The last time I went to a political convention was in Atlantic City back in the '60s.

My most vivid memory of it (aside from some spectacular entrances by members of the Kennedy family) was that they sold little plastic things to put on your stiletto heels (remember them?) to keep them from sticking in the cracks between the boards in the boardwalk. I found a pair at the bottom of a box a few months ago, and it took me days to remember what they were or where I got them.

Somebody on that boardwalk was thinking "survival."

That's not a bad thought to take to a political convention.

Nobody at the Democratic convention operation in New York seemed to be thinking survival at all this week. Nobody seemed to be able to find anybody to talk about things like what's being arranged for nonsmokers or even where and how medical emergencies will be handled.

So, since no help is forthcoming from the Dems, (which the GOP has been saying all along) and inasmuch as a convention is a convention is a convention and television is a wondrous thing, here, based on limited experience, a lot of viewing time and some healthful generalties is a kind of Baedeker for winning even if you lose. . . .

Your foremost thought while you are on the floor or anywhere in the hall, for that matter, should be that the camera may be on YOU. THINGS TO REMEMBER NOT TO DO:

Mouthing obscenities. Lots of lip readers out there.

Adjusting inmentionables.

Fondling someone other than the someone you left at home.

Ostentatiously drinking out of bottle or flask.

Anything at all -- blasting, sniffing, snorting, sharing -- to do with tokes and coke. THINGS TO REMEMBER TO DO:

Use your handkerchief. Those cameramen love to catch people who don't.

Smile a lot. It looks great on camera and, besides, it relaxes the muscles in your face. (It is also very disconcerting to opponents.)

"Politics and poker/politics and poker/make the average guy/a heavy smoker." Sheldon Harnick in "Fiorello."

Smoke-filled rooms, in fact, will get you more than a losing ticket. Take a headache, for example. And it won't help much if it's not you who's smoking. A roomful of everybody else's smoke can deprive your body of oxygen and hurt your breathing. THE "OTHER WORLD" FEELING:

Any convention can lend participants a sense of being on another planet. This may encourage a feeling that the general dictates and disciplines of your life may be tossed out for the few days you are in outer space, but there's a piper to be paid for that, too: MUNCHIES AND THIRSTIES:

gOverindulging can cause gastritis symptoms that can feel like a heart attack or heart attack symptoms that feel like gastritis. If you don't feel so good, tell somebody.

Even better, don't overeat or drink. Slip an orange or an apple -- you can get oranges and apples in New York, honest -- into a pocket or bag. And try club soda with lime. You don't look like you're drinking so you don't have to answer impertinent questions. It's a better thirst quencher than anything alcoholic, even beer. It's more patriotic than Perrier.

LAZIES: The feel-good chemicals in the brain that may be stimulated by exercise can leave you feeling vaguely depressed after cold turkey inactivity. So try to do a little. Like running in place in your room, maybe. (Forget about the person underneath.) And don't be dumb about jogging in the Manhattan summer sun. Every vote counts, you know.

And don't knock walking around the Garden as mild exercise. (If you're smart, you'll wear your low-cut heeled sensibles with a confidence that will surely turn smug when you watch high-heeled colleagues limping along around the second day. . .)

FRIENDLIES: If you left the someone you usually fondle back home, it's up to you to opt or not for a temporary sub. However you ought to know that there are more than 20 infections (not ot mention other kinds of things that are joked about but not spoken of) which can be affectionally transmitted. WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK

Jimmy/Ted/Edmund/Fritz/Scoop/Amy/Darkhorse IS WINNING/LOSING:

Get away from it all. And if you want to put it in perspective, go watch Linda Ronstadt as Mabel in the Joseph Papp production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" in Central Park. W. S. Gilbert, through the Pirate King, said it all in 1880. Just substitute "politician" for "king," which is what he had in mind anyway:

"And many a king on a first class throne/If he wants to call his throne his own/Must manage somehow to get through/More dirty work than ever I do."

Finally, you can always go home.