Post offices are closed today, and in the case of the Farragut Station at 1145 19th St. NW., it may be a good thing. It's one less day for confusion to reign there over the question of checks.

John Mazor of Clinton was only the latest in a series of customers to run into a strange situation at the Farragut office. He bought some stamps there the other day and tried to pay for them with a check drawn on the Equitable Bank.

But Farragut wouldn't accept the check because Equitable's home office is in Baltimore, which is "out of town" (and thus unacceptable), according to the copy of the rules for checks on file at the Farragut office. John pointed out until he was blue in the face that Equitable has 29 branches in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, but he couldn't budge the Farragut staff.

Then, to make a bad story even worse, it turns out that the rules Farragut had were wrong.

George Conrad, public affairs officer for the city's post offices, said out-of-town checks were acceptable at all city postal branches as of Oct. 3. However, somebody apparently forget to tell Farragut station manager J.E. White.

On Dec. 17, White told researcher Wendy Melillo that he had just called downtown and been told of the change in policy. Had he ever gotten a memo notifying him of it? White said no. Would he have known of the change if he hadn't called? No again.

How grand to think that, at one of the busiest post offices in the city, during the busiest postal season of the year, dozens of check-bearing customers were turned away by mistake. And all because postal regulation-writers couldn't send a branch manager a routine memo.

Perverse thought: do you think the memo could be in the mail?


Idea Whose Time Has Come (from Jean Rhodes of Annapolis):

"I think car rental agencies should give their customers a little card listing the traffic regulations in their particular state . . . . Perfectly fine drivers who have driven for years in their home states may be unaware of the state regulations someplace else. The cost would be minimal, and it would certainly be a safety factor."

A goodie. If you've got another that you think the world just can't live without, mail it to me, please. My address appears at the end of this column.