"Let's have an early dinner and then watch the election results," I told my wife Tuesday night.

"That's a good idea," she agreed. "It's going to be a long evening, but we'll get a head start."

We finished dinner at 8:15 p.m. and then went into the living room to sit back and watch what the pollsters had predicted would be one of the closest elections in history. I flipped on the set and heard either Tom Brokaw or John Chancellor announce, "NBC has projected that Ronald Reagan will be the next president of the United States."

"What the hell is going on?" I asked my wife. "I haven't even finished my yogurt yet."

"Look at the map. The eastern part of it is all blue."

"It takes Archie Bunker longer to open a door than it does to decide a presidential election," I said.

"How do they know?" my wife said.

"I think they use an exit poll. They ask a black man in Buffalo, a Jewish man in Virginia, a housewife in Florida, a med student in Ohio and a steelworker in Pennsylvania who they voted for, and then they start making the map all blue for Reagan. Would you care to play a game of Scrabble?"

"If we had known what was going to happen," my wife said, "we could have had an early dinner after the election results."

"I can't believe it," she said. "The polls aren't even closed in three-quarters of the states."

Since I had nothing to do, I called Bernheim in California. I got him at his office.

"Where are you going tonight to watch the election results?"

"To Phyliss and Don's," he said. "I have to go home and get cleaned up first, and then vote."

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Alain."

"Why not?"

"Reagan won, and there isn't a thing anyone in California can do about it."

"What do you mean he won? It's only 5:15 p.m. here. How could he have won?"

"He took Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois."

"Where did you hear this?"

"It's all over the television. NBC interviewed a senior citizen in Delaware and then gave the election to Reagan. Do you know what this means, Alain?"

"I'm not sure."

"The network polling methods have become so sophisticated we don't need anyone west of the Mississippi to decide a presidential election anymore. You people are only wasting the nation's gasoline by going to the polls."

"But we're the most populous state in the union," Bernheim protested.

"Don't tell me your troubles. It's all over, Alain. As I talk to you, Barbara Walters is trying to get to Nancy Reagan, and Walter Cronkite has just said, 'And that's the way it is, November 4th, 1980.' Do you need any more evidence that you people are out of it?"

"Then you think I shouldn't vote."

"Why not? It will kill some time when you get home. But if you think you're going to stop the landslide, you're out of your gourd."

"I guess I'll call Phyliss and Don. Maybe they can cancel the caterer. Where's Ann?"

"She went to bed with a headache. She said she's not going to spend any more election nights with me. As far as our political life is concerned, she claims the thrill is gone."