Harriet K. Doyle, who has been a District Liner since Day One, files this report:
"I wanted to find out when the Cherry Blossom Festival was going to take place. I remembered that years ago the Chamber of Commerce put out a folder about the festival.
"So I got out the DC phone book. Chamber of Commerce of Washington D.C. (page 111). See Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade.
"Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade (page 368). For offices not listed below dial 857-5900.
"The woman who answered was very helpful and gave me the number of the DC Jaycees, 347-2100. I called the number and it rang and rang and rang. I got no answer.
"I decided I had better look up the number in the book (page 164). District of Columbia Jaycees, 529-2337. Called that number. A man answered and told me I would have to call 347-2100.
"I told him I had called that number and had gotten no answer. I asked him if he knew the dates of the Cherry Blossom Festival. He didn't.
"He said he was at the national office and the other was local office -- perhaps they had not come in yet. 'It's 10:35,' I said. 'What time do they come in?' He explained that the local office was manned by strictly volunteer helpers. I accepted that.
"Since the police are usually in attendance at large events, I looked up National Park Service (page 393) which directed me to See US Govt Section.
"United States Government (page 547), National Park Service, Washington Area Parks Info, 426-6700. The woman who answered the phone was most delightful and helpful. The festival will run from April 2 through April 7."
Welcome to the club, Harriet. Now you know what it's like to try to answer a simple question, even when you think you know where to look for that answer.
The next step in the problem solver's training program is to tackle a question that's a little bit more complicated, like one I have just received from Henry Barton of Annapolis.
Henry wants to know why we were asked to conserve energy during the winter by keeping our home thermostats at the shivering point, yet government and private employees worked in their shirt sleeves in overheated offices, or had to open windows to get relief -- thereby causing thermostats to call for even more heat.
In a few weeks, other readers will pose the question in different words. "If we are supposed to be conserving energy," they will ask, "why does the air conditioning system in our building keep our office at 66 degrees when it is only 76 degrees outside and there is really no need for air conditioning?" I'd like to have a dollar for every letter I'll get this summer telling me, "Everybody in our office has to wear a sweater to ward off the chill. On a lot of days we have to open the windows to get relief" -- thereby causing thermostats to call for even more cold air.
In short, if scientists can turn off a booster rocket that's 100 million miles away and turn on a camera that's 200 million miles away, why can't they figure out a more efficient way to control temperature in homes and offices right here on earth? On which pages of the telephone book does one look for the answer to that one, Harriet?
HOW'S THAT AGAIN?
J.L. writes: "I see the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has ordered an end to secret trials and summary executions. Does this also indicate an end to his hands off policy?"
The signature on the note and the imprint on the note paper both say "Etaoin Shrdlu," but don't waste time looking up that name in the telephone book. It is obviously a nom de plume borrowed from the Linotype keyboard, possibly by a newspaper person.
The note says, "You really shouldn't perpetuate that story about a jellied piece of bread falling always sticky-side down. An experiment was done about 20 years ago with the following results: When dropped outside or on a bare floor, the jellied piece of bread fell stickyside down exactly 500 times out of 1,000. However, when dropped on a light-colored or valuable carpet, the jelly side was down 986 times out of 1,000."
Claudia Spehar Rauen said that Gold's Law is wrong. Bread doesn't fall with the buttered side down because of the innate perversity of inanimate objects but because "when bread lands with its buttered side up, you have buttered the wrong side."