Mortorist traveling along Wisconsin Avenue NW yesterday morning were startled by the sight of a man waving a green flag at them as he stood near the curb outside a gas-and-go station.
"He appeared to be an attendant trying to attract customers," reported one woman at the scene. "And there were no takers during the time it took me to drive by."
The green flags - signals that a gasoline station has a ready supply of fuel - were in evidence all around the Washington area yesterday as gasoline supplies improved and the waiting lines diminished.
But tempers were also in evidence.
An angry motorist was accused of assaulting an attendant at a Fairfax Country service station yesterday morning. The customer was in his car and the attendant on foot at the time of the incident.
The squabble began when Eddie Dalton, an 18-year-old attendant at the Belle Haven Sunoco station at 5928 Richmond Hwy., filled up the tank of a red Toyota.
Although the car took only $4.20 worth of gasoline, Dalton attempted to collect $5 from the driver, noting that the state had a $5 minimum for all gasoline purchases.
The motorist objected and started to drive his car out of the station without paying. "I was standing in front of the car when it started inching forward," Dalton said. When the car began to pick up speed, he said he pushed himself off the hood, suffering injuries to his head and left wrist.
John T. Armstrong, 31, of 8542 Mount Vernon Dr., was charged by police with hit and run, petty larceny, and breaking the state's gasoline purchase law. He was released after posting $1,250 bond.
Incidents of purchase rule violations were found to be widespread in a Washington Post survey Monday. The Post team, which checked 40 stations in the metropolitan area, also found discrimination was common despite federal regulations barring special treatment of certain customers.
The U.S. Department of Energy, which is supposed to enforce rules against favoritism, disclosed yesterday that it had filed its first case charging a service station with discrimination.
George Bice, a Texaco dealer in Garden Grove, Calif., was accused in the nine-count indictment of selling gasoline by appointment offer, the indictment said.
Bice also refused to sell gasoline to some customers when they turned down his $5 appointment offer, the inindictment said.
Some scattered complaints about favoritism and discrimination were reported again yesterday by police officials in the Washington metropolitan area. "We get about one can call a day," said Montgomery County police desk officials, John wilson.
"a guy refuses to sell gasoline because he is saving it for his regular customers -- it's a common pratice," Wilson Said.
But the conditions at most area service stations featured green flags, short lines ad a near-normal mood, a Washington Post survey of 30 stations showed.
Maryland and Virginia stations checked by The Post for the most part reported similar conditions.
"last week we had lines four and five blocks long," said an employee at Reidy's Exxon, 9331 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. "yesterday and today you could drive right up to the pumps."
An attendant at Lincolnia Shell. 6304 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria, summed up the situation this way: "it's almost back to normal."
A few exceptions did turn up, however.
More than 100 cars waited in line at the Montgomery Mall Exxon station yesterday to buy gasoline. And the Rock Creek Gulf station, at the corner of Grubb Road and Washington Avenue, Silver Spring, had lines that stretched out for more than two blocks early in the morning.
"it's better but it's not good yet," said the attendant there.
Energy officials were cautiously optimistic about the situation this week.
"we7ve noticed a terrfic improvement," said Charles Clinton, director of the District of Columbia's energy unit. "i hope that people don't immediately regress into their old habits of consumption."
"maryland Automobile Club spokesman Kathleen Godzik voiced the same concern. "just because there aren't lines doesn't mean there's a lot of gas," she said.
Life style adjustmenst were cited as one key reason for the improvement in the lines at service stations -- along with slight increases in available gasoline supplies.
"people have finally adjusted," concluded Glenn Lashley, a spokesman for the American Atomobile Association. "they're no longer panicky." Evening Gasoline Hours
These District of Culumbia stations will be open from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today through Friday with extra gasoline made available to them from the D.C. government's set-aside allocation:
Newnam's Texaco, 5001 Georgia Ave., N.W.
Mack's Service Station (Amoco), 801 M St NW.
Boulevard Gulf, 4883 McArthur Blvd. NW. Rock Creek Gulf, 1827 Adams Mill Rd., NW.
Yuen Exxon Service Center, 1800 Rhode Island Ave. NE.
Anacostia Exxon, 2255 Martin Luther King Ave. SE.
Douglas Heights Exxon, 2125 Alabama Ave. SE.
Durvall's Sunoco, 3341 Benning Rd. SE. Telephone Help
Following are telephone numbers of agencies providing information to deal with gasoline emergencies: District of Columbia hot line: 628-6262, staffed from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Prince George's County hot line: 779-1151, staffed around the clock.
Bowie area gasoline hotline: 262-6262, a recorded message listing names, locations and hours of gasoline stations.
Frederic County motel/gas hotline: (301) 663-8687 or 662-2126, staffed 24 hours a day.
Anne Arundel County hot line: (301) 263-1681, staffed from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
American Automobile Association: 225-5000. Officials said AAA members may obtain small quantities of gas or be towed to a nearby station if they are stranded. Complaints and Questions
Following are telephose numbers that motorist may call id they have questions or complaints about gasoline purchases rules.
District of Columbia, energy unit number: 727-1800 during office hours.
Virginia, hot line number of purchase information: 1-800-552-3831. Complaints about violations and discrimination should be reported to local police or the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE number is listed below.
Maryland motorists should call their local police with complaints, telephose the DOE or write to the state energy office : Maryland State Energy Office, 301 W. Preston St., Suite 1302, Baltimore, Md., 21201.
The Department of Energy hot line for complaints is 254-5474 for resident of the metropolitan Washington area. Those outside this area may call 1-800-424-9246.Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Flag System
Wasington area service stations have been asked to display special flags, noting the availability of gasoline.
A green flag means leaded and unleaded gasoline are available.
A yellow flag means only leaded gasoline can be purchased.
A read flag means a station's pumps are closed.
Gasoline station owners in the District of Columbia can pick up flags at the Munsey Building, 1329 E. St., NW, Room 1258. CAPTION: Picture, Gas Line Victim, Attendant Eddie Dalton has souvenirs of Dispute with Motorist. By Douglas Chevalier - The Washington Post; Table Daily Gasoline Guide, The Washington Post