If you want evidence that the economy is souring, you could have gotten it on Election Day. No, not at the polls, silly. On the sidewalk, outside River Place, the large condo development for upscalers in Rosslyn.
On the morning of Nov. 6, deputies from the Arlington County Sheriff's Department watched as River Place employees dumped about three rooms worth of someone's belongings beside a lamppost. They call this an eviction, as you well know. You also know why Arlington deputies oversee this sad ballet about 20 times a month. The owner of all those books and tables and chairs and junk hasn't paid up.
But outside River Place, insult was heaped on injury in a horrible way. All day long, while several Levey readers watched in amazement from nearby offices, people stole the poor evictee's stuff.
The big items went first -- the bed, the dressers, the chairs. Then lamps and clothes and kitchen equipment. As night fell, late-arriving scavengers made off with personal photographs, half-full boxes of Kleenex, even two slightly-dented trash cans.
Diane Helyne Zyats, who works in a 10th-floor office around the corner, said it was an equal-opportunity display of thievery. Cab drivers stopped to help themselves -- but so did a Yuppie driving an Audi. Seedy pedestrians picked through the heaps -- but so did a well-dressed woman who pulled her station wagon sharply to the curb when she saw opportunity knocking.
At various times during the day, according to Diane and other informants, worker bees would shout at the freeloaders from their office windows. But the shouts didn't stop the party.
In perhaps the most bizarre exchange of all, one office worker shouted at a cab driver: "Why are you doing this?"
"Well, it's here," he shouted back.
The next morning, Arlington sanitation workers cleaned up the scraps that were left. But what remained was this question: Why don't Arlington deputies arrange to store an evictee's possessions in a place where they won't be stolen?
Beth Arthur, the public information officer for the Sheriff's Department, said that according to the state code, property removed during an eviction "must go onto a public highway." She said that "once it's put onto the street, and the eviction has been completed, our deputy would leave the scene." Apparently that's what happened at River Place.
Why didn't any of the witnesses call the police during the thefts? Beth said she finds that "curious" -- and that makes two of us. Arlington County Police spokesman Tom Bell confirmed that his department would consider what happened in front of River Place a crime. "You cannot take property belonging to someone else under any circumstances," Tom said.
But I'm not trying to blame the witnesses. The fault lies squarely on all those opportunists who thought it was free-lunch time. To them, my everlasting disdain, and more of same from the office dwellers who watched them feed off someone else's misfortune.
I don't often perform political autopsies, but in the case of Albert Ceccone, it's irresistible. He didn't lose his race for Montgomery County executive because he's a Republican, or because he's too inexperienced, or because he was too poorly financed. He lost at least in part because of a self-inflicted wound.
It was delivered on the morning of Nov. 5. Many, many Levey readers are my witnesses.
Between 7 and 8 a.m., these readers were suddenly caught in a rolling backup on the outer loop of the Beltway. It extended from New Hampshire Avenue almost to the Mormon Temple, a distance of more than four miles.
Had a car broken down? A bus? A van?
No. Common sense had.
There, on a bridge across the Beltway just east of the temple, facing traffic, stood Albert Ceccone. He was waving a Ceccone banner. Bethesda-bound traffic was slowing to about 10 miles an hour to get a look. In the process, of course, hundreds of people were made late to work for no sensible reason.
Brother Ceccone gets a brownie point for honesty. In some campaigns, the backers of one candidate would pull this kind of stunt -- while waving the banner of the opposition.
But for fostering good will among potential supporters, Ceccone gets a cold zero. As one sputtering commuter told me, "How can you run against traffic problems when you've just caused the biggest one of the day?"
Final take on Election, 1990: How long before all those candidates remove all those posters from all those trees, front yards and phone poles? If you guess 2001, you're probably conservative.
By law, in all jurisdictions, candidates must take down their material promptly, win or lose. How about surprising us, gang?