From the canyons of the federal bureaucracy comes a darn good question. Does anyone say "Excuse me" any more?
A 35-year-old Fedsie from Annandale says no one does. He phrases his observation this way:
"Am I wrong to assume that no one should be permitted to get off an elevator before a herd of people rushes to get on? Has anyone else been pinned up against the rear wall so that the one extra person can get on, and by the time you've announced that you would like to get off, you've passed your floor?
"Or what about walking along a corridor only to have four others coming toward you walking four abreast, forcing you to walk flush with the wall?
"I almost want to forget that I'm a gentleman and begin to bump and crunch back, but that wouldn't make me the better person."
"Sign me, BUMPED and BRUISED."
I don't spend as much time in Uncle Sam's elevators and corridors as you do, B.B. But what you describe sounds suspiciously like Life On The Other Side of The Wall.
The other night, as I attempted to get out of a men's room at the Capital Centre, three men were attempting to get in. I moved right, so they could mnove left. They didn't move left. The one closest to me blasted right into me. I can still feel the elbow he administered to my ribs. If it had been a basketball game, the referee would have nailed him for charging -- no question.
Well, all right, maybe these three guys had had 16 beers apiece and were in a big hurry to do what they were there to do. But what's the excuse of people on downtown sidewalks?
They think nothing of barreling straight ahead, briefcases or purses in front of them like battering rams. When you cower behind a mailbox to let them pass, they seem to feel that they've won a victory of major significance.
My advice is not to meet elbows with elbows, B.B. Nor would I suggest taking on a briefcase or purse that's aimed right at your kneecap.
But what if you simply said, "You're excused," each time some lummox treats you like a piece of stray tumbleweed? Sometimes slow and subtle wins the race.
Another matter of public decency, raised by Ellen Altman.
She was aboard an 8W bus in Alexandria the other day. The guy beside her was reading a magazine, but Ellen was so engrossed in her copy of The New Yorker that she didn't even sneak a peek.
The same can't be said for a woman sitting across the aisle. She started emitting all sorts of disapproving clucks and groans, which caught Ellen's attention. So she took a quick glance.
The man was not reading The New Yorker.
You guessed it. Playboy. Heavy-duty Playboy. A full-color pictorial feature on American college girls that left nothing to the imagination.
Ellen says her next-seat neighbor wasn't exactly salivating over the pictures. But he was concentrating. Oh, how he was concentrating.
Ellen didn't say anything to him. The only thing she did was to "take off my college ring," before the guy got any ideas.
It's still a free country, last time I checked. So Our Good Fellow can certainly read Playboy if he wants. But I find nothing in the Constitution that gives a man the right to gross out a woman on an 8W bus.
Try reading your Playboy at home, Mr. Concentrator. The college girls won't have lost a thing -- but the atmosphere on the bus will have gained a lot.
Here is the worst of the computer age, come home to roost.
John Lickliter of Manassas was homeward bound the other day on Northern Virginia's longest parking lot, Interstate 66. This day, I-66 wasn't living up to its usual clogged billing. Rush hour traffic was actually zipping along at 45 or so.
But suddenly, John didn't feel like zipping anywhere -- unless it was to the nearest police station.
John had glanced over at the car in the lane beside his. The driver had a computer in his lap, and at 45 miles an hour, he was clack-clack-clacking away.
I still smile every time I enter Maryland from the north on Interstate 95 and see that sign urging me to DRIVE GENTLY. "Why don't more traffic signs have a sense of humor?" I always ask the dashboard. For some reason, it never answers.
Anyway, here's a traffic sign that has all the humor you could ever want. George W. Conrad of College Park sent it in. According to George, the sign hangs somewhere in California -- he knows not where.
The top part of the sign shows a man on all fours, with a bottle beside him.
The bottom part of the sign reads: