Eva Kennedy paid a fee to play bingo in a game sponsored by the Annandale Boys Club. A dispute ensued.

Kennedy says she achieved a "jackpot" bingo in fewer than 54 calls and was therefore entitled to a prize of $6,000. However, the Annandale Boys Club, which operates "one of the largest bingo operations in Northern Virginia" and grosses about $500,000 a year from it, says Kennedy's bingo did not come until the 55th call. The club offered Kenney $100 instead of the $6,000 she thought was due her.

Kennedy sued. She wanted a court of law to establish who was telling the truth.

Washington Post staff writer Liza Bercovici covered the hearing for us. Her story said Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Burch Millsap ruled that Kennedy "cannot get the prize, even if she is entitled to it, because bingo is a form of gambling. And under Virginia law, gambling debts cannot be enforced by the courts."

What a marvelous piece of legal mumbo jumbo: Even if you're entitled to it, you can't get it, so we won't even go into the question of whether you're entitled to it.

Blaine Friedlander, a lawyer for the Boys Club, explained it this way: "The theory is, people shouldn't gamble, and if they do gamble, the courts shouldn't collect" their debts for them.

In other words, he's saying that his client the Boys Club entices people to do something they shouldn't do -- something so contrary to the public interest that the law prohibits it and the courts will not adjudicate disputes that arise from it.

His argument deserves serious study by people who can't decide whether to patronize a Boys Club bingo game or stay home and hit themselves in the head with a hammer.

Logic and common sense indicate that when charitable organizations are permitted by law to sponsor bingo games, disputes that arise from those games should have the same access to judicial review as every other dispute that grows out of a legal activity. But, alas! Lawyers sometimes meander far afield from logic and common sense.

Kennedy's claim should be judged on its merits. For a judge to throw it out on the grounds that it grew out of an illegal activity, he must take the position that the state legislature authorized charitable organizations to engage in illegal acts. That's absurd on the face of it.

'SNO JOKE

Frances K. Babbin of Arlington became a crime statistic the day after snow fell last week. Somebody stole her snow shovel.

Frances is having trouble adjusting to the fact that anybody would stoop to steal such an inexpensive item. And right off her front porch, at that!

A few comments may be in order:

In an era in which people steal Christmas decorations and welfare checks, it is not surprising to learn that they also steal snow shovels.

A mere show shovel isn't as mere as it used to be. Prices have been escalating.

If you try to replace a snow shovel late in the season, you discover that there just aren't any to be had. Local stores order them in the fall, sell out what they have, and then don't reorder until the following fall. Buy now, if it isn't already too late.

Loss of a snow shovel may be a blessing in disguise. You can hire a neighborhood lad or lass to do the shoveling and avoid risking a heart attack.

POSTSCRIPT

In writing the foregoing item, it was necessary for me to consult the Webster III listings for words formed from the prefix snow .

I learned that snowball, snowbird, snowbush, snowcap, snowdrift, snowdrop, snowfall, snowflake, snowman, snowshoe, snowslide, snowstorm and snowsuit are all written as one word.

So are snowblower and snowplow. But "snow shovel" is two words.

How do such arbitrary distinctions come into being? They look like something a committee of lawyers might have worked out.

SMILE ANYHOW

Bob Orben comments, "If the farmers' idea was to bring the government to a grinding halt, Civil Service beat them to it."

But he has a suggestion for getting even. In April, we'll all drive out to Kansas and blockade a wheat field.

Cornfield is one word but wheat field is two. Go figure it out.