A Falls Church man writes, "There is an old joke in which a restaurant patron asks a passing waiter what time it is and the waiter replies, "I'm sorry but this isn't my table.

"These days, it's not a joke any more. People who are supposed to be serving the public not only in restaurants but in other businesses, give the impression they could care less whether you deal there or you don't. Apparently they do not realize that their own paychecks depend on the public's patronage."

My correspondent makes a good point, but his "could care less" jars me. What he means, I assume, is that these people couldn't care less.

Frances Zietz offers two examples of the new attitude among some employes. She reports: "I was in the Hecht Co. in Silver Spring, at the jewelery counter. I asked the saleswoman to show me on the lockets in the case. She said she was sorry, but I would have to wait one more minute as she had that much time left on her lunch hour.

"A few days later, I phoned the main post office to find out the new rate for post cards. The woman who answered the phone said she would give me the number to call. I asked. "Isn't this the post office?" and she said yes, it was, but telling me the rate for a post card wasn't one of her duties. If I wanted to know the rate I'd have to call the number she gave me. "What's happening?"

What's happening is that after many years of mistreatment, "labor" has developed some muscle, and is using it. When employers had the power, they abused it. Wherever labor has wrested power from employers, labor has abused it. Power corrupts, as Lord Acton said, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's a pity that neither side has distinguished itself with a display of good sense, but there's where we are now, and heaven only knows in which direction we're moving. Don't tempt fate by saying, "Things couldn't get worse so any chance will have to be an improvement, "Things could get worse. And may.