During rush hour, the street on which I was traveling has two running lanes in each direction. But this was not rush hour. Cars were parked in the curb lane, so only one lane was open for moving traffic.

The speed limit was 30, and I kept my car at exactly that pace. But in my rear view mirror I could see that the driver behind me was having duck fits. I wasn't going fast enough to suit him, and he was impatient to pass.

Each time we came to a bus stop, an intersection, or to a stretch where there were no parked cars, he'd zoom into the curb lane, accelerate rapidly -- and then would be forced to slow down and fall in behind me again because parked cars up ahead posed a danger.

His continual weaving from lane to lane turned my thoughts to the possibilty that he might be impatient enough to risk a smashup. I decided to pull into the next cleared space in the curb lane and let him pass.

When such a space loomed 300 yards ahead, I turned on my right-turn blinker and began a gentle deceleration. But before I could move into the curb lane, he was zooming up on my right, blowing his horn like mad to scold me for encroaching into "his" lane. So much for being Mr. Nice Guy.

As we approached a busy intersection a few blocks from the Watergate, the traffic light facing us turned red.I began to brake to a gentle stop.

As I did, he gunned his car into the right lane, whipped past me, cut sharply in front of me -- and then, without even stopping, turned left on the red light!

Drivers who were legally within the intersection blasted their horns at him, and I heard one of them shout a few words that could be described as in temperate but appropriate. I went on my way wondering how many seconds my fellow traveler would save with that type of driving, and what he would do with the time he saved.

It has been my experience that speeding and reckless driving save little time in an urban area. The speeder merely arrives at the next traffic light a little bit sooner than those who obey the law -- so he must wait a little bit longer for the light to change. POSTSCRIPT

Speeding on an open highway can save some time on a long trip, but at a price.

The risk of accident is greater. The motorist's dollar cost is increased because he uses more fuel and more motor oil. And the cost to the nation also rises, and is relected in exacerbated shortages, longer lines at the pump, more billions of dollars in trade deficits, and new pressures on our dollar and our economy.

Yet despite the government's repeated pleas for voluntary cooperation and for stricter enforcement, average highway speeds have been increasing each year. And as speed goes up, the accident rate rises. Thousands of people die needlessly.

Very obviously, the 55-mile-an-hour national speed limit is not being obeyed. Yet when the Maryland State Police put an airplane into service to help catch speeders averaging 71 miles an hour, WTOP reported excitedly on Monday that the police were running a "speed trap."

Horrors! And how about policemen who stake out banks or liquor stores after a wave of holdups? Are they running (be sure to pronounce the words dersively) robbery traps ? Come on, WTOP, you can do a more responsible job of reporting than that. SANTITATION DEPT.

"Draw one," you say to the bartender.

He puts aside the germ-laden cloth with which he has been wiping the bar, picks up a beer glass by sticking two fingers inside the rim and his thumb outside, and draws a beer for you.

If beer makes you philosophical, you shrug it off. "Oh, well," you say to yourself as you take a sip. (A glass has no handles. What can you expect?"

Then you watch a waitress pick up a coffee cup -- which does have a handle -- by sticking two fingers inside the rim.

It's enough to make a man switch to straight rye. Alcohol kills germs. SMILE A WHILE

Bob Orben is back from vacation with the comment, "I have suitcases that have traveled 9,000 miles more than I have."

The earthquake in California didn't surprise him. "If you had Jerry Brown as governor," he said, "you'd shake, too."

Bod says he fins it hard to believe that our national malaise is serious. "Nobody is doing a telethon for it."

The economy worries him. The high rent district, he says, can now be defined as "the area west of the Atlantic Ocean and east of the Pacific."

The worst of it is that he's at an awkward age: "too old for student loans and too young for senior citizen discounts."