People spend lifetimes trying to pinpoint when something major is occurring in Washington's councils of power. All Steve Staiman has to do is take a peek at his incoming orders.
Steve is the manager of the Domino's Pizza outlet at 12th and K streets NW. His is the phone that rings if the White House is burning the midnight oil and decides to order pizza for dinner. Steve says he always knows when something big is up -- or is about to be -- because the White House will suddenly blossom into his biggest customer.
When Mikhail Gorbachev was in town, Steve sent 40 to 50 pizzas to the White House each day of Mr. G's visit. The orders started at 9 a.m. and lasted until 2 a.m., Steve said. Not quite in the same gluttonous league, but almost, were the few days before the invasion of Panama and the night of the Black Monday stock market crash.
According to Steve, White House staffers will often call and say, "This order is for President Bush, so get it here as fast as possible and make it perfect." However, the White House press office says the president doesn't even like pizza. ("Maybe he would if they made it with pork rinds," a staffer cracked.) So it appears that White House underlings are stretching the truth as well as their waistlines when they call Steve Staiman.
Steve said the Gorbachev Week Gobblethon was not just the result of White House staffers' developing the late-night hungries. Many White House deliveries went to the press room, he said. Having studied newsroom waistlines for a quarter of a century, and being the owner of one myself, I'm hardly shocked.
By the way, don't think for a minute that White House pizza scrutiny is lax. Steve says that every pizza box that's delivered to the White House is opened before it passes through the gate. A security officer runs a metal detector around the inside of the box and sometimes underneath the pizza itself, Steve says.
Is anything big about to pop down at 1600 Pennsylvania? Steve says there's no sign of major activity right now. However, he says his drivers have a standing joke about the Treasury Department, which is also in Steve's territory:
If they order plain cheese pizza at Treasury, and no one tips, the economy is headed south. If they order pizzas with lots of toppings, we're in for an upswing.
Which has it been lately? Steve wouldn't say. A classic duck by a true Washington tea-leaf reader.
Dear National Weather Service: Put away the computers and the spread sheets. N.A. Jawdat, of Bethesda, says he can predict the weather on the basis of where his Washington Post carrier throws his paper.
"If you have to pick the Post off the lawn, it is raining or will rain," says my correspondent. "If you find it on the concrete driveway, leave your umbrella at home." If the paper is anywhere else, the weather will be a little of this, a little of that. Brother Jawdat says his method is "about 90 percent accurate."
Here's the Levey method: Whenever the carrier throws the paper as far from the door as possible, it's raining buckets. Whenever I fetch the paper in bare feet and pajamas, there'll be a cloudburst as soon as I get outside. And whenever it's a windy day, my paper will be the only one on the whole block that blows into 196,000 separate sheets.
If only our circulation operatives would place papers between the screen door and the main door, as they once did. Not only would people find Levey's column faster, but it would never rain again. SEND A KID TO CAMP
Into the final two weeks of our annual drive we roar. Yes, roar. Our pace has quickened in the last few days. We're nearing our goal, and we have a reasonably good chance of scaling the mountain.
But we won't scale anything without the last-minute help of those readers who have been sitting on the fence.
Please don't assume that other readers will give us that final push. Please don't assume that I keep a sugar daddy under lock and key, primed to write checks at critical moments like these. The Send a Kid to Camp campaign is as grassy as a grass-roots campaign can get. We depend on 20 bucks from Joe and 25 from Joanne. Always have. Always will.
This is the time to help, if your heart says yes and your bank balance is written in black. More than 1,100 campers are counting on you.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp, and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.
In hand as of July 24: $197,203.97.
Our goal by Aug. 10: $275,000.