A news item on an inside page of Wednesday's paper informed us that the street lights along Beach Drive, which runs through Rock Creek Park, have been "permanently" turned off.
Manus J. Fish, head of the National Park Service, explained that $65,000 a year will be saved by turning off the lights.
You might be interested in some background on that item.
A Washington Post reporter checked the story by calling Jack Fish. The reporter was told that the lights would indeed be turned off.
The reporter had heard that turning off the lights was merely Act I in this drama. In Act II, Beach Drive would be closed after sundown "as a safety measure." After all, without nighttime lighting, the road would be dangerous.
So the reporter asked, "Is it your intention to follow the blackout by closing Beach Drive at sundown?"
"No," was the reply. "Why would we do that? We keep the George Washington Parkway open all night, and it has no lights."
Our reporter is a disciple of the Edward T. Folliard school of journalistic practice: "Just write what the man said." If the man said the lights would be turned off permanently, our reporter was content to write it that way. If the man said the road will not be closed after sundown, there was no need to go into that aspect of the matter. Or so he thought.
The truth is that our reporter was on the right track. My sources, which are in their fourth decade of complete reliability, assure me that a decision had been made to close Beach Drive after sundown each day -- heaven only knows why.
Perhaps it was to prevent commuters from using the park as a rush-hour traffic artery during half the year.
Or perhaps it was to prevent city dwellers from seeking refuge in relatively cool Rock Creek Park during a steaming summer night. Maybe the Park Service thinks our parks are meant to be used only by people who can afford to take off from work during the daytime, not by clods who must work all day to feed their families.
Now that our reporter has asked whether Beach Drive will be closed and has been given a flat denial, I hasten to put that denial on record. Surely not even the National Park Service would close the road now that an official denial of such intent has been publicly recorded.
P.S.: If we can save $65,000 a year by turning off the street lights along Beach Drive, how much could we save by turning off all street lights in the Washington area?
Jack Fish may have hit upon the magic formula that Mayor Barry has been looking for.
Let's turn off all street lights. If the first motorist who has a flat tire or becomes the victim of a robber in the middle of a black hole of darkness turns out to be Jack Fish or some other high official, or an official's wife, it may occur to somebody in the hierarchy to turn the lights back on.
If it is God's will that Somebody Really Important should be the first victim, I have a feeling the situation would quickly correct itself without the help of bumptious newspaper reporters. FOR THE RECORD
If it appears to you that I react intemperately to official decisions that are contrary to the best interests of average citizens, I commend you for being perceptive.
You are right. I am not just intemperate, I am outraged.
The decision to turn off the lights on Beach Drive reminds me of the lawyer who was rebuked by a sitting judge in a trial. The judge said, "Mr. Jones, I find you in contempt of this court."
"If it please the court" was the acerbic reply, "this is the first of your honor's rulings to which I cannot take exception."
Jack Fish is so devoted to the principle of keeping motorists out of his beloved parks that he seems ready to keep everybody out of them to make sure no motorists sneak in to share the benefits. Q & A
Rosemary Duffy phoned to say she has been asked to save all Universal Product Codes from grocery items she buys because "the National Kidney Foundation can trade them in for free time on kidney dialysis machines." She asks, "Can this possibly be true?"
If you think it can, dial 387-8730 and you will be told by the National Kidney Foundation that the work it does requires Yankee dollars, not Universal Product Codes.
File this one with the empty cigarette packages that are supposed to provide free time on a "lung machine." It just ain't so. ADD DEFINITIONS
Ever since Bo Derek became famous, everybody knows what a 10 is. But do you know what an 11 is?
An 11 is a 10 who doesn't get headaches.