A potpourri of August outrages, large and small, around town . . .

Peggy Varney of Arlington innocently pulled her 1975 Ford Granada into a gas station the other day and asked them to fill it up.

Her owner's manual says that should have produced a 12-gallon purchase, tops. And because she is not a drive-till-the-last-drop type, Varney says she had never before put more than 11.4 gallons in her tank at any one time since she bought the car four and a half years ago.

But this time, the gauge on the pump said 14.1 gallons.

A little smelly, you say? What would you call it if readings of more than 12 gallons confronted Peggy Varney two more times at two other Arlington stations?

Last week, that happened.

"I hardly think my gas tank has expanded to accommodate more gas," Varney noted, rather dryly. Her summary of the experience: "a ripoff."

But getting ripped off is one thing; trying to have the rip "sewn up" so others won't fall through it is quite another.

Varney says she has now called or written to 19 different agencies (and agencies-within-agencies) in her quest to blow an official whistle on the three gas stations that apparently "overgalloned" her.

The agencies range from the Department of Energy (which told her to call the Arlington County government) to the phone operator at the White House (who told her to call the newspapers).

Results so far: zilch.

"It is a bit frustrating," says Varney, in what may be the understatement of this or any other summer.

Jerome K. Eldridge of Northwest Washington says he doesn't provoke very easily. But he encountered an urban tableau at 24th and G Streets NW. last week that got him "a bit irritated."

At the northeast corner of the intersection -- too close to the corner to comply with D.C. parking laws -- say something that looked like a Chevrolet station wagon but was really a corpse.

It had been there so long that "three of the tires have rotted and the debris of spring and summer rains have accumulated," Eldridge reports.

"The tags are missing. Parking citations shoved under the windshield washers have long since washed away, although on the rear window still sticks the command to 'tow.'

In short, an abandoned hulk, parked illegally.

A car on the northwest corner of 24th and G was parked illegally, too -- "in the same relationship to the intersection as the "dead" one," according to Eldridge. The only difference was that this car was obviously healthy.

So when a D.C. towing crew arrived one day to crane away the live car, Eldridge asked why they didn't take the dead one, too. After all, the label on the rear window virtually ordered them to, no?


"We don't bother with junk," Eldridge says the crew told him. "Leave it for the private garages."

"I can understand having pride in one's job," says Eldridge, who has written to Mayor Barry to complain. But the whole episode struck him -- and me -- as "bureaucratic absurdity."

Gold Star to Pat Thyden, who points out that an Aug. 1 story in The Post included this promising entry in the Sloppy Usage Sweepstakes:

". . . the sights, about which you could care less."

As Thyden points out, the reporters who committed that phrase to the ages "apparently couldn't care less."

Talk about a fantasy that died hard. . . .

I had wondered for months what it would be like to ride a Metro train all the way from National Airport to New Carrollton, looking out the front window all the way.

Last week, I gave it a try.

It stunk.

First, there's no place to hold on. So the train's lurches are your downfalls. Literally.

Second, the machine that bin-bongs to announce that the doors are about to close is mounted right over your head. Instant deafness.

Third, you can't look through the front window very well because a locked door keeps you from getting through the window in the door as well as the front window. Glare and double-images thus spoil much of the view.

Fourth, the motorman keeps walking in front of you to open and close the doors on the left side of the car.Worse, it took me about 15 minutes to get used to the way the train (actually driven by a computer) starts away from a station before the motorman is back in his seat.

It's enough to make the "adventure" of riding the New York subway seem worth it. At least you can see.