It's around-the-nation day here at the ranch. We begin in Knoxville, Tenn., where the 1982 World's Fair limps to a conclusion in two weeks.
A surprisingly large number of fair-goers had a surprisingly rotten time there this summer. It was little wonder. The complaints still echo about Cokes that cost a dollar, six-hour lines, souvenir pennants that fell apart 45 minutes after you bought them, that sort of thing.
But Nell Cooper of Hyattsville didn't even have to go to the fair to have a lousy time. All she did was to try to make a reservation at a lodge in nearby Sevierville, through the fair's central accommodations office.
I'll spare you the gory details. The long and the short of it: To make and then cancel a motel reservation took Nell three months and $28.92 worth of long-distance phone calls.
Neck and neck with Nell is Neil Goldberger of Rockville, who took his wife and two sons down to Knoxville in July.
First, the shower in the Goldbergers' room didn't work. When Neil headed for the front desk to complain, he opened the door of the room. The doorknob fell out into his palm.
How about another room? Sorry, said the front desk. There weren't any.
How about a refund? Sorry, that was against their policy.
Even when the shower doesn't work and the doorknob doesn't stay put? Sorry, but during the fair, no refunds for any reason.
This is no cheap knock on Knoxville. Similar tales of woe take place in any city, on any day, World's Fair or not.
But my nose, and my mailbox, tell me that the Knoxville Fair was an uncommonly disorganized affair. To prove it, we're going to run a poll as the fair winds down. If you had a good time there, write me the particulars. If you didn't, do the same. My hunch: the bads will outnumber the goods by about four to one.