Been past the construction at Rock Creek Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue lately? Next time you go, bring lunch. The site has become one of Our Town's great traffic snarls much of every day.
This being a city of VIPs, however, traffic jams aren't bothersome to everyone. If you've got the clout, you've got the solution. Just ask the driver to snap on the red light and siren, and watch the other motorists part like the Red Sea.
But on what grounds? I'll bet many of the passengers in those limousines have ordered up emergency equipment because they're late to a daughter's piano recital, not because the president has just summoned them to the White House.
Still, we Unimportant Persons can only sit and gnash our fangs. Even if we caught up with the cheating limousines, I doubt that the Secret Service escorts would be interested in an extended discussion.
Sometimes, however, the sun shines. On the morning of Feb. 23, George Bush's limousine got caught in traffic at Rock Creek and Virginia -- and allowed itself to stay caught.
Or did it?
Rod Moore of Northwest writes to say he was stopped in the reconstruction mess that morning when he happened to look to his left.
"Sitting well back in the line of cars waiting to turn left on Virginia Avenue was none other than Vice President Bush and a carload of Secret Service personnel. No sirens blaring, no red lights flashing (either of which would have tied up traffic further). Just sitting there."
"Super!" I thought. "Of the traffic, by the traffic, for the traffic. A man of the people. Gotta give him some public praise."
So I called Peter Teeley, the vice presidential press secretary. My voice was to mid-gush level by the time Pete got on the line.
"I think this is just great!" I said. "Wonderful! Proves that at least one VIP in Washington doesn't think he's above inconvenience. Restores my faith in...."
"It wasn't him."
"What do you mean it wasn't him?"
"I mean it wasn't him."
There are times for curse words. This was one.
The hopeful side of me tried to resuscitate the story. I tried to reach Rod Moore, and failed. I asked Pete Teeley to check with the Vice President's Secret Service detail, which confirmed that he was nowhere near Rock Creek Parkway on the morning of Feb. 23. I even interviewed one of the traffic cops who's stationed at Rock Creek and Virginia on weekday mornings. He says he didn't see the Veep, either.
Pete Teeley says he has no idea who the Patient VIP might have been. And rather than run down his hunch ("I suspect Haig, or Regan or Weinberger"), I'm going to allow this sleeping dog to lie. Whoever you are, though, Very Important Sir, my thanks and those of a grateful city. Now: see what you can do about hurrying up the construction, will ya?