Yes, it was hot Saturday afternoon - hot enough for the young man with the convertible to put his top down and go racing about the neighborhood with three companions. One was seated in front. Two were standing up on the rear seat.

When the driver rounded a corner without bothering to slow perceptibly, the standees managed to keep their balance. I wondered what would happen when the driver had to jam on his brakes.

Joe Ritchie rides his bike to work.

When a careless motorist flung open a car door recently, Joe had to skid to a quick stop to escape injury.

A few days later, the same think happened to the the girl Joe plans to marry soon, except that she couldn't stop in time. She was thrown from the bicycle and injured.

My mind goes back to my good friend John D. Morris of the New York Times Washington Bureau.

John was riding his bicycle home from work on the night of March 25, 1975. A car door was suddenly opened in his path, and John crashed into it. He lapsed into a coma. A few days later, he was dead.

Some of the young men who operate motorized two-wheelers these days seem utterly oblivious to the steadily climbing death and accident statistics.

Auto drivers waiting in long rows at traffic lights see the motorcycles and scooters whiz between cars, often with just inches to spare. If there is a slight misjudgement, or if a driver suddenly opens a car door to empty an ashtray, a crash becomes ineveitable.

On Friday afternoon, those of us who were driving on K street were stopped while the cross street (18th or 19th) got the green light.

From a block away, I saw a motorcycle approaching on the wrong side of the median line. The two-wheeler passed up all the waiting autos and came to a halt at the crosswalk, still on the wrong side of the median.

The motorist on the motorcyclist's right glared at him. The unspoken message was, "If you think you're going to beat me across this intersection when the light changes, Mac, you're mistaken."

To the left of me, in the lane adjoining the median line, was a truck. As the yellow light came on, the motorcyclist edged forward. So did the driver on his right. So did the truck that was headed straight at the motorcycle.

A three-way confrontation loomed. And it seemed to me that if somebody didn't yield, I was about to see a motorcycle rider ground to bits between an auto and a truck.

When the light changed, the car, the truck and the motorcycle leaped forward in the same split second. Somehow the motorcycle got ahead of the auto and then cut in front of it - just in time to escape being mashed to a pulp by the oncoming truck. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tremendous look of satisfaction on the motorcyclist's face. Once again he had defined death to save a few seconds, and he had won.

One day, it may come his turn to lose. Then some of us will shake our heads and say, "Well, gas shortage or no gas shortage, one think hasn't changed. Some people still drive like idiots."


Les Finster has forwarded to me a copy of an advertisement for shock absorbers that included the line, "Sold Only in Paris."

The price was appealing, but Les figures by the time he paid the fare to Paris and back he wouldn't save much.

A typographical error in this space caused me much embarrassment because I was responsbible for it. In writing about J. William Middendorf, I used his name many times and spelled it right each time - except the very first.

In addition to the typos that plague newspaper people, we commit errors because we just don't know any better. The writer, Printer and/or proof-reader goof.

A column in another paper recently contained the sentence, "The trendy Sheraton Carlton does a number dishing sherbert between courses . . ." Many people pronounce the word with an r , but that doesn't make it right.

Another sentence in the column advised that the in thing to say these days is, "I have an appointment with my peridontist." I know what a periwinkle is, but there is no such word as "peridontist." A periodontist is a dental specialist concerned with diseases of the jawbone.

Helen S. Boston reports that "me" remains a dirty word among the politicians. She writes, "I heard the normally meticulous Sen. Howard Baker say 'The president invited my wife and I.' And Joseph Califano, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, said, 'The president, like I, feels . . .'"

Perhaps we really do need a separate Department of Education.