Washington is blessed, if that's the word -- by two parallel sets of bureaucracies: the federal government and the corporate, and a man of our acquaintance got caught between them in a most peculiar way.

Names are withheld because of his request for confidentiality.

The gentleman in question runs a one-man lobbying shop on an aspect of national security.

In the course of this enterprise, he arranges lunch meetings at which experts on the subject are the speakers and to which various people are invited, provided they're willing to pick up the $15 lunch tab.

So he sent a bill to one of the corporate attendants, only to get back a multipaged questionnaire assigning him a vendor number and asking whether he had an affirmative action hiring and nondiscriminatory promotion program.

Filling it out would get the lunch bill paid.

As we noted, his was a one-man shop, so he sent back the questionnaire by signing the waiver; as a Caucasian male with no fulltime employes, it seemed moot.

That should get the lunch bill paid.

Besides, he noted, since the federal regulation in question requires compliance only from federal contractors who do annual government business of $10,000 or more, it would take 667 luncheons at $15 a pop to reach the compliance threshold.