No, great god of TV ads, I don't leave home without it. Obediently, religiously, daily, I carry an American Express credit card in my wallet.

When I first obtained it, I swore I would use the Green Monster for emergencies only. The truth is that I use it so often, I've long since worn the black ink off the raised numbers.

But I haven't worn the puzzlement off an American Express policy that, as far as I can determine, no other major credit card company follows. Along with my name, expiration date and 15-digit account number, my Green Monster lists the year that I first applied for the card -- a nice, neat "69," right between the letters AX and the comforting fact that my card is good through 8/87.

One day, I wondered out loud to a waiter why any business that extends me credit would need to know that I have had a Green Monster since the first Nixon administration.

He had no idea. So I tried the same question on a clerk at Crown Books.

He had no idea. So I tried the same question on an Amtrak ticketseller at Union Station.

She gave me a look that said, "Why doesn't this bozo take the plane instead?" So I tried the same question on the place I should have started -- American Express itself.

But an AmEx spokesman couldn't say for sure, either. He checked with a few of the old-timers, then came back on the line to say:

"We think it was designed to foster good feeling in our customers. The idea was that you'd look at that two-digit number and think, 'Gosh, I've been a mover and a shaker for all those years?' "

Well, AmEx, in the 17 years that I've had one of your cards, the only thing I've ever moved or shaken is my savings account -- to handle your insistent monthly statements. When I look at the "69" on my card, I don't get a nice warm glow, born of 1.7 decades of conspicuous overconsumption. I tend to get a lump in my chest from thinking about how much less I would have spent in all that time if I'd had to pay as I went.

So please, dear American Express, won't you remove those two digits from your Green Monsters? They conjure up memories of outgoing dollars -- memories that I (and no doubt others) would be delighted to leave home without.

Memo to all hands in local college dorms: I hate to tar all of you dedicated young scholars with such a sweeping stroke of the brush. But this one has Graduation Week Nutsiness written all over it.

For the last five years, a totem pole has sat on the front porch of Frank Meenehan's home on Ellicott Terrace NW. It wasn't exactly the sort of thing you'd see in a grade C movie about a Comanche uprising, but it was close enough: five feet tall, a few inches thick, menacing face on the front.

Being a trusting soul, Frank never took any security precautions with his totem. Rain, snow, sleet, invasions of the cavalry, there it sat on the porch, glaring at whoever passed.

But on Friday, May 23, someone stole it. Make that two someones. "One person could have lifted it, barely," says Frank, "but it would have taken two to carry it."

Frank realizes full well that after-the-fact blame isn't going to bring the totem pole back. However, eyes and ears might.

If anyone knows anything about the heist, or happens to see a certain pole adorning someone's dorm room, Frank can be reached at 363-3535. No questions asked.

Mr. Mayor, I owe you an apology, and here it is.

I wrote several days ago that Marion Barry, Citizen No. 1 of the District Building, habitually places the American flag to his left as he holds his regular monthly news conferences. Wrong, wrong, wrong, I trumpeted. Protocol says the flag should be at the speaker's right.

Annette Samuels, the mayor's press operative, was quick to call and say that Barry does place the flag at his right during the news conferences. She wouldn't have it any other way, said Annette, because she used to work at the White House and she knows what protocol demands.

One way to settle this. I headed for our library, and the photo files.

Memory Lane was full of Marion Barry news conferences . . . . 1978, yes, there's the flag at his right . . . . 1979, yup, his right again . . . . 1980, and again . . . . 1981, sure enough . . . .

I found only one instance of an American flag that might not have been in the correct place. I say "might not have been" because it's impossible to tell from the angle at which the photo was shot whether the flag was at Barry's right, or directly behind him.

Marion Barry has enough trouble without receiving unjustified hacks from a certain columnist. Hacks hereby withdrawn -- with regrets.