Three seconds to 1978: "I like to come out and meet the characters, so many characters, you know the people that usually don't come out, they come out tonight I think," said Simeon Adjarho, as he stood alone at the corner of 16th and Corcoran St. NW in black shoes with thick white platform soles, "looking for a party."

"Everyone must go out tonight," said the Howard student. "It's traditional, right."

Two seconds to go: In the Panorama Room of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in southeast Washington, Robert Proctor, 74, is up on his feet, hugging and dancing in the New Year with 600 merrymakers at a church cabaret.

"Oh, I try to come out, it makes me feel younger," he said, a green party hat cocked on his head at a rakish angle and white shoes on his feet. "I lost my wife on New Year's Eve 1955 . . . died at 2:25 a.m. of diabetes. Even since then I come out."

One second to 1978: Bill Lindsay, one of the owners of the Foxtrappe, is dealing with two fire marshals who want the stairways kept clear and crowd size monitored. The uniformed fire marshals don't do much to adore the disco that is THE place for the over-26 black crowd that is either prominent or trying hard to be promiment.

"We hope to get our new franchise system off the ground this year," said Lindsay. "We're trying to open places in Atlanta and New York. As far as Washington goes, hope hopefully the mayoral election will heat up and we'll use the changes we all want ot see if an individual can make a difference,"

Midnight, Happy New Year.

Cardboard horns toot, streamers fly, friends and lovers embrace. It the discos shiny metal whistles in the dancers' lips catch the darting specks of light thrown from a rotating silver ball on the ceiling. The whistles let out a high-pitched hello to 1978.

All round the city New Year's Eve night was the official, government-approved, night to "get down," "party hardy," "get high and do it," as the lyrics say.

And crowds of Washingtonians chose to do it with distinction at places like Pisces, a Georgetown disco that sold out its 200 tickets, at $38.50 each, to a five-course meal, live band and disco almost a week ago. Others celebrated at hotels such as the Washington Hilton where Plan A offered dinner, dancing and a room to spend the night for $60 a person. Plan B cost $37.50 and got the celebrants dinner and dancing.

And, of course, there were several large house parties in the city, some flowing into the street.

"Tonight's the night to party, got to party," laughed Pam Exline as she walked out of Bojangle's a disco at 21st and M street NW at 2:30 a. am. She was arm in arm with three other persons, all wearing green and white party hats, yelling and waving at passing cars.

"Hey, who stays home New Year's Eve, how depressing, got to party," she said. As she was walking to a car someone asked her who she was driving away with. She stopped, her face went wide with laughter and she said: "I don't even know his name."

Other Washingtonians stayed home, apparently indifferent to the social requirements of New Year's Eve, but not unaware of the drinking, smoking, partying, and mass celebrating that is the traditional salute to the arrival of the New year.

In Mount Pleasant, Sidney Innes walked her two dogs, Cuchina and Boffus, as the magic midnight moment went by.

"I like being home with my dogs," she Said. "People who party, good for them. I want to be home with my dogs."

"This is just another day," said a man walking past a northeast house party. "They can do what they want. I'm going home and get some sleep . . . they can't tell me when to have a good time. Your friends just keep calling. They're sure something's wrong because I want to stay home."

In the lobby of the Washington Hilton Marcus Taylor leaned against the wall. He spun a derby hat on his index finger.

"Man, I don't need all this," he said, gesturing toward a dinner-dance in one of the hotel's ballrooms. "She wanted to come out, right, she can't spend New year's Eve at home . . . I want to go to bed.

". . . I been married to her three years," he added. "See these clothes? She picked 'em out! Now she says there're too many ordinary people here; we should have gone someplace better, umph."

In the ballroom a rock-soul band was playing and the crowd on the dance floor moved and wiggled like one big blob. Near the door long lines led to a photographer who was taking pictures and selling them to couples for $3each.

Brady and Lee Jones of Fairfax County stood at the door seeing how their pictures came out.

"We just felt like coming out and soaking up the atmosphere," Jones said. "That's what its all about - the atmosphere."

While the town was in high gear partying, the firemen at Engine Co. 21, Battalion 5, on Lanier Pl. NW, played a board game, risk. They came on at 4 p.m. and their tour of duty ended at 8 a.m.

"I'd be home if I wasn't here," said Capt. Donald Mayhew, as he played the board game. "We have a party at home, just family."

Terry L. Francisco, a fire fighter for 16 years, hopes the new year will bring him the promotion to sergeant that he's been waiting for.

"Sixteen years is a long time. I think I have a pretty good chance if I stay by the books," he said.

By 3 a.m. Washington was fairly quiet and the new year had been properly welcomed. A line man walked up K Street.

"New year, new year, new year," he said. "I got to deal with last year and you guys are talking about a new year."