At 4:10 a.m., I had already completed my night's work, returned home and parked my car. On some noghts the words just fall into place more quickly than on others, I guess.

As I walked toward my house, I became aware of scores of red and blue lights blinking through the darkness, perhaps 500 yards away.

Most of the lights were arranged in parallel vertical rows and appeared to rise to a height of about 30 feet. They blinked in a regular cadence that suggested they had been programmed that way for some reason.

No plausible explanation for the lights suggested itself, so there was nothing to do except approach closer to investigate. As I drew nearer, I remember thinking, "Lord, if is Thy will that I be taken prisoner by an alien race, please let it be by a race that has not invented the telephone."

About a block from my house, I was close enough to the blinking lights to recognize what they were. One of my neighbors has not yet taken down his Christmas decorations, and apparently on this night somebody in his household had flipped the wrong switch.

Well, for years I have been yearning for a first-hand look at an unidentified flying object, but it now appears that the closest I'm going to come to realizing that wish is an identified nonflying object. Life is filled with sadness, isn't it?


District Liners have been sending me a variety of "sure-fire" suggestions for making strikes less attractive to public service employees who are covered by laws that prohibit strikes.

One says extra unpaid duties should be assigned as punishment, another prefers "transfers to less desirable or distant assignments, just to teach them some discipline." Others suggest that strikers be punished by diminishing such benefits as seniority and pension rights. Some recommend the firing of "ringleaders" and "identifiable pickets."

I'm afraid it would be a waste of time to study these proposals and determine what merit there is in them. It has become clear that laws forbidding strikes by public service workers have no effect on unions that choose to strike. When strikers are ready to go back to work, they insist on amnesty -- at least for rank-and-file members -- and usually get it.

Under these circumstances, what would be accomplished by adding new punishment laws that would also be disregarded in a final compromise to get strikers back on the job?


Col. Robert J. Thompson was puzzled when he received a letter from the Prince George's County Animal Control Commission recently.

The letter informed Thompson that complaints had been received about "an alleged nuisance being created for your neighbors in permitting your horse to be at large."

The commission had sent the letter to 33 Wessex Lane, "Camp Springs, Md. 20023." The Postal Service delivered it to Thompson, who lives at 7215 Wessex Drive (not Lane), in Temple Hills. His ZIP number is 20031, not 20023. Thompson says he owns no horse, "not even a dog or cat," and that a map of Prince George's County shows no Wessex Lane, Road, Street, Boulevard or anything else except his own little two-block-long Wessex Drive.

Thompson's solution to the mixup is simplicity itself. He has asked the Animal Control Commission to tell him where to locate the errant horse. He wants to sell it.


A Bethesda reader writes: "Art Buchwald wrote an article recently about the embarrassment of people whose children live with, but are not married to, roommates of opposite sex. They never know how to introduce their child's partner.

"A friend of mine whose daughter lives with a bachelor has his own solution to the problem. He introduces the man as, 'my sin-in-law.'"

Well, what should he do -- be bitter? There used to be laws against such cohabitation, but they suffered the same fate as the laws that prohibit strikes by public service workers. Changing times and changing attitudes obliterate old standards, regardless of what is written into law.


Hoosier Herm Albright reports that he saw a bumper sticker that said, "If You Could Squeeze This Car, You'd Get Lemonade."