A few weeks ago, I witnessed an interesting scene in a local store.
A security guard said to a male shopper, "I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to put out that cigarette." The guard pointed to a "No Smoking" sign and added, "That's the law in the District of Columbia."
The customer pointed to a clerk and a cashier, both of whom were smoking, and asked, "Do you have two sets of rules here, one for me and another one for them? As long as you permit your own people to smoke, I'm going to smoke, too."
His belligerent manner constituted a challenge to the security guard's macho, and the two men were nose to nose and ready to fight when an assistant manager hurried over to cool things off.
After parting the combatants, the assistant manager informed the clerk and cashier that he was putting them on report for smoking again. It was apparent that the no-smoking rule had been a recurring source of trouble for the assistant manager.
I found myself wondering how widespread the problem is these days.
The incident was brought back to my mind when I received a note on Monday from Eddie Padgett of Takoma Park. Eddie wrote:
"I have seen Metro attendants at Union Station, Takoma Park and Farragut North K Street entrances smoking at their stations. If the public isn't allowed to smoke, is it fair for Metro employees to do so?"
Metro says, "It is not fair. Complaints about any misconduct by our employees should be mailed to our Consumer Representative." The address is 600 5th St. NW.
An anonymous complaint seldom does any good because one who is accused of a misdeed has a right to face his accuser. Disciplinary action based on an anonymous accusation would probably be stoutly resisted by union officials who represent the accused.
So please identify yourself and give Metro as much information as you can, such as the date, time, place, names, vehicle numbers and any similar clues that will help Metro investigate your complaint.
The no-smoking rule is probably as troublesome to Metro as it is to store keepers, but that is not pertinent here. So long as a law exists, every attmept should be made to enforce it in a fair and evenhanded manner. It is infuriating to be the only one reprimanded by an enforcement agent who is blind to similar violations that are taking place all about him.
In this case, I assume there is no need for District Liner Padgett to send a separate complaint to the Consumer Representtive. He has already gone on record as saying that Metro employees whose identities are not known to him violate the law by smoking in the subway. If Metro is in earnest about evenhanded enforcement of the no-smoking law, it will issue a reminder to all employees, and especialy to those at the stations named, and then have a supervisor make a few unannounced inspections of the trouble sites.
Let's give Metro a chance to do that before we say anything further about the matter.