Good morning. My name is Captain Paradox. I come from a planet called Question Mark, in a distant, cloud-shrouded galaxy.
Mr. Levey does not know I have appropriated his space today. He is probably sleeping, handicapping the races, or slipping off for his usual three-hour lunch. But it was a mere trifle to pose as that august typist and talk my way into his office. A rumpled shirt, a necktie yanked down to the sternum, a haggard look born of too much coffee, and I looked the part precisely, if I do say so myself.
I was sent to D.C. to learn. My leader had read a phrase in an ancient periodical: The glory of modern-day Washington is that you can get an answer to any question before lunch, it said. So I was dispatched by spaceship to compile a report on how they operate in the capital of the most advanced civilization on the planet Earth.
Alas, all I have found is paradoxes.
Rush hour is the only time of day when no one can rush.
The city is divided into quadrants, which I always took to mean indivisible, equal fourths. But Northwest is about three zillion times bigger than Southwest. And Northeast and Southeast are each split right down the middle by a river.
Pregnant women are literally carrying the future. But no one ever gives them a seat on the subway.
The Republican Party spends all its time trying to attract young, ethnic, urban Democrats. The Democratic Party spends all its time trying to attract elderly, western, country club Republicans.
Accuweather is never accurate.
The city contains approximately 70 square miles, yet every cabdriver spends every single day cruising between the 1200 and 1600 blocks of Connecticut Avenue NW.
People say "Have a nice day" at 7 p.m.
The Washington representative to Congress can't vote, and wishes she could. Washington citizens can vote, but almost never do.
The food sold at Giant is no more gigantic than anyone else's. The food sold at Safeway is not sold in a safer way than anyone else's.
The only difference between self-serve and full-serve at gas stations is how inconveniently you pay. After self-serve, you trudge up to a three-foot-thick window and try not to get your hand caught in the tray as you deposit the money. After full-serve, you spend 10 minutes hunting down a bored attendant (who hasn't given you anything close to full service) so you can put the money in his grimy hand.
"Eyewitness News" rarely contains any news that any reporter has witnessed.
The only thing national about National Airport is the Federal Aviation Administration traffic controllers -- and they work at non-national airports, too.
Fairfax and Montgomery counties close all their schools whenever two flakes of snow hit the ground, even though 90 percent of each county is quickly plowed and is largely non-hilly.
Every lawyer in town would rather go to New York on the Trump Shuttle, even though the Metroliner is more comfortable, more pleasant, more roomy, more direct and less expensive.
The two most popular professional sports teams in town are called the Redskins and Bullets -- in a city where the color of one's skin is a major source of tension and where there is approximately one homicide by gunfire every day.
Banks advertise that they're dying to be your friend. Then you try to get $10 in cash back when you deposit your paycheck, and they ask you for two forms of picture ID.
Popcorn, which has absolutely no nutritional value, costs $1 a box at any downtown curbside stand. Orange juice, which is loaded with nutritional value, costs 75 cents a bottle at the same stand.
Everything you don't want arrives by fax and everything you do want arrives by mail.
"Garden apartments" in Gaithersburg, Lanham, Sterling and Hillcrest Heights don't have gardens anywhere near them.
Teen-aged girls wear pants and high-top sneakers, while any teen-aged boy worth his cool sports a pony tail and an earring.
The city professes to be perpetually news hungry, yet the most popular radio stations carry almost no news.
Drive-through lanes at fast food restaurants are supposed to speed you on your way. Yet half the time you have to repeat your order because the speakerphone has blown a few tubes. Then you have to wait for your food. Then you have to wait for your change.
The mail is almost never delivered before 1 p.m., when half the business day has already elapsed. Yet the cost of mailing a first-class letter is about to rise by four cents.
The drug counter in a drugstore is always farthest from the front door.
I guess I'd better give the column back to Levey now. Being from a distant, cloud-shrouded galaxy, I can't explain any of this. But Levey always knows everything.