moral of the whole thing is that you shouldn't worry if you get lost, or you shouldn't worry too much. Somewhere between the tunnels, the stairways and the elevators that go nowhere special, there'll be a dozen other people just as lost as you.le Intensive Care Units which now operate in Prince Geor