Two things in this world say THUNKKKKKKKK as they hit the doorstep. One is the Sunday Washington Post. The other is the annual set of new phone books.
But to many Washingtonians, the THUNKKKKKKKKK of the phone books isn't as thunky as it should be. If you live in the District, you automatically get only the D.C. White and Yellow Pages. If you live in Virginia or Maryland, you get only the directories for the jurisdiction in which you live.
This drives many people crazy each year, and the latest candidate for the men in the white coats is Melissa Pollak of Arlington.
A few weeks ago, Melissa got home and discovered her new Virginia Whites and Yellows lying outside her door. But she wanted the D.C. and Maryland books, too.
"The phone company is always urging its customers to refrain from calling information and to instead look up numbers in the phone book," Melissa points out. "I am willing to cooperate with this request, yet how can I if I am not given the other jurisdictions' phone books?"
Mike Houghton of Chesapeake &Potomac Telephone says the company doesn't automatically deliver each customer a full set of books because "it's a waste if people don't want them." However, says Mike, "if the customer wants the books, they can get them." The cost? There isn't any. Just call the appropriate C&P business office, and the other books will be delivered to you.
And while we're scratching nagging itches . . . .
A reader who lives in Montgomery Village went out to his mailbox one morning a few months ago. In it, he discovered two pieces of paper.
One was from Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.). It was addressed to "Postal Patron," and it announced a town meeting in which my reader didn't have the slightest interest.
The other was from Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.). It was addressed to "Postal Customer," and it described Sarbanes' recent meeting in Moscow with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. My reader didn't have the slightest interest in that, either.
This stuff is junk mail, my reader thinks, the same as if it had come from an encyclopedia salesman or a pizza parlor. He wants to know how he can arrange to have Barnes, Sarbanes and all other politicians declare his mailbox off limits.
Easy, says Tom Joyce, public affairs director of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. Just write to the politicians who are sending you this unwanted stuff, and they'll remove you from their mailing lists.
If that sounds blissfully trusting to some of you, consider this: The politicians had better remove a name from a mailing list when the name's owner asks them to. Otherwise, they'd be breaking the very junk mail laws they themselves passed.
The next-door neighbors smoke. The houses have a common wall. How can the nonsmoking residents remove (or blot out) the odor of smoke that seeps in day and night?
I posed this question a few days ago, and, as always, Levey's readers were full of hints. Some of the best:
Try fresh eucalyptus leaves ("One of your readers in Silver Spring").
Spider plants (Janet Walther of Arlington).
Kitty Litter ("Don't bother with my name").
Fill custard cups with vinegar ("A reader").
Cut up some orange peels, cut up a stick of cinnamon, combine them, add a handful of cloves, add water, boil, let sit (Helen Johnson of Springfield).
Votive candles (Vicki Sifrit of Silver Spring).
Any kind of candles ("Irene from Upper Marlboro").
Incense (Peggy Sillars).
Vanilla extract ("Anonymous").
Buy your neighbors smokeless ashtrays (Ron Maranian of Northwest).
Perhaps most effective of all was this short-and-sweet suggestion from Ed Kiatta of Silver Spring:
Great work, readers! Thanks to you, Tucker County High School in Hambleton, W.Va., will have a yearbook this spring after all.
It didn't look likely a few weeks ago. Last fall's floods had destroyed most of the businesses in Tucker County that would normally have bought ads. But you readers chipped in more than $3,000, so the yearbook will go to press this week.
"It may not have the black velvet cover they wanted. It may not have as many pages. Color may be out. But it'll be done first class," promises Principal Howard Moore.
In an area that hasn't had much to celebrate lately, this is welcome news, indeed. Thanks to all readers who contributed.