In the "United States Government" listings in all three local telephone books, Greer B. Gilka has noted that the first entry under the heading "AIRPORTS" is, "Dulles International Airport -- Eager To Make Our Environment Reclaim the Growth of Our Existence 1905 E St SE." . . . Jim Weber of Greenbelt reports after a visit to Texas that some people down there had no water to drink because too much water had fallen from the sky, knocking out the waterworks in Agua Dulce. That's Spanish for "Sweet Water." . . . Gaetano Gentile of Falls Church thinks I was too polite to the young reader whose position on the draft was, "You go first." (He thought congressmen, columnists and other doddering old men should be the first to be drafted.) Gaetano's response would have been that many of the doddering old men "of whom he spoke with implied comtempt had already gone first and had fought his battles, so that he is now free to demonstrate against the draft and spew nonsense at will." Gaetano, I like you answer a lot better than mine.
It doesn't happen often, but occasionally an organization that asks District Liners for help will report back on the results. William J. Jackson, chief of community activities at D.C. Village, informs me that the appeal for 1980 calendars for residents of the Village resulted in a fine response and a good supply of all sorts of calendars -- wall, desk and pocket. . . . Virginia Clark of Arlington loved the headline we put on a recent typographical monstrosity. The story, datelined Peking, said, "A man who recently finished a 10-year prison term recently finished a 10-year prison term for writing counterrevoluntionary slogans has been sentenced to another 10 years for committing the same offense again." Our headline was, "Chinese Sloganeer Judged Repetitive," which moved Virginia to comment, "The kettle should have been more careful in pointing a finger at the pot." . . . Orde Kittrie of Bethesda is a sophomore at Walt Whitman High School who wants to becoe a newspaper reporter and wonders if I have any advice to offer. Yes: Learn you own language and as many others as you can. Learn to read with understanding, then read as much as you can about as many things as you can. Take courses in as many subjects as you can. Be observant. And learn to listen. After you have done all that, you will have something to say. Then all you have to do is learn to communicate. It's easy. Also a lot of fun.
No winter is complete until people begin writing and phoning to tell me they have seen "the first robin of spring." It does no good to remind them that many robins winter in this area and can be seen here the year around. . . . Richard G. Terwilliger of Falls Church has clipped and forwarded to me a sports report from Lake Placid that said, "For the next 45 minutes, the crowd's breath was baited." Richard asks, "with what do you bait a crowd's breath -- worms, pork rind or corn?" The word we wanted was obviously bated, which is derived from abate (lessen, lower). "Bated breath" is used to indicate momentarily suspended breathing caused be fear, expectation or suspense.
The sexist cads who play in my weekly poker game complain when I put Susan B. Anthony dollars into the pot, but Gordon R. Sanford of Fairfax City loves the Susans. After it was announced that the coins would be distributed through post offices, Gordon asked his local post office to give him his $3 worth of change in Susans. "Sorry," said the clerk, "I can sell you a roll for $25, but we have no place to keep the individual coins so we don't use them here." . . . Jim Thomas of Ellicott City, Md., heard so many claims that the Protopopovs were the greatest skaters of our time that he bought Ice Capades tickets at $8.50 each, paid $2.50 to park, "and then sat through a two-hour show by average performers, with no sign of the Protopopovs and no public announcement or explanation. The next morning, I read in The Post and heard on WMAL, 'Come to the Ice Capades and see the Protopopovs.' I consider this is a consumer rip-off." I'm told the Protopopovs were too sick to skate for a few days. Theatergoers are also disappointed when advertised stars become ill, but they are usually given an explanation, and sometimes even an advance warning. . . . Robert L. Ball of Clinton writes, "I have been reading about the millions of dollars involved in the Henry Ford divorce case. One of the stipulations in the settlement was that they would not talk about who got what, but I wonder if you could find out for us: Who got the Sony and who got the Edsel?" . . . Sid Yudain, editor of Roll Call, reported recently: "Many observers feel Sen. Ted Kennedy's presidential campaign peaked just before he announced." . . . I have finally figured out what that Dulles Airport telephone listing means: "We have just sighted the first robin of spring."