A few days ago, I received a letter that said, "I recently completed some work in the Department of Transportation, 400 7th St. SW. The work I did took me all over the building, and I observed the people there and their working habits.
"I think if the U.S. taxpayer could see what I saw, there would be a tax revolt.
"They have a physical fitness program under which employees can go to the gym (in the penthouse) on working time and exercise, enjoy a sauna bath, and take a shower. There is a special dining room for bigwigs on the 10th floor. Service is provided by Coast Guard personnel, who also serve wine and other drinks.
"I have also been in the Oval Office at the White House, which is very nice, but Brock Adams' office is much nicer. I never could figure out what hours DOT people keep because they were always coming and going. It disgusts me to think that the taxpayer picks up the tab for all this. Please don't use my name or the name of the company I work for."
I asked Robert A. Holland at DOT to comment. His response began by pointing out that many people in Washington jog during their lunch hours, and DOT employees are no exception. There is a running track on the roof of the building. The track "was originally built for the Coast Guard's physical fitness program and was later opened to all employees. They do it on their own time."
In addition, there is an active preventive health program at DOT that "begins with a cardiovascular strees test to cut down on the lost time of heart-related illnesses. The tests are usually given during working hours. The locker rooms have showers and a sauna."
Wine, said Holland, is available in the secretary's dining room, "which is used by senior officials (but almost never used by Secretary Adams, who usually has a sandwich and a glass of milk at his desk)."
Holland added, "Secretary Adams has made no changes in the office he inherited. It was originally built for the first secretary of transportation when the building opened about 10 years ago."
Now there's a nice can of worms for a reporter or an editor to get into.
From a taxpayer's point view, too much time and money are being channeled into lavish quarters and goldbricking. But from a government administrator's point view, physical fitness programs are not only humane but good business. And, psychologically, it is probably a good thing to house high government officials in impressive offices.
Which viewpoint is valid? Is this a shocking story of government waste or a routine report that might have been filed after a visit to many other agencies?
My own evaluation, obviously, is that what we have here is a difference of opinion that merits mention and discussion. However, both the reporting and the discussion ought to be calm and objective.
Personally, I am not too greatly concerned to find that a one-time expenditure has been made to provide a Cabinet officer with a nice office.
I am much more concerned when evidence is offerred that ineffective or wasteful programs emanate from an office, and are perpetuated from one administration to the next.
If our GSA administrators had been on the ball during recent decades, they would have saved us enough money every year to make their lavish office furnishings and private dining rooms a bargain.
$3.50 A GALLON IS NOT CHEAP
Peggy Smith of Annandale asked, "If gasohol is 10 percent alcohol and 90 percent gasoline, can I get the same thing by adding one gallon of alcohol to nine gallons of gasoline?"
Ralph D. Fleming, an alternative fuels specialist with the Department of Energy replied, "Well, I guess so, provided 2she uses 200 proof alcohol. But that's pretty expensive."
The 200 proof alcohol used by distillers costs about $1.50 a gallon in carload lots. Some filling stations are now offering single gallons at $3.50 or so.
Seymour Rich of the Golden Table Restaurant is back from a visit to London with this news:
"The standard weather forecast on the radio seemed to be, 'It may rain all day. Then again, it may not. If not, the sun may come out."
Gordon Barnes, have you offered your services to our British cousins?
Harry Giffen writes , "Metrobuses have little boxes in their rear windows to show the route number. I noticed bus number 8547 this morning at Massachusetts and Western. Posted in its rear box were three letters: SEX."
Doggone you, Harry, the next time you see No. 8547, follow it and tell us where it goes.