Last month, I took a few whacks at Metro for allowing more and more discarded newspapers to pile up on its trains. I have been whacked in return by a fellow named Larry Brown -- not the former Redskin, but a Metro cleaning supervisor.

Larry writes in defense of his newspaper-picker-uppers, and says: "Print this if you dare." I didn't rise to my exalted station in life by ducking the high hard ones, Larry. Dare accepted.

"My main workers work from 8 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. while all of Washington and the suburbs are asleep," Larry writes. "My people are not only picking up newspapers but beer and soda cans, popcorn, sunflower seeds, peanut hulls, chicken bones, crab shells (when eating on a Metro vehicle is prohibited), dirty socks, shoes, underwear, little pieces of paper that some dummy tore up to have a graffiti party, vomit . . . . "

The list goes on, but for the sake of decency, we'll leave it at that. Let's close with Larry's last, and best, point: that the problem is not the crews who try to clean up the trains, but the slobs who make the mess in the first place.

As Larry points out, every newspaper-discarder is a "former auto commuter who thinks he's still in his car and is discarding his newspaper in the back seat." Perhaps the appropriate punishment is to sentence these clowns to sit in rush-hour traffic for the rest of their lives. Maybe then they'd appreciate a subway that is, after all, a lot cleaner than New York's, Boston's, Chicago's or just about anybody's.