This past Sunday, I attended the wedding of my colleague Scott Chase, who has helped raise huge sums for Children's Hospital.
At the reception that followed the wedding, a woman said to me, "You must be Bill Gold." When I said "Yes," she added, "I recognized you because you don't look anything like your picture."
While I savored the perceptiveness of that comment, she added another. "I wish I had a job like yours," she said, "because you receive so many letters. What a joy it must be to get so much mail. I love to get letters, but all I ever get is bills and advertisements. Do you enjoy your mail?" I told her that I greatly enjoy getting letters.
However, when I went to work after the reception and began opening the mail, I wondered whether I had given her a truly accurate answer. Let me give you a few samples of what I found in the accumulation of mail I read Sunday night:
From somebody whose name I couldn't decipher: "Why do you newspaper people keep talking about a tax cut for individuals? Surely you must know that President Reagan is not proposing to reduce the amount we will pay in taxes, he is merely proposing to reduce the amount of increase that would otherwise occur because of inflation. Can't you newspapermen get anything right?"
From John B. Wentworth: "Your piece today likening Reagan to Jesse James is most appropriate. May we the people take it that you are waking up to some of the criminally oriented policies of Bush and Reagan? Or was that one of those accidents for which you will crawl tomorrow in your column?
"You did know that the Reagan-Bush campaign was primarily fueled by the criminal behavior of Justice Dept. and FBI agent-criminals in the Abscam. I assume you are part of the cover-up of these crimes. Right?"
(Editor's note: The reference is to my one-sentence joke about Reagan stopping more trains than Jesse James did. I did not state or imply that the president, the vice president, or any agency of government had engaged in criminal conduct.)
From K. B. Jones of Pasadena, Md., came a clipping from this column in which the word proffered appeared with two r's instead of two f's. There was no critical comment -- just a ring around the misspelled word -- so I will supply the critical comment myself: When I let an error of that kind slip through, I regard it as evidence that senility is close at hand. I think it's time to move aside and let one of the young tigers take over.
From somebody who signed himself "Truck Driver for 19 Years": "You are all wet about Truck Drivers being guilty of tailgating. We don't. We are professional drivers and know how dangerous it is. I am tired of your picking on Truck Drivers." (I think the answer to that one is that I do not share the viewpoint that causes him to capitalize "Truck Drivers.")
From a reader who asked for anonymity: "I was interested in your report about the woman whose leg fell into the space between a subway car and the platform. She said she was terrified that the train would begin to move while she was trapped in that position. Ordinarily you do a good job of telling us what we need to know, but in this instance you failed miserably. Is there a fail-safe system that prevents a train from moving while its doors are open? Is there a panic button that can be pressed, or a signal that can be transmitted to the operator of the train? You didn't tell us. Shame on you."
I agree. Shame on me for not answering a question that would occur to many readers. Metro spokesman Cody Pfanstiehl, who still works about 25 hours a day, tells me that if the woman who fell was blocking the door of the car, there was zero chance of that train moving.
There is indeed a fail-safe system that prevents a train from starting until every door is securely closed. A foot, a leg, an arm or even a briefcase caught in the doorway will keep the train stationary until the door can be closed securely. What's more, before trying to leave a station, every operator is required to make a visual inspection to reassure himself that nothing is protruding from a partially closed door.
Incidentally, there are two intercom call boxes in every subway car, one at either end. They are there so that in the event of an emergency any passenger can push the button on the box and talk to the operator of the train. p