International incident or unfortunate coincidence? You be the judge.

Alexandria police say it may have been a motorcade escorting the president of Yemen that spooked Cosmo, one of Old Town's carriage horses, and caused a spectacle last month.

Short of employing a "horse whisperer" (or is it "horse listener?"), there's really no way to know what upset the creature as it was being untethered. Cosmo's owner told police she thinks the horse simply got fidgety and bolted.

Whatever it was, Cosmo took off, causing the carriage to run over its owner's foot, breaking her ankle. (Police contacted her on our behalf, but so far no word back on our interview request.)

Alexandria City Council member Andrew H. Macdonald (D) was in his studio office on Union Street when he saw Cosmo and the riderless carriage go racing by.

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, this is not a good thing,' " Macdonald recalled.

Indeed. Cosmo made it to the intersection of Union and Prince streets, where the carriage struck a telephone pole and broke apart.

Police said Cosmo continued to drag the upturned carriage until it smacked into the rear of a parked Nissan, causing an estimated $3,000 in damage and breaking Cosmo's tethers.

The freed horse fled, miraculously managing to cross busy South Washington Street without being struck. The horse eventually was captured on South Patrick Street by a good Samaritan.

Police said Cosmo was unharmed; the same cannot be said of the carriage, which reportedly was totaled.

The carriage driver, who is new to Old Town, plans to return to her horse-powered route after another six to eight weeks of recuperation, police said.

'Arlington Way' in Danger?

For decades, Arlington County has clung to its small-town tradition of holding County Board meeting on Saturdays, presumably because, in the famed "Arlington Way" spirit of civic participation, more residents would be able to drop by to talk to their elected officials on a Saturday than on a weekday.

Until this year, that is, when the County Board -- after a series of focus groups and a citizen advisory panel, natch -- decided to start splitting its meetings between Saturday and an overflow session on Tuesday.

The upshot of the new schedule is that County Board members often find themselves speaking to an empty chamber on Tuesday afternoons, when they give their reports and make new appointments.

Civic activist John Antonelli thinks the change is a little nutty. He argues that the split schedule penalizes people who work on weekdays or don't have fancy computers to watch the meetings on the Internet, where they are now carried live in streaming video.

Is that the Arlington Way? (We think not.)

Antonelli thinks meeting attendance has dropped precipitously since the change and wanted to make that argument, but he claims the board won't give him the attendance data. He showed up to talk about it at a recent board meeting anyhow, with slides and flow charts that said at the bottom, "Source: Data is Made Up."

When we asked the county for the data on citizen comment to the board, we found, as Antonelli suspected, that there had been a decrease. From January through October 2004, 634 people showed up during public comment or to talk about a board item. The number for that period this year was 416. County spokeswoman Diana Sun noted, however, that there were several high-profile issues before the board last year that skewed the numbers, issues such as the First Baptist Church of Clarendon's desire to build apartments atop its sanctuary and the hubbub surrounding the Fort Ethan Allen dog park.

Board Chairman Jay Fisette (D) told Antonelli at a recent board meeting that residents have told him they like the new split schedule. "Most people we've talked to have complimented us on it," Fisette said.