“I’m at a low ebb,” Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer confided to onlookers at the kickoff for a statewide hunger drive Friday. “I’m at a low ebb and I don’t know why.”

For most folks, a low ebb might mean one thing. For the irrepressible Schaefer, it means something like this:

He barked like a dog.

To kill time while waiting for the event to begin, he ordered up a sing along.

He picked an apparent stranger from the audience and quizzed him about his state of happiness.

It all started when First Lady Kendel S. Ehrlich summoned Schaefer, 84, to take his seat at the front of a ceremonial room in the State House while the crowd of 50 to 60 people waited for her husband, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, to arrive. When Schaefer stood up to walk to his seat, he held his hands in front of him as if they were paws and barked like a dog.

When he got to where he was going, Schaefer acknowledged that he’s been warned to be on his best behavior.

“I do not say anything, any time,” he said. “I do not look left or right.”

A few moments later, Schaefer wondered aloud why the event had not started and decided to organize some entertainment for the audience. He spotted Cantor Melvin Luterman, who works in the governor’s Office of Service and Volunteerism.

“Sing us . . . a song,” he told the cantor. He directed Kendel Ehrlich to stand beside the cantor and sing along with him.

Luterman then led the entire room in “God Bless America.”

Schaefer and the First Lady attended the event as co-chairs of the statewide Harvest for the Hungry food drive, a week-long effort in which postal workers, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts pick up bags of food people around the state leave by their mailboxes.

Throughout the event, speakers, including the governor and his wife, vaguely referred to the now famous incident at the Board of Public Works meeting on Feb. 15 in which Schaefer ogled a young aide to the governor.

Kendel Ehrlich praised Schaefer when it was her turn to address the audience, saying that he is largely responsible for the food drive’s existence.

“If you know him, you know how big his heart is,” she said.

While introducing Schaefer, Harvest for the Hungry founder Larry V. Adam Jr. warned him to “behave.”

“Such a temptation,” Schaefer retorted.

Schaefer spent much of his time thanking the food drive’s sponsors and complimenting the Ehrlichs, but also took a moment to make his “low ebb” confession and to ask a member of the audience about the quality of his life.

“You back there, are you happy?” Schaefer asked one startled member of the audience. “You’re putting me on the spot here,” responded the man, who gamely told the audience that he lives in East Baltimore, has a family and a job and, yes, is indeed happy.