The weekend mail posed many problems. I have no solutions to suggest, so I will have to pass the problems along to you with minimal comment.
The first is from a woman who lives in Forestville and asks that her identity not be revealed. She writes:
"I have been ordered to report for jury duty to the courthouse in Upper Marlboro.
"I haver never driven a car. I called Metro and was informed there is no bus service to Upper Marlboro. The jury commissioner told me lack of transportation is no excuse for failing to report for jury duty.
"I can walk 12 miles to Upper Marlboro and then walk back.
"I can try to hitchhike there and back.
"I can ask my husband to take a week off from work to drive me back and forth each day.
"I know it is my civic duty to serve on a jury panel, but isn't it somebody else's duty to provide public transportation for people who do not drive private automobiles? Please don't use my name in the paper. I might get cited for complaining about this."
Ever since the Arab oil embargo, every mention of anybody driving anywhere in a private auto has irritated some readers, and a few of them have subjected me to a steady flow of mail on this subject. They assume that everybody lives on or near a bus line or subway line that operates on a 24-hour schedule and serves all portions of the metropolitan area. Therefore they consider it "obscene" for anybody to drive a private automobile. I wonder how these critics of the private auto would feel if the tables were turned -- if they lived in Forestville, didn't own a car, and were ordered to begin reporting for jury duty in Upper Marlboro every morning. Would they hike back and forth each day?
Harold R. McGee of Arlington is a "steam engineer, class 3." To work in the District of Columbia, he must buy an appropriate license from our Office of Licenses and Permits.
This license, says Harold, used to cost $8 a year. The fee was recently increased to $40 for two years, or 2 1/2 times the previous charge.
Harold is also unhappy about the lack of efficiency in the office. He says there are a lot of people there who are "doing nothing, talking on the phone or reading newspapers on government time."
He calls the processing of renewal applications "an obsolete chain of events" and adds: "When you file your renewal application, the person at the counter writes you a slip by hand which must be taken to another room for processing, and the whole thing wastes ore than two hours of your precious time. If several licenses are to be processed together, a handwritten slip must accompany each. Money intended to cover the amount of these licenses has to be broken down into increments of $40 and attached to each individual slip, and all of this paperwork than carried to the cashier's window."
Harold says it seems to him that there are too many people on the payroll in "all" D.C. government offices and that many who are there do not appear to be functioning efficiently. It irks him to see permit fees subjected to such a steep increase for the purpose of "maintaining an excessively staffed bureaucracy." Inasmuch as I am totally unqualified to have an opinion as to whether any office of the D.C. government has too many employees, too few, or just the right number, I can make no comment.
William S. Gouled of Bethesda has a commplaint about which I do know a little bit.He had clipped and sent to me a headline that appeared in our Metro section recently. The headline said, "Jews to Begin Yom Kippur Fete."
District Liner Gouled asks, "How can a day of fasting be headlined as a feast? You really should teach your new computer better usage."
Objection sustained. A fete is a festival, an entertainment, especially a gala outdoor entertainment. One can assume that the headline in question was not written by an editor who had ever spent a day in fasting and praying for forgiveness without so much as a sip of water to wet his whistle. That ain't no picnic, let alone a fete.
Speaking of wetting one's whistle: Paul T. Luebke had forwarded to me a menu from the Brasserie & Coffee Shop located in Mall 2 of the Rosslyn Center. It lists coffee or tea 40 cents each, and iced coffee or iced tea at 50 cents each (presumable because "ice costs money"). The menu does not list "Water, 15 cents," but that is the amount Paul says the shop charges for a glass of water.
Dear, dear! I think I will spend today's lunch hour in fasting and praying for a return to more reasonable pricing.
The same principle that is the basis for charging 15 cents for a glass of water could justify 20 cents for a napkin, 21 cents for dishwashing, and 1 1/2 cents for wear and tear on carpet.