News item: George Haley announces he's running for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Maryland. He joins fellow GOP candidates Linda Chavez and Richard Sullivan, and everybody and his uncle on the Democratic side.

Remember when Maryland politics were indistinguishable from Baltimore politics? Remember when candidates for statewide office were always white, always male and always blessed by a Baltimore boss in some Italian restaurant down by the harbor and handed to the voters like so much cannoli?

Well, lookee lookee at what we have in 1986. George Haley is black. Linda Chavez is Hispanic. Harry Hughes has more experience in Annapolis than he does in Baltimore. Mike Barnes has built a career in Washington's suburbs, not Baltimore's. Barbara Mikulski is a traditional product of inner Baltimore -- but there's nothing traditional about her gender. To believe that Maryland politics are still in the grip of the Baltimore kingmakers and the Baltimore cliches is to be asleep.

Maryland politics have often been a laughingstock, so it does my rotten old heart good to see such breadth among this year's candidates. No more cannoli for Maryland. An extraordinary smorgasbord is more like it.

News item: Pizza companies are making big dough (ho, ho, ho) by delivering pies all over town.

This is yet another sign that Washington, D.C., is coming of age as a modern American metropolis. It proves that our college students have become as chronically sleepless and as nutritionally unsound as college students everywhere else.

Who do you think orders pizza in Washington, D.C., at 11 o'clock on a Tuesday night? It's not bureaucrats -- they have to get up in seven hours. It's not parents of young kids -- they're too exhausted to open the box. It's not the elderly -- they can't afford a buck per slice. It's the lovestruck, examstruck masses at Maryland, George Mason, AU, GU and GW.

You say the cute guy from physics class hasn't called, and your heart is breaking? Order a pizza.

You say you simply can't read another page of Western Civ? Order a pizza.

You say the guys have just invited you to sit in on an all-night poker session? Order a pizza.

The smart money hereabouts is touting aerospace, motel chains and real estate. The smart money ought to take a look at the guys carrying cardboard containers through the lobbies of local college dorms. There's gold in them thar boxes.

News item: Orange Line extension to Vienna opens June 7.

If ever there has been a part of town that needs the subway, it's northwestern Fairfax County.

Mornings on inbound Interstate 66 are a blot on the human spirit. Evenings outbound aren't much better. Meanwhile, every time you take a deep breath, somebody has built some new town houses in Herndon. Roads have been asked to move all these people for decades. But they can't do it all. Now, at last, they won't have to try.

However, I worry that we will soon hear the same fallacious chorus that we heard when the Red Line extended to Shady Grove -- the grumble about how a $2.50ish one-way fare to downtown is outrageous because it's more than you'd spend on gas for the same trip.

Sure, $2.50 is outrageous -- as long as you overlook the thousands you spent to buy a car, the scads you spend to park it, the bushels you spend to maintain it, the ten-spot you spend every time you fuel it and the extra bundle you have to find every time the 3/4& &$& 3/4 thing blows a water pump.

A $2.50 trip on the subway may not seem cheap today. But riding the rails is the best long-range bargain around. Here's hoping the folks in northwestern Fairfax discover that. If they don't, the crowds on I-66 will remind them -- every agonizing, gas-guzzling, time-wasting day.

News item: Three Connecticut residents are critically injured in a Beltway crash. They're riding in a car that misses the turnoff for the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The driver screeches to a stop in the right lane and starts to back up toward the exit ramp. A truck rams the car from behind.

I've just taken a look at a map of the Beltway. I've discovered that the average distance between Beltway exits is 1 1/2 miles. That means that if you miss an exit, and you go on to the next, and you get off, and you double back, and you get off where you originally wanted to, the average amount of time you'll lose is four minutes.

In fact, the three Connecticut residents would have lost only about three minutes. The Kenilworth Avenue exit was a mere mile ahead. That would have meant a minute to get there, a minute to loop-the-loop and a minute back. A far better fate, obviously, than the one that actually befell them.

Please, people. If you miss an exit on a superhighway, take your medicine and waste your three or four minutes. It's better than backing up and hoping that a speeding truck will avoid you.