If dog-bites-man is the cliche' of the newspaper business, dog-bites-mailman is the cliche' of the U.S. Postal Service. On Nov. 25, 1988, Gordon Long's pooch did his part for folklore. He sank his teeth into a leg belonging to Ronald L. Craig, a postman who walks a route that includes Gordon's home in Falls Church.
Ronald was bloodied considerably and shaken up more than considerably. Gordon was home at the time. He came running to the postman's aid as soon as the dog relaxed his jaws. Gordon gave Ronald first aid at his kitchen table, called Ronald's doctor, arranged for an ambulance to take Ronald to a hospital and generally did everything a public-spirited citizen should do in such a situation.
Then Gordon did something many citizens wouldn't do in this litigation-conscious age. He told Ronald to have postal officials contact him promptly so any claim could be settled as quickly as possible.
"It was obvious my dog had done it, and it was obvious I was at fault," Gordon told me. "I knew I'd have to pay up. Why wait?"
But the Postal Service evidently enjoys looking gift horses deeply in the mouth. No one from the Postal Service even began to investigate the incident until Gordon Long received a letter on Oct. 30, 1990.
Ronald Craig hasn't exactly been hobbling around, untreated, for the better part of two years. His wounds healed, and his health insurance paid most of the freight. Ronald filed a claim to recover the several hundred dollars that insurance didn't cover. Yet the Postal Service didn't press Ronald's claim for more than 23 months.
According to Robert Faruk, a spokesman for the Virginia Postal Division, the Injury Compensation Office goes through its files every six months and usually comes up with four or five still-open cases that should have been sent to the Labor Department (for disability payments) or to a postal customer (for collection of damages).
What happened in Ronald's case? "It's one of those things, one of those glitches," said Robert. He said he has no idea why a 23-month delay was allowed to happen. He said he cannot remember another case where the delay has been as long.
At least the wheels of justice are now clanking, and Ronald's expenses will soon be paid by Gordon, if they haven't been already. But I worry about the postal busy season, which began last week. What
if a carrier gets "dogged" between now and Christmas? Will that be "one of those glitches," too?
The least a postal carrier can expect is to have the make-it-right machinery behind him, fully and fast. Can you think of a single reason why four or five cases should be left unsettled each six months? Neither can I.
Carolyn Bassing of Takoma Park saw this sign posted in a local music store:
DO NOT HANDEL
Jim Lyman of Kensington saw another eye-catching sign posted in the window of an Ocean City restaurant. It read:
PLEASE COME IN OR LAYOFFS WILL FOLLOW
'Tis the season not just to be jolly. 'Tis the season to look around the place where you work, decide that your fellow inmates aren't really so bad and figure out a way to say Happy Holidays to them.
Most Washingtonians come up with a traditional answer: a gift or a card. There's nothing wrong with either one.
But for many years, our annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital has received a special kind of blessing. Many of you loyal reader-contributors regularly take what you would have spent on gifts or cards for officemates and donate the money to our drive instead.
The money is wonderful, of course. But the spirit behind these "in lieu of" gifts is just as important. Getting well and getting home is what the sick kids at Children's want for Christmas. Your check goes a long way toward both goals.
Besides, it's very hard to convey deep, heartfelt sentiment to everyone in an office when your budget and time are limited. Face it, gang: this year's box of candy and this year's $2 drug store card are very much like last year's. Wouldn't you rather send even a small amount of money to our campaign as an investment in a child's future?
So please become a "Lieu-ie." Send in a check in lieu of spending that money on cards or gifts. You'll help us get closer to our goal. And you just may get a holiday tingle in the process.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.