A nice woman from Louisville, for example, says she is against extension of the time states would be permitted to vote on ERA because it would not be fair. It has nothing to do with the issue, she says. It has to do with fairness and precedent and, yes, the Constitution. Thank you very much, lady, but there is something you are not telling me. Maybe it comes out a bit later when one of the anti-ERA women loses her temper and snaps at the pro-ERA behind her: "I don't want to be liberated. I want to be submissive to my husband." That's the kind of constitutional argument I can understand.

The reporters buzz through the crowd, and those in the upstairs press gallery record the vote. It is all so important. It is all so dramatic. There is a woman here who has taken the 2 a.m. bus from Pittsburgh, and one of her friends came even though she is sick. They are for ERA. I'm sure you could find similar stories on the other side.

Somewhere in all this, you get the sense that it doesn't matter very much anymore. The ERA is nice - good, nice and important, in its way. It would be good not to lose it and nice to have it, and there was an assistant U.S. attorney general who explained how ERA would clean up the law and make matters plainer. It also would be a statement of national policy - a radical sort of statement that women and men are equal.

But you get the sense that time has passed it by. After the vote.I lunch with my stockbroker. She is a woman and will make more money than I will this year. So does my wife. I can live with it. On the jogging path, the women breeze past me. At first, it was funny and I would smile, but now there are many of them and they run well. They don't run - you should pardon the expression - like girls. I can live with that, too.

The movement marches on. The clock will not be turned back. The anti-ERA ladies cannot win: the pro-ERAs cannot lose. In New York, a judge says women may interview baseball players clad in shorts. Some of these guys pose for underwear ads. They will, I am sure, adjust. Like me, they can live with it.

So now I am in the elevator with the woman who has no opinion, and we get down to the basement. Still no opinion. I ride up and get out and then, later, I get into her elevator again. She smiles at me. "You know why I'm against it," she says, "I don't want to be drafted."

Neither did I, but I lived with it.