Hot rumor: Now that he has survived 1984, Big Brother has taken over the management of National Airport's parking lots.
Not long ago, it sure looked that way to Gordon M. Thomas. He was bailing his car out of a National lot after a day-and-a-half trip somewhere, and after paying his $12, he happened to look at the computerized stub the attendant handed him. To his amazement, under the heading, CUSTOMER ID, the stub said:
BSU204 is Gordon's license number. VA is computerese for the state that gave us Madison, Jefferson, Washington and Shirley Highway.
Gordon hadn't given any employe of D&H Parking Systems his license number. He hadn't noticed any scanner taking a long, electronic look at his tags. And he couldn't imagine why D&H would need to have that information.
So he turned to R. Levey, Ace Sleuth.
The answer didn't take much sleuthing. Satnam Dhami, assistant manager of D&H, said that recording license numbers is a "very successful" way to resolve disputes over lost tickets.
According to Dhami, the license plates of all cars parked overnight at National are recorded by a D&H employe, who drives around the lot and marks down the numbers on a clipboard.
He later enters the numbers into the D&H computer. When the cashier does the same as a patron is leaving, the computer instantly tells the cashier that the car before him has been on the premises for at least several hours.
Without this computer back-check, Dhami pointed out, motorists could dishonestly claim they had been in the lot for only a few minutes. The cashier would have no way to check, and if he was feeling generous, the customer would beat a pretty hefty tab.
So rest easy, Gordon. You paid your $12 -- and that was all VABSU204 was designed to get you to do.