What if . . . .

There were a cab stand near the National Airport subway station, and not half a mile away at one of the terminals? I sometimes need to get to Old Town Alexandria or Fairfax County from downtown Washington. I could try for a cab at the King Street station, but the stand there is sometimes deserted. The most reliable way is to ride the train to the airport, and a cab the rest of the way. But when you factor in the sizable hike, in the often-sizable Washington humidity, it seems like a struggle. It shouldn't.

There were a way to stamp your hand as you leave a huge parking lot, so you wouldn't have to remember that you left the buggy in Lane 2 of the red level? Many is the time I've stashed the car at Union Station or Mazza Gallerie and forgotten to write down the location. For the rest of the day, I mumble "Two Red" to myself, as if I were a quarterback calling signals. A little automation could save dummies like me from themselves.

Washington-area families invited recently arrived members of the armed forces home for dinner? Over the summer, while riding the bus downtown from Bolling Air Force Base, I listened to two enlisted men discussing their social lives since arriving in the nation's capital. It was a very brief conversation. Can't we longtime Washingtonians open our doors? The USO can provide the people. But only we can provide the generosity.

They held a beautiful-building contest in Rosslyn, and nobody won? If there has ever been an uglier collection of office buildings, or a homelier collection of motels, I don't want to see them. (Yes, USA Today, you're an exception.)

Movie theaters kept a Disney classic on hand for weekdays when it snows? We parents know all too well how the drill goes. The kid is delighted by his unexpected freedom, so he goes sledding for a couple of hours. Then he thaws out for a couple of hours. Then he starts moaning that he has nothing to do. So Dear Old Mom (or, increasingly, her spouse) trots out the paper and hunts up the movie ads. Whoops! Everything is rated R or X. If neighborhood theaters would automatically start running "The Little Mermaid" at noon on days when snow cancels school, we would be a saner nation.

Gas stations wouldn't hire full-serve attendants until they all learned how to open every hood correctly? The hood on the latest Leveymobile opens toward the front of the car, not away from it. I have just called Detroit and learned that 47,471 cars exactly like mine were sold in America in the last 12 months. So my car is not exactly a creature from outer space. Yet most service station jockeys try to open my hood the "normal" way. No one has bent the springs into a hopeless pretzel -- yet. But I am getting sick and tired of leaping out of the car at the last second and yelling, "No! No! It opens the other way!" Please, attendants. Memorize this simple catechism: Reasonably priced cars open away from you, overpriced cars open toward you.

Record and tape stores placed the classical music at the front and the bone-rattling rock at the rear? Some tin ears might find themselves transformed.

Metro officially renamed the "Metro Center" station "Metro Center-12th Street"? Many is the time I've overheard a tourist standing before a route map and mumbling to himself, "Wonderful. Metro Center is where you transfer between Red, Blue and Orange. But where does it let me out?" Two little words, and confusion would disappear forever.

We all give a cheer for the businesses and residents of downtown Silver Spring? For nearly a decade, they've endured the traffic crunch that's part of the equation when you're at the end of a subway line. Now that trains will run a few miles farther north, and Silver Spring will become just another stop, all those near the former Red Line terminus deserve a break -- and a round of applause for their good grace.

Every retailer were required to place a sticker on his merchandise revealing the base cost to him, as car dealers must? We'd never stop dickering.

The people who complain about the polluted Potomac River had been around 20 years ago? That wasn't mud floating around in our chief artery way back then, kiddies. It was something much more pungent and health-threatening. We'll call it "pre-sludge," for you delicate ones out there. In any case, the Potomac is heaven-sent compared with the days when raw sewage was dumped into it. We should count our blessings, and use our memories.

Sidewalk vendors around town were all given GS-15 jobs at the National Weather Service? They're the best forecasters around. Stroll around downtown at lunch hour, and it may look balmy to you. But the vendors know better, because they're selling umbrellas. Sure enough, at 5 p.m., the heavens open up.

TV sportscaster Frank Herzog ever got all the credit he deserves? Still has that twinkly smile, after all these years.

Apostrophes were outlawed? We'd never see ads for french frie's again.