If you had to pick one part of the Washington area that resembles Iowa, it'd be southern Prince George's County. So maybe this dispatch from Clinton shouldn't be that surprising. Still, my long-shot meter says it's a coincidence worthy of the name.

Kathy McMillin of Clinton is a loyal alumna of Iowa State University in Ames. Her husband is an alum, too. While she was a student at ISU, Kathy played in the band. So it was no surprise for her to receive a circular in the mail on Sept. 25 from the ISU Alumni Band.

The surprise was a second ISU circular that was accidentally stuck to Kathy's. It was addressed to another ISU graduate who lives two blocks away.

And who should live next to that gent? Yet another ISU graduate. That makes four ISUers living within a stone's throw of one another in relatively teensy Clinton, Md. -- none of whom would ever have known it if two brochures hadn't decided to get affectionate with one another.

Ronda Cox, field services coordinator for the ISU Alumni Association, says that an outburst of four ISU alums in one neighborhood is the sort of thing you'd expect to find in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota or Missouri, but not on the wicked East Coast.

Almost half of ISU's 133,447 living alumni live in those four midwestern states, Ronda reports. Only 2,648 ISU alums live in the Washington area. To find four ISU alums on two streets so close to one another, more than 1,000 miles from the campus . . . .well, let's just say I'd never bet that sort of proposition at the races.

Urban moments I wish I'd seen (thanks to Beth Anderson, also of Clinton):

As Beth approached 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW one day last week, she noticed that the entire block ahead of her was clogged with cars. Since she would have been marooned in the intersection if she had tried to go forward, Beth decided to stop her car short of the intersection while the light was still green. Not only is that good sense, but in Washington, it's the law.

However, the guy immediately behind Beth didn't like this one bit. He began gesturing furiously at her to move up and block the intersection -- even though it would have gained the guy all of three feet, and even though he could see as well as Beth could that Gridlock City lay ahead.

Beth decided to make her point as forcefully as the guy was making his. She conspicuously folded her arms and conspicuously shook her head as if to say, "No way!"

This made the other driver even more furious. Who knows what he would have done next? Luckily, a pedestrian stepped in at that moment with a little editorializing of his own.

He had seen the entire ballet. As he passed in front of Beth's car, he patted its hood decorously, in the classic "good girl" gesture.

Then, to the driver behind Beth, he gave another gesture, equally well-known. Being a lady, Beth translates it as, "Stick it in your ear."

More from our highways and byways:

Jacki Lippman of Arlington calls it "pugnacious." I call it about as funny as Helen Keller jokes. I refer to a bumper sticker that's cropping up around the D.C. area. It says:


After what happened on the Los Angeles freeways this summer, anything is possible -- and none of it is funny.

Don't tell me I'm becoming a humorless old prune. I say that anyone who finds threats and murder amusing is not someone I want to spend a second around.

Sure, I know, First Amendment, free country. I agree completely. I wouldn't demand that the owners of these stickers rip them off. I wouldn't sanction vigilantes doing it for them, either.

But can't we have a little self-policing in novelty stores and wherever else these little pieces of idiocy are sold?

It's bad enough to be told that I shouldn't come knocking if the van is rocking, and other such outpourings of the juvenile mind. Do I really need to be threatened with death when I'm only trying to get to the dentist?

On the other hand, this back-of-the-car item is funny. Very funny. Thanks to Harry Chamberlain of Sterling for his sharp eye.

Harry was heading into the parking lot of his office in McLean when he noticed a Ford in a visitor's space. The car had one of those ubiquitous BABY ON BOARD signs in the rear window. Or did it? On closer inspection, Harry saw that the yellow diamond really said EX-HUSBAND IN TRUNK.

No, that's not what's funny.

What's funny is what was hanging out of the trunk, just to one side of the license plate.

A tie.