There’s a lot going on in Frederick, in Maryland, and throughout our great nation that I find puzzling.

I walk past Frederick High School some days just before arrival time and see a long line of cars waiting to drop kids off. OK, that’s different than my high school experience, but it’s a puzzle to me why parents don’t let their kids walk across the parking lot, but drive them all the way to the front door. Safety concerns? Last-minute helicopter-parenting instructions?

Speaking of arrival time at high school, it’s a puzzle to me why the superintendent and the Board of Education ignore the scientific research that high school start times should be later so kids can get more sleep. A few years ago, FCPS moved start times for high schools — earlier! We claim kids are our top priority, but we ignore this simple change that could keep our kids healthier and improve their academic performance.

Walking around town, it’s a puzzle to me why many cars won’t wait 5 or 10 seconds for me to cross a street. How many hundreds of times have anxious drivers pulled up and blocked my crosswalk just as I’m about to step into the street? What’s the big hurry?

It’s a puzzle to me why some folks prefer those ear-splitting leaf blowers to the gentle sound of rakes and brooms. You may be using ear protection, but how about the ears of your neighbors?

The brouhaha between Mike Spurrier of Frederick Community Action Agency fame and Mayor Michael O’Connor was a puzzle to me. I heard nothing but compliments about Spurrier, even from his detractors. But why didn’t a 30-year employee with the city understand he was “at will,” and why did he think there would somehow be a positive result if he challenged the decision of his employer? Perhaps this points out the pitfalls of allowing any employee to tarry so long in the same position.

Speaking of tarrying, I’m sad about the death of House of Delegates Speaker Mike Busch and for the health challenges faced by Senate President Mike Miller. I wish their successors — Del. Adrienne A. Jones and Sen. Bill Ferguson — well. But it’s a puzzle to me why the General Assembly chooses to stick with leaders until death or bad health literally forces them aside. Maryland political leadership could use a regular infusion of new blood.

The back-and-forth about the 287(g) program — the county’s agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — is a puzzle to me. If everything is fine, I’d think Sheriff Chuck Jenkins would welcome an audit to build public awareness and support for what he asserts is an effective program.

Traveling in Canada recently, I noticed Canadians have eliminated pennies and dollar bills. It’s a puzzle to me why the U.S. doesn’t do the same. Pennies cost more to manufacture than they are worth, and the value of a dollar has declined. Dealing with both lengthens cash transactions, and coins work better in vending machines. (Canada has beautiful $1 and $2 coins.)

I’m a Diet Coke drinker, so paying just $1 for a 32-ounce drink lures me into McDonald’s to spend hundreds of dollars from their menu each year — a smart business practice. Now, 7-Eleven’s 50-cent Big Gulp is drawing me in, too. It’s a puzzle to me why other fast-food places charge exorbitant prices for soft drinks; they must not want my business.

My wife and I enjoy the “CBS Evening News,” but watching is made more trying with the commercials for Epclusa, Tremfya, Dovato, and other weirdly named pharmaceuticals. It’s a puzzle to me why we permit these advertisements, whose only purpose is to drive up consumer demand. Gee, I wonder why U.S. drugs are the most expensive in the world and why health care sucks up 17 percent of U.S. GDP?

But as I say: It’s all a big puzzle to me. Except national politics. Fortunately, nothing puzzles me about national politics at all.

When not stymied, Don DeArmon is a freelance writer, hiker and lecturer. He writes from Frederick. Email him at

(7) comments


Ah...the smell of burning leaves in the night air and the muffled voices of folks tending their piles.


Leaf blowers may be loud, Don, but they are easier and quicker than a rake.  Where I grew up, in northern New York many young boys had to help in the barn, before coming to school.  So, it would have been difficult having an early start time.  


Good column, Don. I could not agree more!


Good column, especially the reference to parents driving their kids up to the front door at the high school. These parents today!


Diet Coke and a piece of foil polishes tarnished chrome. If you sink an egg unshelled into a glass of Diet Coke and leave it a year or so, it becomes a rubber ball. This is a beverage?


I think you can do the same things with lemon juice. My soda of choice is Coke Zero - much better than regular diet Coke.


Good column, except leaf blower is much easier than raking, and going to a restaurant just to get a soda is silly when you can get them cheaper when you go grocery shopping.

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