Steve Graves, of Cheverly, was driving gingerly into the District on the 14th Street Bridge at about 6 p.m. on the night of Hurricane David.
He was about halfway across when, about three car lengths in front of him, disaster struck.
A Washington Star circulation truck driven by Carl Binker, 37, of Vienna, careened onto its side, richocheted off a guard rail and burst into flames.
Binker never had a chance. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Graves braked sharply to a halt about 20 feet from the fire. He admits he is lucky not to have piled into Blinker's burning truck on the rain-slicked road. He admits, too, that he gets slightly queasy when he thinks of how close he came to dying.
And Graves thinks about it every day because he drives past the place where Binker died every day.
A sooty smudge on the pavement is all that remains to mark the spot where Binker died. Weather and passing tires will soon erase it.
As a result, the next time it pours the way it poured on the night of the accident, not only won't Binker's death be commemorated, but motorists won't be dramatically warned to slow down on the bridge.
That's why Steve Graves wants the governments in the Washington area to erect white crosses beside the places on roadways where people have died in car accidents.
Wouldn't that make for a ghoulish landscape? Graves argues that the crosses would be far less ghoulish than the deaths themselves.
Besides, he said, crosses would underscore the need for careful driving far more vividly than any bumper sticker, cop or speed limit.
According to Justin True, a highway engineer at the Federal Highway Administration, most states have used some form of roadside marker over the years.
Usually, the displays have been simple, dignified, somewhat small white crosses, True said.
But sometimes black crepe paper has been dangled from appropriate light poles.
And sometimes the hulf of a smashed car has been left parked beside a superhighway, with a sign in what used to be the windshield asking heavyhandedly: "Do You Want This to Happen to You?"
But lately, according to True, "there doesn't seem to be as much activity in this area as there has been in the past."
The reason: "Relatives of the victims complained. They said they didn't want to be reminded of the accident every time they passed by.
As a result, True said, only four states -- Montana, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota -- have "highway markers" programs at present.
And all four are run by "chamber of commerce-type organizations, not state highway departments themselves," True said.
Spokesmen for the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. highway departments said they doubted "highway markers" would be popular in this area. Not only would families probably complain, they said, but the departments might run the risk of lawsuits based on invasion of privacy.
So Steve Graves is backing a long shot, and he knows it. But I can't help but feel his idea would be better than nothing. Anything that prevents a death -- or might -- seems worth it.
On Sept. 27, Carol J. Church, of Northwest Washington, innocently mailed a deposit to a Virginia National Bank branch in Alexandria.
On Sept. 28, Virginia National -- or some electronic beast they've got locked up there -- innocently mailed Church a receipt.
The postmark on Virginia National's envelope read: "Sept. 38, '89."
Church wants to know if this is VNB's way of telling us how the calendar will have been rewritten ten years from now.
Or maybe, she guesses, they've "received a privileged communication from George Orwell."
And if that computer didn't flip enough of its lid to satisfy you, may I introduce you to the one belonging to the Baldwin Cooke Company, of Morton Grove, Ill.?
The story begins with C. L. Gaasterland. He is a retired Navy man who lives in Kensington. His stationery calls him "Capt. C. L. Gaasterland, USN (Ret.)."
Gaasterland got a letter from Baldwin Cooke in August. The company wanted to sell Gaasterland its pocket executive planner, so it sent him one of those horrible "personalized" sales pitch letters.
It was addressed to "Mr. Capt. C. L. Gaasteria Usn."
The salutation read: "Dear Mr. Usn:"
The third paragraph read: "As you look over your advance copy, Mr. Usn, we think you'll see why your friends will appreciate and use the Pocket Executive Planner throughout 1980."
And Gaasterland's reply read: "My business associate, Mr. Usa, may have interest in your bargain offer. His address may be found in the Washington, D.C., telephone directory."