When Jeff Fiorentino made his major league debut in May 2005, he became one of the first Aberdeen IronBirds to reach the Big Show. Four years and some change after "Screech" (so nicknamed for his supposed resemblance to the Saved by the Bell character of the same name) kicked off his pro baseball career in Cal Ripken's hometown, I spent a rainy Friday afternoon driving through Aberdeen en route to my alma mater, Washington College.
It's a familiar trip, and I've never been one to chafe at long drives. As long as I've got my CDs loaded in the trunk, I like being alone with my thoughts. But it's been a few years since I drove the route from my parents' house to Chestertown, and I had to get reacquainted with the more tedious aspects of the journey. It can be summarized thusly: drive down Route 40 East for a little over an hour, and then turn right onto Route 213 and follow it for about forty-five minutes until you run into the college. That's it.
There is some great scenery along the way, including several rivers (the Susquehanna, Bohemia, Sassafras, and Chester, off the top of my head) and a canal. But without fail, my trips unfold the same way. About forty-five minutes in, I've made it past Aberdeen, Havre de Grace, and even Perryville, and I start thinking that I'm making great time. I'm almost to Elkton, and once I get there, Route 213 is within my sights! There's only one problem: Elkton is a vague concept, a black hole of sorts. A twilight zone.
Part of the problem is that Elkton is the biggest city in the area, so you start seeing businesses and other signs identifying themselves with it long before you reach Elkton proper. There are also a lot of traffic lights on Route 40, and after forty-five minutes I start getting antsy. So I get selective amnesia and assume that the second leg of my trip is imminent, omitting the unremarkable landmarks and locales of North East, Rising Sun, and so forth. Eventually, I have a brief moment of panic, thinking to myself, "I must have missed my turn somehow." The first year that I was out of college, and wishing I was still there, I made this drive about twice a month. I can say with confidence that I have never missed that turn. But the confluence of Harford and Cecil Counties disorients me in a way that no other stretch of road ever has.
I can't tell you what a relief it is when I finally come to the intersection of 40 and 213, marked by a Burger King. I'm exactly where I should be, without having to scramble for road maps or to make my own granola out of the paper products in my glove compartment. You haven't gotten the best of me yet, Elkton! I only hope that you never will.