They were a happy couple, warm, understanding and comfortable with each other. Now in their 10th year of marriage, they had weathered successfully conflicts that had cracked up many of their friend's marriages.

The arguments had long been settled: money (honeymoon year); who diapers the baby (second year); who takes out the trash (third year); how to decorate the house (fourth year), and so on. Even their politics had jelled, midway between his egalitarian ideals and her capitalistic heritage.

They were a typical, trendy, two-career Washington couple, he a lawyer, she a journalist, he liberated enough to take their kid to the day-care center picnic, she traditional enough to cook his dinner.

They though they had it knocked.

Then came the Great Gas Shortage of '79.

At first, they listened with mild alarm to news stories of dwindling supplies and forecasts of rising prices. This would cut into dinners out, or new lawn chairs. Then, those television shots of gas lines in California - how terrible.

When this happens here, they clucked as cameras panned to over-heating cars, we'll handle it, just as we pitched in together and handled the Bizzard of '79. And they braced themselves, as the Washington lines grew longer - and longer.

The moment of truth was not far away.

Early one morning, just before odd-even gas rationing went into effect, he rose first, as usual, and prepared the coffee. As she leafed through the newspaper, checking her own and her colleagues' work, he fired the first salvo:

"Since you have so much time this morning, why don't you go fuel up your car?"

She, aghast: "What are you saying? You promised you would fill it up, when you drove it all this week!"

As suddenly as a summer storm, the battle began.

"I know I promised, but I have important negotiations. I'll never make it in time if I have to wait in a gas line."

"Yeah, but I have an interview, and you promised you would, if I would fill up yours tomorrow. How can you do this to me?"

Their daughter ran for cover in the TV room.

"The gas lines are shorter where you're going."

"No, they're not."

"My negotiations can't wait!"

"Neither can my interview!"

"You're driving my car to empty!"

"You're using up all of mine!"

So much for the warm camaraderie of the Blizzard days.

The Great Gas Shortage loomed just as uncontrollable, but worse than a blizzard. When the snow socks you in, people can't move, and the city takes a break. But the gas shortage doesn't prevent anyone from moving. It just makes it harder.

Gas in your tank is time you don't have to spend in line. It's money.

So there's our couple, back to Square One. Arguing about money, and who does the chores. The unspoken issue: whose career is the more important.

Last seen, they were making progress. They both dressed for work, packed their briefcases and each took their cars, the same day, to the lines.