The Los Angeles Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) has criticized Rosalynn Carter for following the Saudi Arabian custom of walking several feet behind her husband during his trip to the Middle Eastern nation.

The LA persons complained that Mrs. Carter should not have gone if she could not walk beside the President, instead of bringing up the rear.

While NOW may have a point, another school of thought says the custom of walking behind one's husband is not demeaning and has many advantages. This school, which meets at McNulty's Bar and Grill around the corner from my office, was in session late in the afternoon the day the LA protest story appeared in the newspapers.

I believe it was Nolan who brought it up. "I don't think we should be too critical a Arab customs, even though they're socking it us on the oil."

Novak agreed. "There are many advantages to a wife walking behind her husband and the American woman should examine them before she criticizes Mrs. Carter."

"What are they?" McNulty wanted to know.

"Well, for one things," Novak said, "if the wife walks behind the husband she can tell if anyone is following him."

"I'll drink to that," Doyle said.

"For another, she can warn her husband if a camel is going to knock him down," Novak continued.

"But camels don't knock down husbands in America," Siegel protested.

"They don't now," Novak replied.

"But they might at some future time."

"I'll drink to that," Doyle said again.

"Suppose it's a slushy day and cars are splashing people on the sidewalk. A wife, if she's walking behind her husband, could caution him in time and he could jump out of the way," Stevens said.

"She could also keep her eyes open when her husband walks under a scaffolding, and throw her body in the way in case someone accidentally dropped a brick," Novak added.

"That's true," Evans agreed. "If she was walking next to him they both might be killed. Walking behind your husband is no different from flying in different airplanes to protect the children,"

Doyle raised his glass. "I'll even drink to that."

"If the husband is up in front, and the wife is behind, she can keep an eye on him in case he starts ogling pretty girls walking the other way," Hackett said.

Someone said, "And let's not forget muggers. It's much safer for a couple to walk in tandem. Then one or the other can scream for help."

"I don't see why the NOW people are so uptight about Rosalynn walking behind her husband," Novak said. "It gave a lot of dignity to the President's trip to Saudi Arabia, and provided the press with its most newsworthy story."

Someone at the end of the bar chimed in. "You're right. The trip could have been a bust if the Carters walked together, especially since they had done it already at their Inauguration. What's wrong with the First Lady following in her husband's footsteps?"

I guess it was Nolan who summed it up when he said, "American women could learn a lot from the customs of Saudi Arabia. Everyone knows the only reason it's the richest country in the world is because their women walk behind their men."

Doyle was delighted with this last thought and without even making an announcement drank to it.