Most of the popular chain letter "prayers" now being circulated ask each recipient to send out 20 copies at once, and threaten dire consequences if the chain is broken.

People who are superstitious and fearful of the letter's threats often turn to their office photocopiers for help. They run off 20 copies of the copy that was sent to them, and then circulate those reproductions of a reproduction.

Inasmuch as this has been going on for some time, the letters that are being received now may be the 50th or 100th generation of an original. It's small wonder that many have become almost illegible.

I have a suggestion that could be of tremendous help to our country. I suggest that somebody start a new chain letter just like the previous ones except for one tiny change. In the sentence that says the recipient must send out 20 copies or risk dire consequences, I suggest that the words "legibly handwritten " be inserted between "20" and "copies."

If the millions of chain letters that move through our mails each day were handwritten, everybody's off-duty hours would be spent in laboriously copying chain letters by hand. People would have little time to go places or use their automobiles for frivolities. Demand for gasoline would plummet. The fuel crisis would be over.

I will accept no remuneration from the government for this brilliant idea. I think it is every citizen's duty to help out in time of national emergency.

STORY TIME

The magazine Forecast! has an exclamation mark in its title, just as the Broadway musical "Oklahoma!" does.

Forecast! is a monthly publication that covers entertainment and broadcasting activities in the Washington-Baltimore area - especially news of music broadcasts. In its June issue, H. Donald Spatz tells two stories you might find interesting.

The first is about "Arthur Rubinstein's greatest ovation."

The performance had been sold out for weeks. By the night of the concert, seats were placed on the stage to accommodate additional listeners.

Rubinstein played well and was generously applauded. As he was returning to the center of the stage after the fifth encore, he noticed a white-haired woman in one of the stage chairs struggling to get into her coat.

The great pianist went to her at once and helped her put on the coat. The crowd went wild. "That night," Rubinstein recalled, "I had the greatest ovation of my life. Much more than for my playing."

The second story is about a man who brings a small dog to a theatrical agent's office. "This dog is a sensational entertainer," the man says. To bear him out, the dog immediately bursts into song, follows with a snappy dance routine, and then goes to the piano and gives a stunning performance of a Chopin Polonaise.

The agent's eyes are popping. "A great act," he says as he reaches for the telephone. "I'll call Las Vegas right away. I can get you a fortune for that act."

At this moment the office door bursts open, a big dog bounds in, picks up the little dog by the scruff of the neck, and stalks out with him.

"What the hell was that all about?" the theatrical agent asks.

The other man sighs resignedly. "That was the dog's mother," he explains. "She wants him to be a doctor."

Speaking of music broadcasts, Lloyd Foster of Temple Hills writes: "I recommend that you give a listen to WAYE in Baltimore at 860 on the AM dial. This is a daylight station that broadcasts nearly all the big-band type music with not too many advertisements between. (They may not be making much money.) If you enjoyed Goodman, Dorsey, Kemp, Teagarden, Shaw and the many other outstanding orchestras of the old days, I think you will like this station." Thanks, Lloyd. I'll give WAYE a try, although I'm much too young to recognize most of the names you mention. I know Dorsey was the gal who married Marvin Mandel, but isn't Shaw a neighborhood?

THE SORE LOSER

M.B. writes: "Before the Belmont, the TV experts said Spectacular Bid was on his toes, and that was a good sign. Good sign for what? Did they think he was getting ready to appear in a ballet? It looks to me like a case of bid three, made two. Down one, vulnerable."

HOW DO YOU MEASURE UP?

A sign in The Washington Post's health center cautions:

"A U.S. life insurance company has calculated that for each inch a man's waistline exceeds his chest measurement, he can deduct two years from his life expectancy."