Jim Angle had been a Washingtonian for all of three weeks when he looked under his windshield wiper one recent night on 18th Street NW. and found this:
"PARKING VIOLATION," the piece of paper began, in big black capitals. And at first blush, it really looked like one. Someone had filled in Jim's license plate number, the make of his car and the time of day, just the way they'd appear on the real thing.
Then came some rhetoric that doesn't appear on any official ticket anywhere:
"This is not a ticket, but if it were within my power, you would receive two. Because of your bullheaded, inconsiderate, feeble attempt at parking, you have taken enough room for a 20 mule team, two elephants, one goat and a safari of pygmies from the African interior.
"The reason for giving you this is so that in the future you may think of someone else other than yourself. Besides, I don't like domineering, egotistical or simple-minded drivers, and you probably fit into one of these categories.
"I sign off wishing you an early transmission failure (on the expressway at about 4:30 p.m.)."
Jim had filed the incident under "Random Strange Episodes" when he got to talking at a party to an oldtime Washingtonian.
In the same part of town, in the same week, the Washington veteran had discovered a business card under his windshield wiper.
"Thanks for Taking TWO Parking Spaces," the card read. "I had to park two blocks away. . . ."
Now, this is certainly not the D.C. Chamber of Commerce's approved method of treating old and new Washingtonians equally. A prankster is at work, to be sure, and to be even safer, the only person profiting from the phony tickets and the business cards is the people who print them.
Still, we've all been on both sides of this one -- furious when we can't squeeze into the seven-eighths of a parking space some Lincoln Continental has left us, yet determined to leave ourselves that extra half a space between already-parked cars so we have room to get out. t
Regardless of what Jim Angle's "ticket" may say, the problem is rarely selfishness. Like most people in his position, Jim parked at a time when his space was exactly the size of his Toyota Corona. It was the comings and goings of his neighboring parkers over the next few hours that turned him into a two-space consumer.
The real problem is that, when it comes to parking, foreign cars and American cars can't seem to get along with one another.
According to owners' manuals, more than three Toyotas or Datsuns can fit into the same curbside area as two full-size Chevrolets or Plymouths. So why not designate one side of crowded, busy streets "small," and the other "large?" That way, owners of different-sized cars will not think of "a parking space" and mean different things.
The idea is under study, said a staffer at the D.C. City Council's Transportation Committee.
Hang in there, Jim. New arrivals learn that patience is a Washington virtue.
Two long-time streaks bit the dust last week at Ed and Helen Curry's home in Northwest.
The Currys seldom watch television, but just the same, Helen had long wondered how the Nielsen TV survey people operate. One night at about 10:50 p.m., the phone rang.
A female voice identified itself as belonging to a Nielson pollster, and asked: "How many televisions were on in your house when the phone rang?" None, said Helen. "And do you own a television set that works?" Yes, said Helen. "Thank you very much," said the voice, and hung up.
So now Helen knows Nielsenism. But she says she felt so guilty about casting her no-I-wasn't-watching vote that she stayed up late.
To watch the 11 O'Clock News.
As for Ed, he has been called for jury duty a dozen times.
It hasn't been that big an imposition, he says, since he has never had to serve more than a couple of weeks at a time. What's strange is that Helen, with whom he jointly pays taxes and owns property, has never been called once.
The other day, though, an evelope plopped through the mail slot. It was a questionnaire from federal court, asking Helen to list any reasons why she might not be able to serve on a federal grand jury.
They meet for a minimum of two months -- and several have met for two years.