The man known to most Washingtonians as Cody has retired, and more than 400 of his best friends filled one of the city's theaters yesterday to do him honor.

Cody is Cody Pfanstiehl, who for 21 years was the almost unflappable spokesman for Metro, and who oftimes sounded like a performer in a real-life version of "Happy Days" even when the news was one of gloom (Congress is cutting off funds for subway construction) or of doom (the Potomac River is pouring into the L'Enfant Plaza station).

He was, in the words of C. Darwin Stolzenbach, the administrator of the old National Capital Transportation Agency who recruited Pfanstiehl in 1961, "the most important employee that . . . Metro . . . has ever hired."

Nobody who gathered in the Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater to view a "roast" of Pfanstiehl seemed to disagree.

His latest boss, Metro general manager Richard S. Page, called him "energetic, unflappable . . . dedicated to integrity and honesty . . . dedicated above all to serving the people."

Those were among the few serious words of the afternoon.

Warren D. Quenstedt, variously the deputy and acting general manager of Metro, recalled how Pfanstiehl, working overtime, got locked in the stairwell of the agency's office building and was not released until the next morning.

"Margaret [his late wife] is the only person in the world who would have believe that one," said Quenstedt, as Pfanstiehl nodded appreciatively.

Another former general manager, Theodore C. Lutz, recalled how he went with Pfanstiehl to the Metro Center subway station platform for a publicity appearance with Elmo, the Energy-Saving Robot.

When they arrived, Lutz said, the robot went berserk as Pfanstiehl and others tried to keep it from diving into the path of a train.

But he credited Pfanstiehl with positive contributions. It was Pfanstiehl, Lutz said, who schooled him into understanding that "when half of the Potomac River" is pouring into the subway -- a real, if overstated, happening in 1977 - should properly be called "a water intrusion." And when a strip of Connecticut Avenue falls into the subway diggins, that to Pfanstiehl becomes "a minor subsidence."

Pfanstiehl's "Metrospeak" was demonstrated at a mock news conference at which reporters who covered Pfanstiehl over the years parodied his answers - as well as his characteristically loud and unkempt attire, complete with walkie-talkie and beeper.

Sample question: "When will the Green Line to Greenbelt be built?"

Answer: "It will be built."

But Pfanstiehl, unlike many public relations men, played to an audience larger than the reporters who covered him. When Metro was ready to expand service into a new neighborhood, Pfanstiehl was the advance man, convening community meetings and tours of the new stations for local residents.

He was, in a sense, the public persona of Metro as it grew and matured to become an important fixture, if sometimes an erratic or frustrating one, in Washington daily life.

Pfanstiehl's Army Air Corps buddy from World War II and his oldest Washington friend, radio performer Fred Fiske ("spell that P-f-i-s-k-e"), voiced the bottom line of the Metro spokesman's accomplishments: When problems occurred, "What he did do was just to confine dissatisfaction to just riders and taxpayers."

As the two-hour event drew to a close, Pfanstiehl took the lectern and announced: "I must admit I'm flapped."

And then he invited Margaret Rockwell to join him on stage, along with her guide dog, Wade. Rockwell was the founder of The Washington Ear, a broadcast service for the sight-impaired.

Pfanstiehl, describing himself as "the ultimate volunteer" for The Washington Ear, announced that he and Rockwell will be married later this year.

It was all over except for the farewell salute. Broadcaster Ed Walker, the master of ceremonies, punched a button and there were 21 ding-dongs, like the sound Metro cars make before the doors close. There was one for each year of Pfanstiehl's service.