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Bob Levey
Bob Levey
(Barbara Tyroler)
Levey Live Archive
Column: Bob Levey
Metro Section
Talk: Metro message boards
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Levey Live: Speaking Freely
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, May 16,2003; 1 p.m. ET

"Levey Live: Speaking Freely," hosted by Washington Post columnist Bob Levey, appears every Friday. It is a live, open-agenda discussion offering washingtonpost.com users around the world the opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics of their choice with Bob.

Fearless Bob takes your questions about virtually everything, from sports and politics (there's a difference?) to world events, Metro area traffic and issues raised in Bob's columns.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Bob Levey: Good afternoon, rain-soaked throngs, and welcome to "Levey Live: Speaking Freely," our weekly clickfest that answers the question: Which Washington Post columnist can type like the wind, even though he uses only two fingers?

Yes, dear friends, the indexes are my only tools when it's type-time.

Best of a bad habit, and all that.


Lots to mull this week, including (but not limited to) the Jayson Blair disaster, the decision of the Virginia sages to bag the Outer Beltway, the Moose mess, various political stories and the amazing tale of JFK's teenaged mistress of 41 years ago coming out of the closet.

Of course, recent Levey columns are always good grist.

Her-r-r-r-r-e we go-o-o-o-o-o-o.

Southern Maryland: A couple weeks ago in referring to people really blowing their own horn on their resumes (listing their SAT scores, listing their parents' professions) you said you hire several assistants a year and have to read a lot of resumes. Are you that difficult to work for? Or do you hire transients just passing through town? What's with going through several a year?

Bob Levey: I hire one assistant a year and read many, many resumes to fill that slot.

Arlington, Va.: Re: Your Wednesday column on the tacky wedding invitation asking for cash.

Here is what I would do if I received such an invitation: I'd reply "no thank you" on the RSVP card, and I'd send a nice Hallmark card separately, with a nice, new crisp $1 bill inside. So they get what they want. (Evil laughter.)

washingtonpost.com: Don't Throw Rice -- Throw Dollar Bills (Post, May 14)

Bob Levey: Evil laughter on this end, too.

But I'd make it a penny!

Thanks for some devilishly good thinking.

Kingstowne, Va.: Cheers to the statesmen who decided against the widening of I-66 and the construction of the Outer Beltway. We all know that creating more road capacity just creates more cars out of thin air. Thus, our esteemed leaders should now turn their sights on to stopping the expansion of Metro, which, as we know, only creates more passengers and more crowded subways. We just have too many people, and increasing their mobility, via road, transit or pedestrian path, will only encourage more of them! Pull up the ladder now!

Bob Levey: Irony noted, Kingstowne. But there's a world of difference between road capacity and subway capacity.

When you try to extra-lane your way out of traffic problems, all you do is invite people to drive when they otherwise wouldn't and previously didn't. As I wrote the other day, all you have to do is take a look at I-270 in Montgomery County. It's barely a decade since that superhighway grew from six lanes to 12. And every single day, it's a disaster.

Subway capacity, on the other hand, gets people off the roads and makes a ton of sense environmentally. Not to mention that you can read Bob Levey's Washington during your trip.

Washington, D.C.: Hi Bob.

Not a good day in our office. We're sitting around waiting to hear who will get axed in layoffs.

There was a time that this much anxiety would have pushed me over the proverbial edge.

I can honestly say that one thing I have realized is that at the end of the day, job or no job, the only thing that matters is being able to go home and kiss your kids. Everything else is a perk.

Have you ever been laid off?

Bob Levey: I have held seven jobs in the radio business and four in the TV business. I no longer hold any of them. I'd call that being canned, not being laid off.


It's a creepy feeling in the pit of one's stomach, isn't it? Creepiest piece: There's not a blessed thing you can do about it.

Of course, that should be where you reach for consolation. You may have done a very good job. You probably did. But a large wave washed over you -- a wave born of stresses within a particular industry, or bad decisions within a particular company. Frustrating and sobering.

Interestingly, in all 11 instances where I had an electronic job one day and didn't have it the next day, the boss put it the same way:

"We've decided to go in a different direction."

If I had any kind of smarts, I'd order a dozen T-shirts with that sentence on the front. Then I'd give one to each of my future electronic employers, as a parting gift.

Fairfax, Va.: I don't know -- the cash in the wedding invitation thing is so egregious, the temptation would be to not dignify it with a response. Since the inviters are so flagrantly defying courtesy, they've forfeited any necessity for it to be coming from the other side. IMHO.

Bob Levey: As I wrote, the best medicine is not to give them a cent. Wouldn't that be sweet revenge? They ask for money, straight-up, and get none!!!

Washington, D.C.: I just got another one of those e-mails from that guy in Nigeria asking me to send money. Has anyone actually fallen for this stupid thing? I'm getting tired of hearing from him.

Bob Levey: Hundreds of people fall for it every day. This is the biggest single source of calls to the Nigerian Embassy here. Americans have sent money -- yes, they've actually wired it to a total stranger!! -- and now they want diplomatic help getting it back.

Light a candle for these nincompoops. They need help, all right -- from above.

Economics 101: The fraudsters wouldn't keep sending this junk if it didn't work.

Arlington, Va.: From 5/2/03

"Arlington, Va.: I have to gnash my teeth every time you trot out some HR official to whine about being forced to wade through vague, cloying, and deceptive resumes. How about doing a column sometime on an earnest job seeker who spends the time to craft an informative, pertinent resume in response to a job announcement that turns out to be a sham since the position was essentially filled through connections before the announcement hit the street?

Bob Levey: Great minds!
Working on that very idea today.
Stay tuned."

This great mind has and is still tuned.

Bob Levey: Stay there. I'm always working on about 20 columns at once. I'll write this one. Soon. But how soon, I can't say.

Arlington, Va.: Hey Bob,

Whenever some flat-earther goes off a “liberal media” bias rant, you can refer him to Bill Safire’s column from last Monday in which he does he effectively debunks the idea that any liberal bias is at work in the day-to-day reporting at the New York Times. Granted, this comes on the heels of the Jayson Blair brouhaha, thus seems motivated as much by self-preservation as journalistic integrity, but it was perhaps the strongest statement I’ve seen from a card-carrying conservative.

Bob Levey: Thanks for this, more than you can possibly know.

The Jayson Blair disaster has nothing to do with any political slant that The New York Times may have. It has to do with a con man who worked the system brilliantly, and with a culture that played favorites.

By the way, Safire may be "conservative" (another word that has long since ceased to mean anything). But I'd call him incisive and surprising -- which his Blair column shows very clearly.

Bethesda, Md.: Good Afternoon, I understand what you are saying about the traffic on I-270 but to say that people that live along I-270 should use Mass Transit as a alternative is not always a wise solution due to the fact that the metro system is expensive and eventually becoming extremely expensive come July especially for people that HAVE TO TRAVEL TO Northern Virginia to work.

Bob Levey: Granted, mass transit does not work (and will not work) for everyone. But we are still a hub-and-spoke metropolitan area in many ways. My concern is with the guy who lives in a garden apartment within a half-mile walk of Shady Grove. He works in Southwest Washington. He never even CONSIDERS the subway, even though it would be faster, cheaper and safer than braving 270.

And when you challenge this guy, he gets all huffy and says it's his RIGHT to drive.

This is not, and never has been, a matter of rights. It's about the wisdom of selfishness. I guess you can figure how wise I think selfishness is.

Chicago, Ill.: Greetings,

On the Lehrer "NewsHour," I heard an interesting comment on the misdeeds of the New York Times reporter. I'd like your take on the issues.

When journalists pull a press release or a wire story, change the lead (maybe five words) and then put their name on the story to have it appear in the paper without adequate source identification, how is that different from what the Times reporter did?

Admittedly news and travel/entertainment may be in different spheres, but as a librarian searching (insert brand name here) where I see the wires and press releases on all types of news stories, I wonder if there isn't more broken than a single reporter and a couple of editors.

Bob Levey: No reputable news operation -- none -- allows the kind of byline replacement surgery you're describing. A staff byline goes only on a piece that is wholly or mostly staff-written.

But let's say you have examples of what you're talking about. You probably do.

I'd say the difference is that Blair made stuff up--including interviews that he claimed to have had and never had.

A story "pirated" from a wire service at least has the virtue of being based on interviews that actually happened.

Jacksonville, Fla.: Bob,

Why is it that residents of Alexandria oppose EVERY new development project proposed, even those that would benefit them like a Stadium in Crystal City or Rosslyn? I understand the whole NIMBY deal, but come on!

Bob Levey: Hate to break it you, but Crystal City and Rosslyn are in Arlington, not Alexandria.

Washington, D.C. (in London): Whatever happened to your 10-movies-in-10-days project? I've been reading your column faithfully but haven't seen anything about it. Did I miss it?

Bob Levey: The whole movie truth hits in my Monday and Tuesday columns. Don't miss them!

Alexandria, Va.: While waiting in a left turn light on my way home the other night, I was stopped in traffic (with signal on) by the cars in front. At this point, a nicely dressed older "gentleman" in a Cherokee roared up behind me and started slamming his steering wheel because the left through lane was blocked. After a few seconds of freaking out, he roared around me -- quite a technically competent move since his left arm (and specifically middle digit) were fully extended in my direction].

My question is this: we're encouraged to call authorities when we see suspected drunk drivers on the road; is there any recourse for obvious cases of road rage? Or should I just accept that self-important idiots abound in the area and try to keep my head down and stay out of the way?

Bob Levey: You could have called this into the cops, but there's absolutely nothing they could or would have done. Road rage falls into the cracks. The only time the cops enter this world is when road rage leads to a shooting, or a fender, smashing. By then, of course, it's too late

Somewhere, USA -- Wedding Gifts: My husband and I (mid-50s) married last June, and REALLY didn't want or need gifts. To satisfy those who just insisted, I came up with a couple of practical suggestions. We ended up with THREE pairs of crystal champagne glasses that don't match (and we really can't exchange because of who they came from). You know, folks, when the B&G say they don't expect presents, sometimes they really don't!

Bob Levey: Amen and thanks.

Washington, D.C.: Bob:

We're having trouble again with really aggressive panhandling around the Metro at Union Station. It's not just the "can I have a quarter" speech. It's aggressively blocking your path, spitting and cursing if you don't give. And people apparently living at the entrances to Union Station. You talk to one of the security guards there and they often seem indifferent.

Any suggestions?

Bob Levey: "Aggressive panhandling" is expressly forbidden by D.C. law. Go find a cop.

Washington, D.C.: I have a dollar bet with my secretary. I say you have no idea of who Ruben and Clay are. Do you?

Bob Levey: None whatsoever.

Please enlighten.

Somewhere, USA: Bob,

You seem to have an opinion an all things Metro. What's your take on the Segway lady from this Sunday's Post?

Reading that article, I was with the woman all the way, thinking, "Yeah! It's an accommodation, she should be allowed to use it!" -- until I got to the point where the thing got away from her and the 65-lb. thing went lumbering off on its own at up to 16 mph and ended up in the tracks. That's just dangerous! Suddenly, I no longer sympathized with her.

And before anyone compares the Segway to bikes and strollers like they did in the article, there IS no comparison. Bikes and strollers don't move on their own power and will peter out really quickly. And even if they don't, they're not heavy enough to knock a small child over and possibly into the tracks.

Your thoughts?

washingtonpost.com: New Wheels Run Afoul of Metro (Post, May 10)

Bob Levey: I would draw the line at a hospital bed or a Vespa. But I'd permit a Segway.

Heck, I've been on subways with people in electrified wheelchairs that take up the entire doorway area. People adjust. They can adjust to the Segway, too.

Rockville, Md.: What part of "You are under contract with Montgomery County. In that contract it says (in effect) you may not write a book or movie deal and profit from it while in this job" does Chief Moose not understand? If he wants to do this so badly, why doesn't he simply shut up and resign?

Bob Levey: He wants to have his cake (the job as chief) and munch it, too. To call this a First Amendment issue is the biggest red herring I've ever smelled. It's about dollar bills, period. The chief is bound by language in a contract that he signed, without coercion.

Like you, I don't see what's so tough about this one. If he wants to do the book, he quits.

Waldorf, Md.: You've got a photo in today's column. You also had one in last week (the abandoned car in NE). I can't remember you including photos in any other columns before. Any reason why you're now including them?

P.S. -- Is that car still there?

Bob Levey: I've included photos from time to time, when they're relevant. These two certainly were. Today's column would have made zero sense if I hadn't shown you what I was talking about. Ditto the abandoned car column.

As to the car....

As I reported on Tuesday, it was dragged away by a city tow truck about 24 hours after I published the picture.

Embarrassment remains the strongest human emotion.

Alexandria, Va.: Quoting Bob Levey, from the side of a Metrobus: "Why do I take Metro? Have you seen me drive?" A more accurate quote would have been: "Why do I take Metro? Because I live near it, and it's convenient to me, and it gives me the pleasure of mounting my high horse and chastising those who cannot afford to live near it and enjoy its services."

Bob Levey: If you live in Alexandria, my friend, you live near enough to about a zillion bus lines to use them. Don't point high-horse fingers at me. Point lazy-bones fingers at yourself.

Washington, D.C.: On driving vs Metro, and the "right" to drive. I live on Capitol Hill. I pay a ton of money to live here. I have no offstreet parking. It's a daily struggle to find parking because of commuters driving in and taking all available street parking. Today, there were a total of 18 cars on my street. Thirteen of them had D.C. or Maryland plates. Please, folks, remember that these areas are neighborhoods where real people (some of them actually fairly nice) live. We end up having to park blocks from our houses. Try lugging bags of groceries blocks, past rows of suburban vehicles, and see how kindly that makes you feel toward your suburban brethren. Just because you can drive in and park doesn't mean you should.

Bob Levey: That last sentence should be required reading for every selfish one-to-a-car commuter who thinks his commuting choice makes larger social sense.


Washington, D.C.: Bob, with the demise of the outer loop in Virginia, what effect do you think it will have on the ICC?

Bob Levey: I've always said the ICC by itself will accomplish very little. But if the ICC had been seen as (and pitched as) the first piece of the badly needed Outer Beltway, then it would make sense. Reason: An Outer Beltway would divert interstate truck traffic from the Current Beltway.

However, this idea always demanded two-state cooperation. And as always, Virginia has its head in the sand as far as transportation planning is concerned.

Gaithersburg, Md.: Where is there a garden apartment half a mile from Shady Grove metro. Come to think of it, is there any direction in which half a mile from the station gets you out of the parking lot?

Bob Levey: I was just out at Shady Grove on Wednesday night. Within half a mile (OK, maybe 3/4 of a mile), along Crabbs Branch Way, there are flotillas of garden apartments.

Alexandria, Va.: I need your help! I'm trying to sell my wonderful little SUV (Hyundai Santa Fe) because I'm moving out of the country. Yet, my ad in the Post has gotten me ZIPPO. No responses at all. I fear I may have to go get majorly &--%$ed by CarMax. Any thoughts?

Bob Levey: Try posting it on the bulletin board at the State Department. The car will be seen by hundreds of returning diplomats (and other State employees), many of whom need wheels right away. This works for those trying to rent or sublet apartments, too.

Arlington, Va.: I think this was addressed before, but I want to know if Metro is doing anything about it. This morning, at Court House metro, there were FOUR Metro employees, presumably observing passenger flow. However, two were chatting amongst themselves, one was reading the paper, and one was SLEEPING. Unreal.

Bob Levey: Please call Metro and let someone there know the exact time of day that this happened. This is a firing offense. Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: Re: The multiple wedding invitation etiquette: How would you phrase the "no gifts" thing if the wedding couple involved have been through at least one prior wedding each and already have enough appliances/linens/knick-knacks and don't need another thing? I'd just ask friends to come share our wedding day and don't give anything. Is that OK with Emily Post?

Bob Levey: I'd "go firewall," and say:

No Gifts, Please. If You'd Like to Contribute to Charity Instead, We Prefer Donations to XYZ.

Alexandria, Va.: What is your opinion on the way that the race card was played so quickly in the Blair situation?

I consider myself a reasonable person, but I jumped to the conclusion that Blair was promoted so quickly and over supervisor's objections because of his race.

The fact that I and many others jumped to this conclusion so quickly is example number one of how the affirmative action system in this country is broken.

Bob Levey: Blair's race obviously had a lot to do with his being hired and being promoted. But it had (and has) nothing to do with his character. Not all white newsies are crystal-pure. Not all black newsies are Jayson Blair. So in that sense, race has nothing to do with this.

As I said, above I think this is a story about a very, very accomplished, very smooth con man and a corporate structure that allowed hope to replace head.

Somewhere, USA -- Ruben and Clay: They're the two finalists on "American Idol." Marcie, you owe me a dollar!

Bob Levey: Marcie, you owe me half of it!

Woodbridge, Va.: Bob --

I was riding Metro this week and saw you in an ad on the train. But the ad says you've been a Metrobus rider for 36 years, while the whole purpose of the ad is to celebrate 30 years of Metrobus!

Did you paint "Metrobus" on your car for the earlier six years?

Bob Levey: I've gotten a number of jiggles on this question. I'm happy to clear things up.

I've been riding the bus in Washington, D.C., for 36 years, ever since I moved here to take a job as a cub reporter for The Washington Post.

For the first six of those years, Metrobus did not exist. I rode D.C. Transit, a private company. Metrobus was formed in 1973. I've been riding their buses ever since.

Granted, the ad could and should have been clearer. Thanks for "calling" me on this.

Arlington, Va.: Excuse me Mr./Ms. Capitol Hill (or is it Capital Hill?), but you chose to live where you have no offstreet parking. Unless your neighborhood institutes resident only parking, people from Virginia and Maryland and OR for that matter, have the same right as you to park on "your" street.

Bob Levey: Here we go again.

The "right to drive" and "right to park" argument.

Has it occurred to all suburban driver-parkers that they have a social responsibility that extends beyond the front bumpers of their cars? If these people contribute to gridlock, and the unliveability of D.C., aren't they failing as citizens in some way?

Somewhere, USA -- Interstate Truck Traffic: That traffic really belonged on the stretch of 95 that was supposed to go through Northeast D.C. What happened to that plan?

Bob Levey: If you have a good search engine, go back into the catacombs and chase down the piece that I wrote with my wife, Jane Freundel Levey, in November of 2000, for The Washington Post Magazine. In that piece, we explain why all the freeways planned for D.C. (including Northeast D.C.) were never built.

Short (too short) answer: The money was diverted to build Metro.

New York, N.Y.: Oh Jeez, the tired "I have a right" argument. The #1 riposte of 4th graders everywhere: "It's a free country!" I always respond to that by saying "Yeah and I have a right to blow smoke in people's faces. Doesn't mean it's not selfish."

Bob Levey: A-a-a-a-a-a-a-men.

Unbiased Reporting?: Hi Bob --

I know you take the firm position that the Post reporters try to be as unbiased as possible, but how about this snippet from the last paragraph of a page A01 article today on the Senate approving a portion of the president's tax cut proposal? Sounds pretty biased to me for a news story:

"The tax cut will also almost certainly exacerbate the government's rapidly deteriorating fiscal condition."

Weisman goes on to say the CBO projects a growing deficit, but, let's be honest, it is debatable whether tax cuts in a time of deficit is exacerbating a deteriorating fiscal condition.

You challenged us chatters a while back to look for examples of bias, and this is just one I picked up quickly, but I can assure you that there are many more.

Bob Levey: How is this bias? The president himself has said that the economy is floundering. This is interpretation, not loading the dice.

OK, where and how to draw the line?

I can't dish up a one-size-fits-all criterion. But I'd say that any interpretation that includes at least a whiff of blame is suspect. Any interpretation that simply takes a look at a phenomenon and reports bad news about it is not suspect.

Springfield, Va.: Bob:

To the question of what to say on invitations when you truly desire no presents..

"Your gift is your presence, no other presents required"

Bob Levey: No quibbles whatsoever.


Herndon, Va.: Why do Metro railings move faster than Metro stairs?

Bob Levey: So the escalators can break faster.

Washington, D.C.: Big kudos to the female Metro attendant who was very clearly, politely, firmly, and loudly informing two male young professionals that their sandwiches and glass bottles of juice were not welcome on Metro!

Bob Levey: Ya see?

Some Metro employees really do their jobs.

Great! Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: Hi Bob,

In the 200-year history of the U.S. Navy, there has never been a ship or submarine named after Washington, D.C. No "USS Washington, D.C." or "USS District of Columbia" has ever served the Navy. Just about every other state and city has had a battleship, cruiser, or submarine named for it, except for the glaring omission of D.C. I think it's time the Navy rectified the situation!

Bob Levey: I'll post this so the Navy can zoom into action. Thanks.

Mt. Rainier, Md.: Jayson Blair seems to be the topic of the week. I know the New York Times put him into some kind of employee counseling for a few weeks, when he admitted he was having personal troubles. What else do you think New York Times should have done, as his employer, to help him straighten out his life? I get the feeling that this young man really should not have been a reporter, that he didn't actually LIKE the job, because even in college he was faking it. Seems like a major source of stress to me, needing to be the golden child and hating it. So maybe addiction wasn't the source of the problem but the result?

Bob Levey: I'm real, real big on personal responsibility. If you have problems, you should own up to them and try to fix them on your own.

It's great if an employer offers an employee assistance program. EAPs have worked for many, many people, including many friends of mine.

But to say that The Times could or should have done more for Blair is to fuzz the point. The failing was his.

The Times is to be commended for even HAVING an EAP in the first place. I can't imagine what more The Times could have done here -- except, of course, for top management to listen to middle management when middle said Blair was big trouble.

Alexandria, Va.: America is a "free" country, but you exercised your rights to the extent that you don't infringe on the rights of others, like parking on the street that they maintain with their taxes.

Bob, how dare you suggest in this "me-first" metro area that people have moral obligations?

Bob Levey: I appreciate your sense of humor, Alexandria.

Perhaps you and I will be the last two Washingtonians who believe we owe our fellow man a little something.

Chicago, Ill.: I was intrigued by your comments in last week's discussion on how there are less problems now with drinking than there were 20 years ago, when the drinking age was lower. I graduated from high school in the early 1990s, and I remember plenty of drinking at parties I went to. People's parents would get kegs or leave town and we would party. But there were always people there who were designated drivers. I think you made a huge error in assuming the decline in alcohol-related incidents among teens was attributable to the raising of the drinking age -- you didn't take into account the rise of MADD, and government and social programs designed to deter drinking and driving. In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, I always heard this jingle on the radio: "People who don't drink and drive/They're just the safest people." I've lived abroad in other American-style countries and seen how drinking at age 18 is not detrimental. It's not like people there don't get drunk, but I think it's less forbidden and exciting to them. I went to a women's college and thought (retrospectively) that we did some stupid things while drinking but my friends who went to schools with much larger "party" cultures did far more dangerous things, all because of alcohol. I plan on teaching my kids to drink responsibly early, because I remember how stupid 19-year-olds with a keg of beer can be.

Bob Levey: No question that designated drivers are a part of the landscape now. And no question that the drumbeat of publicity has really affected today's kids. Even 8-year-olds have had it pounded into them: sex can kill you, drugs can kill you, tobacco can kill you, booze can kill you.

Burke, Va.: Why didn't I take the Metro?

I drove the the Franconia-Springfield Metro, got there at 7:45, and found the lot full. I could have gone to the Satellite lot (10 minutes), parked, waited for a shuttle bus (10 minutes), ridden the shuttle bus to the Metro (10 minutes). Instead, I spent the time driving downtown. Got there at 8:30. Would have been 9 had I gone the satellite lot route.

I know you'll suggest busing to the Metro, but once you're there and can't find parking, your options are kinda limited.

Bob Levey: I'm sincerely sympathetic. The fit just wouldn't have been squeaky-perfect in your case. I can see why you feel the way you do.

But can we try looking at this in a different way?

What if you could begin work before you got to work?

What if these minutes you claim to have "lost" by choosing public transportation could actually have been used in the service of the boss?

We are certainly right there, technologically. Cell phones allow us to make the first round of calls of the day, even while we're still searching for a parking space. Laptops are becoming more and more common, and more and more trouble-free.

This way of looking at commuting time would certainly change some minds, I think.

Washington, D.C.: Just the person I want to comment on this -- are you aware that Bank of America charges $5 to cash a check drawn on their bank, if you don't have an account with them? Is this common practice(I don't think so)? As we say "in the hood" -- have they bumped their corporate head?

Bob Levey: It is common practice.

It is greedy.

It is awful.

Somewhere, USA -- Wedding Etiquette: You're missing the point of the wedding invitation. The invitation is for the wedding and reception, it is not the place to mention gifts at all. In fact, that's the rudest part. Brides and grooms should be invited those they want to share in their wedding day. If the guests want to bring gifts, they should. If the couple wants to make it known privately and casually that they would prefer a gift to a charity or gift from their registry or cash, all it is a suggestion. The idea that a bridal couple can request certain gifts is awful, and that's where the etiquette rules are really breaking down.

Bob Levey: Very well said. I agree entirely. Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: Mr. Levey --

I just finished reading the article on the woman in metro with a segway. I can understand people using them instead of a wheelchair, but should metro allow anyone to bring a segway on? I can see that causing problems if 30 or 40 Segways are on one platform during rush hour.

Also, regarding comments from the segway user in the article -- can people PLEASE stop comparing themselves to Rosa Parks? It's used so much that it is losing all meaning.

Bob Levey: Good point about Rosa Parks. By he way, did you know that Rosa Parks is the most humble woman on the planet? I met her years ago, and she is genuinely embarrassed at all the fuss that's made over her. Of course, that's why she's such a shining example. She never tried to cash in on her fame.

Speaking of which....

Can you BELIEVE that Jayson Blair has hired a lawyer-agent to test the quickie-book market?

Would anyone actually buy such a book?

Not this kid....

Somewhere, USA -- Beltway Cleanup: Bob --

I realize I am treading on thin ice since I am going to discuss the Beltway (alas no Metro for me) but, whose job is it to clean up the beltway? To be specific, I drive southbound on 270 toward Virginia and right after the merge there's been a dead animal carcass for about two weeks -- some kind of racoon or large cat (it's hard to tell.) I've been on other major highways where deer/groundhogs, etc., are left for days. Is there anyone out there to take care of this?

Bob Levey: Each county through which the Beltway passes (and the city of Alexandria) has an animal control operation. That's who's supposed to scoop the corpses. Obviously, they aren't always right on top of this.

Washington, D.C.: Bike to Work week was this week. I tried it and loved it! Except for today... I took Metro. Still better than driving a car.

Bob Levey: Thanks for this bleat about yet another means of transit.

Independence, Mo.: Hello Bob:

I found a speech given by former President Clinton to some centrists Democrats on Wednesday to be very interesting. What he seems to be telling Democrats is to reject the more leftist leanings of the party in favor of a moderate or centrist posture. Nothing new here, he did it in his win over papa Bush. But I think he's suggesting one of the main differences is this time, the Democratic nominee won't have a 12 year history of Republican administration to counter attack. Given this, he seems to be saying to the nine candidates that the time to start this is now. This urgency creates an interesting situation since the nomination process seems to favor the extreme elements of both parties. Do you think the Democrats can actually nominate a candidate that takes on a centrist posture this early in the nomination process?

Bob Levey: I think that any Democrat who doesn't measure up to Mr. Bush in terms of national security is doomed to get 35 percent.

That's why Bob Graham is such a sleeping giant. Only he can say, "I've been right there on this subject for years (as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee), and I can deal knowledgeably with it."

The other candidates look (as of May 2003) to be mere noses pressed against the window. Only Gephardt has provided a reason to think of his candidacy as positive, forward-looking and different. And he may get mashed in Iowa and New Hampshire anyway

Outside Washington, D.C.: Metro does not come up North far enough for us in Columbia, Laurel area. I won't drive half way so I can then not drive the other half. Greenbelt is out of the question as I do not want my car stolen (or worse) trying to ride the green line. Therefore when I go to DC, I drive.

Bob Levey: You mean cars are never stolen in Columbia and Laurel? You mean you think Metro lots are not patrolled?

You'd better take another look, dear friend. Attitudes like yours are not only way, way out of date, but they're wildly inaccurate.

Laurel, Md.: Re: Your "capital" vs "capitol"

The capitOl has a dOme


washingtonpost.com: A Capital Way to Sort Out Capitol vs. Capital (Post, May 15)

Bob Levey: Several readers have passed along this mnemonic device. Many thanks.

Washington, D.C.: For the Metro Lurkers:

Summer is approaching (not according to the current weather) Will air conditioning EVER be put into the subway stations? The air in there is stagnant, hot, and humid! Thanks!

Bob Levey: I doubt very much that you'll get your wish. This would be hugely expensive. Besides, fresh (and often cool) air is constantly circulated through every below-ground station. The good news: You seldom have to wait more than six minutes for a train during rush hour (10 during non-rush). You won't sweat to death in such a short time.

Bethesda, Md.: Just my 2 cents. The Blair thing at the New York Times is bad enough but isn't this the same paper that less than a year ago was suppressing stories that didn't "jibe" with its editorial viewpoint? Management has got to be completely shaken up with not only one but two grievous errors. My opinion only.

Bob Levey: My two cents: Howell Raines, the top dog, is on very thin ice, not just for the reasons you mention, but because of simmering muttering ever since he took over (just a few days before 9/11).

Arlington-that-doesn't-need-a-stadium, Va.: I enjoyed your column on baseball-related words and colloquialisms. Very nice. I like baseball, too. Of course, Arlington does not need the "economic improvement" that some seem to think comes with building a new stadium. So, how about a column about the real economics surrounding baseball stadiums. Sure, it would be nice to have one on the metro line - the metro line in DC, that is.

washingtonpost.com: As to Cliches, Baseball Hits a Round-Tripper (Post, May 6)

Bob Levey: The Post has done this many, many times. Bottom line: Baseball stadiums do not always generate "new money" in the neighborhoods that surround them. Sometimes, they simply bring "re-directed money" -- dough that would otherwise have been spent on other pastimes, in other parts of the area.

Somewhere, USA: After decades of not voting, people have convinced me I should. I am in the process of registering. I will NOT however, choose between the "lesser of two evils" as is too often the case these days. Is writing in someone a wasted vote (providing you want them to win) or is it better not to vote at all if you don't like the major party candidates?

Bob Levey: I've written in many names, many times. I'd say it's not just a possibility. It's a legitimate choice (if that's the way you see a certain race). GO FOR IT!

Bob Levey: Thank you, chers amis (and amies). We'll GO FOR IT again one week from today.

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