Reading the Tealeaves

Editor and publisher Sandra Olivetti Martin, vacationing with husband and Bay Weekly co-founder Bill Lambrecht, both of whom celebrate birthdays within a week of the year’s mid-point, asked for a week off from her usual letter. So I write you in her stead, aquake at the responsibility of filling this coveted space.
    As a reader of the paper, you perhaps know me best for the weekly astronomy column, Sky Watch, that I pen. A fixture since Day 1, the idea was based on Outside Magazine’s Almanac column of the time, offering a non-technical account of the night sky. I often wondered whether anyone read the column, and I’ve questioned whether it was the best use of space for you, our readers, especially as lean times have thinned our pages.
    But still, Sky Watch fits within the formula Sandra, Bill and I developed back in early 1993 to set Bay Weekly apart and to tie our region of coverage together. While not unique — I mean, really, we’re talking about a subject that changes at a millennial pace — it’s not something you’ll find in every publication. It’s rich in culture and history in addition to science, and it’s a treasure available to all of us free of charge. Perhaps most important, it’s news that won’t leave you feeling blue — and maybe, just maybe, it will fill you with wonder and knowledge long enough to rid you for a moment of your own troubles.
    Eighteen years later and three years since the economic meltdown of 2008 — the worst since the Great Depression, so we’re told — many of us have more than enough troubles. So providing you news that doesn’t make you blue is all the more satisfying.
    Like the Correspondence from Colleen Sabo below, thanking not only Bay Weekly but the many readers who helped in her search for her lost cat Murphy. Living in Friendship near the Calvert-Anne Arundel line, Sabo found neighborly support from as far north as Annapolis and as far south as Port Tobacco.
    Elsewhere in this week’s pages you’ll read of another triumphant return: “The Holy Grail of Department of Natural Resources History,” a Dahlgren 12-pound Light Boat Howitzer used by DNR’s predecessor, the Oyster Police Force.
    You may page right past another section of good news in Bay Weekly on your way to the puzzles — unless you’re one of the roughly one-in-10 unemployed, in which case you’re not likely to recognize it as such. But tucked within the pages of classifieds is a growing number help wanted ads.
    Months ago, Don Risher of Belair Engineering began running an ad for sales people. “I’m doubling down now so I’m ready when things pick up,” he told sales and marketing director Lisa Edler Knoll at the time.
    Then last week Lisa gave me a new ad for Risher, one seeking experienced HVAC technicians and installers.
    “You need experience in the field,” Risher said. “To be a good HVAC guy, you have to be a good electrician and a good plumber. To find either one of those is hard. You definitely need refrigeration skills, but then refrigeration and heating are completely different.”
    Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning: It’s not work he can outsource to some Third World country. And it’s skilled labor, requiring years of specialized training and experience.
    “People don’t just wake up and say, Hey, I’m going to be an AC guy,” he said.
    Pity, that, as the right candidate should be able to earn a comfortable living. “It depends on the skill set,” Risher said, “but you can realistically figure $70,000 a year.”
    Another business, Jack Stone Sign Company, in Landover, has three help wanted ads in Bay Weekly. You might think that a commercial sign company would have taken it hard in the recession.
    But someone’s buying signs now, it seems, to the benefit of three lucky job seekers. Of the jobs, only one is entry level. Like Rischer’s HVAC tech, the other two positions are highly specialized. Don’t expect your success rewiring that table lamp to get you the service tech job: They want an experienced mechanic, with a big-rig CDL license as well as experience operating aerial equipment like cherry pickers and cranes. But with the proper skills, training and experience, these union-shop jobs should pay the right prospect enough to raise a family.
    All this could just be tea leaves floating in a cup, anecdotal coincidence with no bearing on anything — national or local. Unless you’re looking for work.
    But at Bay Weekly, it’s our mission to “provide a quality alternative … focusing on the good in society and exploring ways to improve our lives and our world.”
    Whether it’s a returned cat, a rescued cannon or local businesses looking for skilled workers in our midst, we’ll continue scouring our community for the stories that make you smile.
    And who knows. Maybe if Martin enjoys her vacation too much, you’ll notice a new job listing: WANTED: Experienced writer and editor. Must be able to provide copy on demand, transform dull writing with a few taps of the keyboard, meet deadline week after week after week.