Enough time has passed now to permit me to see the humor in the situation. But it wasn't very funny when it happened on Tuesday.
Monday night had lasted until 7 Tuesday morning. It was one of those nights of which the Pennsylvania Dutch would say, "The hurrieder I went, the behinder I got."
By the time I got home, both my body and my brain were too revved up for sleep. It took a long time to doze off. Just as I did, the phone near my bed rang.
We have two lines. Neither number is listed in the phone book. We keep one line open for incoming calls and use the other solely for outgoing calls. When I get up in the afternoon, I begin gathering column material by making a steady stream of calls on the outgoing line, which is in my den.
The incoming line can be jacked into a plug beside my bed before I go to sleep. Friends, known news sources and Washington Post editors have the number, but they know better than to call before noon.
When the phone near my bed rang at 8 a.m., I thought an editor had found an error in my column, but the young man on the other end merely wanted to talk to Dottie. I suggested that he try dialing Dottie's number more carefully.
I was just falling asleep again when a ringbanger came to our door. A ringbanger is a deliveryman who rings your doorbell with one hand and at the same moment begins pounding on the door with the other.
This ringbanger wanted me to take custody of a package for a neighbor. I took it with no show of bad temper.
Back to bed I went, wondering whether it was still possible to get a few hours of sleep before the afternoon calls began coming in.
In about 20 minutes, the phone in the den rang. That just had to be a wrong number. Only the phone company and I know the number of the line in the den. But you know how we Americans are: When a phone bell rings, we trot off to answer it.
It was a nice lady from the Washington Star who asked whether I would like to subscribe. Most newspaper circulation solicitors make calls to lists of "new move-ins," but this woman was using a different system. She was just dialing every number in the exchange.
When I got back to bed, I was seething. I said to myself, "The next guy who calls is going to get an earful." But my soliloquy was interrupted by a banger. Not a ringbanger.Just a banger.
Without bothering to ring the doorbell, he began pounding on the front door.
It sounded as if he was using the butt of a rifle. Even my wife woke up, and it takes a 6 on the Richter scale to awaken her. "Who is it?" she asked in alarm. "The Gestapo," I responded as I hastened to the door. The banger was a meter reader from the Gas Company. I got to the door just in time to see him disappear, and found the "read-your-own-meter" card he had left behind.
"I'm surrounded by assassins," I said when I got back to bed.
"Try to calm down and get a couple of hours of sleep," my wife urged.
What would we men do without such priceless advice?
I slept for about 15 minutes before the bedside phone rang again. I grabbed it up and barked, "Whatever you want, the answer is NO."
A familiar voice from the other end responded with great patience, "What would it take to transform you into a nice, civilized, liberal Democrat?"
It was old friend Danny Kaye, in town as a UNICEF volunteer, calling to tell me he had just read my Monday column urging support for that worthy organization. What a pleasant surprise! Here was a man who has devoted 26 years to raising millions of dollars for UNICEF calling to say "thanks" for my help in collecting nickels and dimes.
We spoke of many things, including plans to get together. Then I really did go to sleep for four wonderful hours.
When Danny called again on Wednesday to tell me had to catch a plane for the West Coast, he explained that he was going to conduct the Salt Lake City Symphony Orchestra to raise money for its pension fund.
"You've raised millions for symphony pension funds all over the world," I said, "but never there."
"You sound like Slava," Danny said. "Every time I see Rostropovich he says (and here Danny shifted into a heavy Russian accent), 'Danny, when are you going to conduct the National Symphony?' One of these days, I'll do it."
"We won't settle for 'one of these days,'" I said. "I'm going to ask Paul Hume to get after the symphony manager and set up a firm date. Is it a deal?"
"It's a deal," he said. And i immediately called Hume, who thought it was a wonderful idea and said he'd go to work on it at once. Now that I think about it, losing all that sleep wasn't as important as I thought it was.