"One day while shaving," the letter begins, "I asked the man in the mirror what actions he would take if he were President, and Congress had given him power to issue decrees that had the full force and effect of laws."

Below is what Mr. Mirrorface replied. I found it strikingly sane. If Jimmy Carter were to run for reelection with the following as a platform, it says here that he'd waltz in.

1) Ban all singing TV commercials.

2) Institute a 25-cent fine for all who appear on TV and say "y'know."

3) Institute a $1 fine for all who appear on TV and pronounce stomach "stummick." Double the fine for all who pronounce Potomac "Puh-toe mick."

4) Ban football games in August and September because they violate the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

5) Allow demonstrations, but forbid any coverage of them in the media, on grounds that there are too many publicity-hungry types already.

6) Establish a cabinet-level Department of Worry. Give it immediate responsibility for "SALT II, OPEC, Japanese beetles, Jane Fonda, crabgrass, Ralph Nader and all other worrisome things."

(Our man would also insist on putting his wife in charge of the DOW. "One time," he says, "I asked her to let me worry about something -- I've forgotten what it was -- and she said, 'But you don't worry properly.'")

7) Finally (and clinchingly), "I would require all newspapers to carry a column somewhat similar to The District Line where from time to time good things are reported."

My correspondent signed his manifesto, but he asked to have his name withheld. He has two reasons.

One: "Somebody might nominate me and I might get elected and I really don't have time for the job because it would interfere with my golf, and . . . "

Two: "My wife would kill me."

Any season of the year is chain-letter season, but a particularly awful strike-it-rich promise is making the rounds in the Washington area lately.

It warns you that if you break the chain, you might die, or that a loved one might, or that you might lose your job.

Mildred and Dominic Costagliola, of Hyattsville, sent in the sheet -- it appears Xeroxed -- that they received last week in the mail.

Who sent it to them? "We have no idea," the Costagliolas wrote.

The chain claims to have originated in the Netherlands. The current edition claims to have been started by someone named Saul Anthony de Creif, in Venezuela.

According to the letter, the chain is 26 years old and has circled the earth nine times.

The letter offers the usual tales of who has won how much. It urges the recipient to mail 20 copies within four days "to people you think need good luck."

Then it says:

"While in the Phillippines, General Welch lost his wife six days after he received the letter (and) failed to circulate (it)."

Then it says:

"Carlo Dacitt, an office employee, received the chain, forgot it and a few days later lost his job."

After that, it says:

"Delon Fairchild received the chain and, not believing it, threw it away. Nine days later he died.

It closes with the following:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and He will acknowledge."

The hellfire-and-brimstone implications are hard to miss.

Dave Shank, a Washington postal inspector and a chain-letter specialist, said it is unusual for chain letters to threaten and frighten, as this one does.

"But we do see a few like this," Shanks said. "Great stuff, huh?"

Not in my book.

If you are asked to keep one of these chains going, Shank suggests you follow the advice of the Costagliolas:

"Break it."

Evidentally Catch-22 is alive and well in the Era of Gaslessness.

Richard Sanford, of Silver Spring, calls to say that he and some friends went on vacation the weekend before last.

They had all been raised to be good boys and girls. So they parked their cars outside one friend's house and went to the country en masse in that friend's van.

When they got back, Sanford's car -- and all the others belonging to his fellow van-poolers -- had been ticketed.

Sin: parking more than 48 hours in one place.

"If this law is enforced uniformly, it may make car pooling on weekends a very risky thing to do," said Sanford.

A wince-worthy witticism from Bennett Moser Willis, of McLean:

He hears that Exxxxxxxon is expanding its operations.

Shel is cutting back.

Gulphe is aiming for the upscale market.

And Txaco is taking its ease.

Bill Gold is on vacation. His column will resume on his return.