If one universal wish exists, it's for more time. And in the spring of 1979 it was granted to Californians and to undeserving residents of other places as well.

Like all fairy-tale wishes come true, it had one catch. The extra time came in the gas line.

Understandably enough, many people do not recognize this free time as the boon it is. They do not fully comprehend the power of positive waiting, the art of making the best of a situation that couldn't get much worse.

While the possibilities are not endless, there are a number of things you can do while waiting to feed that hungry tiger in your tank.

Other than drumming impatiently on the dashboard and humming, "I got plenty o' nothin' . . ." Other than fuming at the car stalled two ahead at the pump . . .

Here are 15 ways to beat the gas-line blues:

Roll down your window and get half a suntan - unless you have a sun-roof or convertible top. (If it's raining, slouch down and scowl; it's your right as a consumer.)

Fill in your second child's baby book. Try to remember what present your 11-year-old got from Aunt Hilda on his first birthday.

Think of a good rear bumper sticker for Carter's car or an Arab's Cadillac.

Organize your bundle of grocery coupons according to type of product. (Discard those which expired in 1975.)

Assume, if you're into yoga, a very patient lotus position and prepare to wait until bloomsday.

If you're a Catholic, say the rosary. About four times.

If you're a mystery-writer, plot a gripping whodunit: Carter, the oil companies, Arabs, over-sized campers, etc.

Walk the dog, making sure to linger near the tree at the gas station.

If you happen to be a passenger or have passengers . . .

Get a temporary job as a gas-station attendant until your driver pulls up for a fill-up.

If you're near a residential area on a weekend, check out the nearby garage sales.

Freshen up in the wash room. Wash and blow dry your hair. Shave.

Illustrate for your children the economic principle of supply and demand. Turn and point to the growing line behind you.

Count the pedestrians and/or cyclists who pass by smiling smugly or shaking their heads. (The kids will love this one.)

Tell the children you're going on a picnic. Then pull into line and dig into the picnic basket.

Jog around the block at least twice before you have to move the car up. Bring skateboards or roller skates for the kids.

Finally, a special suggestion for gas-station managers: Run a contest. Have motorists try to guess how many gallons are left in your underground tank by closing time. Plan for multiple prizes in case several customers answer, "Zero!" CAPTION: Picture, no caption, by Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post