On Wednesday evening, I glanced through the news stories that were being prepared for publication in Thursday's Metro section. I found one story of special interest.
Its opening words were, "While the federal government has been probing the illegal dumping of usable government office furniture, government employees continue to throw it away."
The next paragraph cited chapter and verse: "Yesterday at 8:30 a.m., a blue and yellow GAS truck pulled into the landfill at 600 E. Gude Rd. and emptied a load of desks, chairs and conference tables in front of a bulldozer for burial." Records at the landfill indicated that the furniture had come from HEW.
The operator of the bulldozer said he had been ordered to cursh the stuff and bury it "immediately." Ordinarily, immediate burial is requested only for "election files or chemicals." (I suppose either category can burn a guy if he's not careful.)
The bulldozer operator followed orders and crushed the furniture at once. He said he would have liked to salvage some of it for himself, but he was told, "No way." The instructions were to get it out of sight right away. Nobody explained why.
I went to staff writer Mike Sager, who had written the story, and said, "Who told you all this happened the way you wrote it? Who told you the furniture they destroyed and buried was good, usable stuff?"
"Nobody told me," he said. "I saw it. I was there."
"How could you tell that the furniture was in good condition? I persisted. "How close to it did you get?"
"As close as I am to you," Mike said. "I could run my fingers over it. When I told the inspector general's office at HEW about what I had seen, they were very upset to learn that this sort of thing is still going on, and they thanked me for telling them."
What I can't understand is this: If The Washington Post can spare the manpower to locate acres of furniture that the government doesn't know it owns, and if The Washington Post can spare the manpower to keep an eye on the dump where funiture is being buried -- even as millions of dollars are being spent to buy new furniture -- why can't the government also find the manpower for such tasks? HEW has more than 144,000 full-time employees. Heaven only knows how many GSA has. Can't each government department spare one man to monitor such practices?
Afterthought: Perhaps what we need on this assignment is not a man but a frugal woman -- the kind of woman who raises a family, keeps it out of debt, and manages to save a little something for a rainy day while married to a husband who makes a modest salary. SOMEBODY GOOFED
On Wednesday, a letter to our editor complained that the escalators in the Farragut West Metro station were improperly programmed on the morning of Oct. 9. Most people were trying to go up, but the single "up" escalator in service was unable to handle the load.
When a station attendant phoned a supervisor to ask for permission to stop the "down" escalator, so that people could walk up or down on that one, he was told not to. Readers were left to wonder why.
I asked, and the answer from Metor was that the supervisor goofed. His decision was contrary to Metro's planning and policy.
Earl Long, in charge of planning for Farragut West, was unhappy when he heard about the incident. He is now trying to find out who goofed. FINANCIAL NEWS
Ruth G. Adler, vice presient of the A. G. Edwards & Sons brokerage house, writes:
"Reports indicate that the new spring and summer fashions will feature short skirts for women. Remember the old hemline theory? It says that when hemlines go up, the stock market goes up."
Women of American, it is your solemn duty to go out and buy new wardrobes so that we can test the hemline theory. Even if the market doesn't go up, we'll all be in a better mood. EVENTUALLY, IT WILL
Speaking of wearing apparel, Waldo E. Smith suggests that I need a new picture for use with this column.
"It is autumn, " he notes. "You can put on your tie."
It is indeed autumn, but I avoid neckties whenever I can, winter and summer. In fact, when a friend saw me in a tuxedo a few night ago, he stared in disbelief. "I didn't think you owned a shirt and tie," he said.
Unfortunately, I own a hundred ties and have often been tempted to sell the entire lot to the rag man. I have retained them only to test a necktie theory I've been working on. I think that if men refuse to wear their neckties, the stock market will go up.