DEAR BOB: I am a 30-year-old woman who works for one of the larger federal agencies. I hold a B.A. degree from The University of Pittsburgh and a master's from The University of Maryland. I have never had anything but superior evaluations in five years as a middle-level manager. But recently, my boss called me in and advised me to start looking for another job. He acknowledged that he couldn't force me out because of Civil Service protections, but he said that if I didn't leave within three months, he would make my life so miserable that I would wish I'd left right away. When I asked him why he wanted me out, he said that I "just didn't fit" with his management style. I'm terribly upset, I'm having trouble eating and sleeping and I have no idea what to do. Any suggestions? (Signed) FLUSTERED IN FOGGY BOTTOM.
DEAR FLUSTERED: I wish you had pressed the boss for more specifics, if only to get him on record with information you could later use against him. Perhaps you could still ask for a bill of particulars, in writing if possible. In any case, your best bet is to find a graceful, prompt and lucrative way out the door. Yes, this will award a "victory" to the boss in one sense. But the sooner you're free of this guy, the more your psyche will thank you. I'd file a formal grievance with the union, if one represents you, or hire a private attorney. Both routes will take time, and the latter route will take money. But based on what you've told me, justice appears to be on your side. By the way, could your gender (and his) have anything to do with all this? My male nose detects the acrid aroma of sexual discrimination.
DEAR BOB: My family back in Nebraska is already making plans to visit me this summer. But lines make them crazy, and although they'd like to visit as many of the major D.C. tourist attractions as they can, they want to do it when they can avoid people. Is there one summer month that's better than the others? Is there a best day of the week? A best time of day? (Signed) CHARLES OF ARLINGTON.
DEAR CHARLES: A buddy at the National Park Service suggests that your family arrive at daytime-only tourist sites no later than 8 a.m. Your family will still see lots of people at that hour, but the great majority will be behind them in line, not ahead of them. Remember, too, that some sites (Lincoln and Jefferson, for instance) are open well into the evening. An after-dark visit will not only avoid crowds, but it'll add a certain special spice. As for a "best" month, June is generally less cluttered than July or August, says my pal, since some schools are still in session until June 15 or so. But again, "best" doesn't mean barren of all humanity. As for a best day of the week, my buddy says your family is well-advised to aim for Tuesday through Thursday. Mondays and Fridays are always more crowded, in any season. Avoid weekends, particularly near July 4 and Labor Day, whatever you do. Perhaps most important, please persuade your family to take the subway wherever and whenever they can. If your family thinks lines drive them crazy, wait till they spend an hour looking for a legal place to park, or hunting around Southeast Washington for the impoundment lot after their car gets towed.
DEAR BOB: Since I know you're an avid follower of the local mating scene, I thought I'd write to you. Is it my imagination, or are you hearing from fewer and fewer Washington singles who moan that they can't find Mr. or Ms. Right? I go out with single friends of both sexes all the time, and six months ago, the dating blues was all I would hear. Lately, the talk is politics, football, movies, the environment, but not nearly as much handwringing or woe-is-me. How about it, Mr. L.? Are Washington singles finding that holy grail at last? (Signed) BILL THE BALLSTON BARFLY.
DEAR BARFLY: I don't know where you're downing your white wine these days, but I hear just the opposite. More Washington singles seem to be more bereft of compelling companionship -- and more upset about what they're missing -- than at any time since I started keeping score. A frinstance: There I was, at a black-tie ball, in late December. The place was jammed with eligible young singles, about half male and half female. Romance and possibility were in the air. I fell into a conversation with two 23-year-old women. They were both everything a young man could want -- pretty, lively, smart, accomplished, polished, unattached. And they were sitting there, picking at their salads, by themselves. One of the two told me that she hasn't had a "good" date in more than a year. The other said she has become so discouraged that she now assumes she'll be single well into her 30s, maybe longer, maybe forever. Perhaps you're right, Bill, that the barfly singles talk has shifted to football and recycling, at least in Ballston. But when I read my mail, and answer my phone, and look into the faces of Washington singles, I still see the same sad, stark, lonely resignation.