David dixon, born September 1962, slipped into the Bethesda Post Office yesterday to run an errand dictated by the date of his birth and the U.S. government.
"I have no idea what I'm supposed to do," he said. "My father said you have to register this week. I'm not too hip on it but I'd rather register than get fined or go to jail."
Dixon was one of the indifferent trickle of young men who, amidst a few scattered protests and little fanfare, participated this week in the second round of registration for a possible draft. Today was the last day for men born in 1962 to register at local post offices, and Selective Service officials said it was far too early to estimate how many of the approximately 1.9 million nationwide had complied with the law.
Stung during last July's initial registration by what spokesman Joan Lamb called misleading early reports that only a small proportion of men had registered, Selective Service officials this time ordered post office employes not to give out daily tallies of registrants. Officials assert that 95 percent of the approximately 3.9 million eligible men registered last time.
Antidraft groups continued to dispute that figure yesterday and predicted that a smaller proportion of young men would comply this time around because there was so much less publicity and because the government had failed to prosecute those who didn't comply in July. Failure to register is a felony that can bring a 5-year jail term and a $10,000 fine.
Lamb said Selective Service was only waiting for the new administration to take its place before moving forward with an enforcement program.
On Monday, the continuous registration program will begin, in which 18-year-olds are required to register within 30 days either before or after their birthdays.
As this week's registration drew to a close, the antidraft groups planned a demonstration for this afternoon in front of the Reagan transition office at 19th and M streets NW. And Selective Service continued its program of public service announcements featuring Los Angeles disc jockey Wolfman Jack.
Yale freshman Jonathan Bach hadn't heard from the Wolfman, but even if he had it wouldn't have changed the fact that he's registering reluctantly.
"I object to war," he said yesterday as he headed to drop off his Selective Service card with his former Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school classmate Jose Marra-Lopez, a freshman at Columbia.
"Neither of us is looking forward to fighting," Bach said. "Most everyone we know is registering, but we wanted to find the best way to resist, and that's to register under protest."
"We're getting ready for spring demonstrations," Marra-Lopez said.
The two B-CC graduates said that as poorly publicized as the registration week was, they had not forgotten the date because the news that the nation planned to resurrect registration "took us with such shock last year," Bach said.
But among other 18-yer-olds who trudged in Friday, registering seemed to be little more than another chore they hadn't paid too much mind to. For each 18-year-old who found occasion to reflect on the nature of nations and politics, there were many more for whom registration was but a brief distraction from weekend plans, college worries, or anxiety about finding a job.
"It doesn't mean that much," said John Robbins, who works at a gas station and goes to the University of Maryland. "All my friends are registering because if they catch you they'll bust you."