Anybody who hopes to be regarded as A Somebody in Washington needs a low number on his auto license. The lower the better.

There was a time when a man could retain a low number for decades. And after he died, his wife inherited it. A chosen few had low numbers and held on to them indefinitely.

No more. Home rule and the shifting fortunes of local politics have changed all that. These days, people fall from favor and get bumped. They lose their low numbers. And are they ever angry about it!

One friend who used to have a three-digit number was bumped four years ago and he's still teed off. Nothing the Mayor has done in the last four years has suited him.

It seems to me there is a simple way for the Mayor to double the quantity of three-digit numbers available for status seekers. All he has to do is create a new category of minus numbers, starting with Minus 1 and running on down to Minus 999.

The only drawback to this plan is that it would unquestionably set off a big argument about whether tag number Minus 1 has more status or less status than tag number Minus 999. Inasmuch as lowness is the criterion for desirability, a good case could be made for considering Minus 999 better than Minus 1, but perhaps not. If the issue really caused trouble, the Mayor could step in and settle it with a proclamation.