Recently, I wrote about two Washingtonians who quit riding the bus because they were irritated by loud gum chewing and flagrant pot smoking, respectively. The column touched off a wide range of reactions.

The woman who fled back to her car because of gum noise is "so prissy I'm glad she's driving and not glaring at me," writes Kim Coleman of Northeast, who's obviously a chewer.

"Pot smoking is illegal and smoking on a bus is prohibited, so I can see that problem . . . But, really, if you are going to use mass transit, you should be more tolerant and a lot less thin-skinned than the woman in your column."

John Galligan of Northwest says he regularly turns his other cheek, and can't understand why others don't do the same.

"I have ridden Metrobuses here my whole life," he writes, "and in that time I have seen fights, pot smoking, rudeness and other 'socially unacceptable' situations.

"My reaction to it all is to ignore it. Now, why can't those two people in your article do the same?

"The young lady annoyed by gum chewing should bring along a book and get absorbed in it . . . The young man annoyed by pot smoking should sit in front (or stand in front) of the bus, because he and everyone else knows that the rowdies do business mainly in the rear of the bus."

On the other hand, Dolores Miner of Northwest understands the back-to-the-car movement only too well.

"The last straw came yesterday," Dolores writes, "when a rider next to me calmly opened a brown bag and devoured her hot dog 'with everything.' Meaningful glances at her and at the hot dog went past her level of consciousness."

What's the solution?

Helen Riley of Landover and Audrey Bardell of Hyattsville provided one for loud gum chewers, at least. It comes in the form of a poem, which they suggest you recite to the next woman on the bus who chomps too juicily:

A gum chewing girl and a cud

chewing cow

Are somewhat alike, yet different

somehow

What is this difference? Ah, yes, I

know now

'Tis the thoughtful expression on

the face of the cow