Metrorail has got to do a better job of distributing passengers inside its cars. Rush hours are beginning to get downright nasty on our subway. A train arrives. A few people get off. Many more get on. But the boarders all congregate right in the doorway, making it difficult for would-be getters-off to do so, and for other would-be getters-on to do so.
It's the subway version of the old why-won't-they-move-to-the-back-of-the-bus problem. But gruff persuasion has always solved that one. The driver simply announces that he won't move the bus until the passengers do what they know they should.
Can't subway drivers do the same? Certainly they know which stops are thronged at rush hour (the Farraguts, Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza would be my nominees). A few well-chosen words over the public address system, and this becomes a former problem, no? . . . .
The Internal Revenue Service has got to learn, and use, English. A reader of mine from Rockville got into a dispute recently with the agency we all love so dearly. Here, in its incomprehensible entirety, is the letter he received from the IRS Service Center in Philadelphia:
"Dear Mr. (Reader):
"The refund of $13.68 from Form 941 for March 31, 1984, resulted from the overpayment of $1,568.16 from your 1040 account to cover Federal tax deposit of $186.15 (which has been eliminated) and full pay your account before your payment of $1,366.34 posted, which will be refunded in approximately four to six weeks."
My reader hopes that this amazing sentence is trying to promise him a refund of $13.68. He isn't betting on it.
Now, it's easy enough to see that this is no way to communicate with the outside world. But I want to know whether this is the way they communicate with each other inside the IRS.
Does one woman walk up to another in the ladies' room and say, "Stella, reference your evening social engagement of 24 July, query whether gentleman was dreamboat material according to generally accepted social and actuarial criteria?"
Does one man walk up to another by the water cooler and say, "John, inquiry reveals upon TV broadcast evidence in re Washington Redskins that archrival Dallas squad (popular nickname Cowboys) scored two fewer touchdowns Sunday."
It's a breeze to write simple sentences, IRSers. Try it sometime.
The auto industry has got to stop advertising cars on the basis of their "adventure potential." You can hardly turn on the TV these days without seeing some sleek character behind the wheel of some sleek car. Nothing wrong with that. But . . . .
Mr. Sleek is always driving down a rural two-lane road, scattering leaves as he whizzes by. He's always going a little too fast. He's always the only car on the road. And he never seems to encounter -- much less obey -- speed limit signs, stop signs or red lights.
As the kids would say, let's get real about this.
Most drivers live in or near cities. They can't go too fast even if they want to, because they're hemmed in by other cars at every waking moment. Rural two-lane roads? They don't exist. As for red lights, stop signs and other intrusions of the law, they're constant.
So please, Detroit (and Tokyo): Don't suggest that Driving, 1985, is a wondrous, wind-in-the-hair escapade. It's a harrowing, rotten chore. What I want in a car is a reliable tool that will help me survive the rat race. If I want adventure, I'll go mountain climbing in Nepal. Without a car.
And finally, certain columnists have got to stop maligning certain much-maligned states. I may not have heard from everyone who was ever born in New Jersey, but I'll bet I've come close. They've all taken me to task for lavishing praise on the winner of my recent country music song titles contest. The best-title-in-show was: He Promised Me The World, But He Gave Me New Jersey. I thought the title was a howl, and said so.
One correspondent pointed out that New Jersey is not just Newark and Secaucus; it's the Atlantic Shore and Great Gorge, too. Another outraged Jerseyite said that "not everyone in my home state lives beside the New Jersey Turnpike." Still another victim of ruffled feathers claimed that I was just jealous because they haven't named a Turnpike service area after me.
Okay, Garden Staters. I admit that your home state has been a convenient target for much too long. I admit that Princeton is just as lovely as Hoboken isn't. I admit that Cleveland or Buffalo could have been substituted for New Jersey, and the winning song title wouldn't have lost a thing.
Parsippany is beautiful. Glassboro is lush. Atlantic City is splendid (when you win). And I am sorry. May Woodrow Wilson, Vince Lombardi, Joyce Kilmer and every tolltaker on the Turnpike forgive me. It won't happen again.