How I wish this sort of thing had vanished 100 years ago. Sadly, it is alive and well on Connecticut Avenue, and almost surely elsewhere in the city, too.
Jo Lynn M. Yates is the star of our unfortunate show. Back in January, she saw an ad for a $499-a-month efficiency apartment available in a Cleveland Park high-rise. The place sounded perfect, so Jo Lynn made an appointment to see it.
However, as soon as she had introduced herself to the resident manager, he rather snippily informed her that all efficiencies in the building rent for $582 a month. That was far more than Jo Lynn was prepared to pay, so she said, well, there must have been a misunderstanding, and left.
Still, Jo Lynn was puzzled by the resident manager's treatment of her. So she asked a friend to call the building and find out if any apartments were available.
The friend did so, and was told yes: there were efficiencies at $499 a month, and also at $582 a month. In other words, the resident manager had told Jo Lynn a flat-out lie.
In case you haven't guessed yet, Jo Lynn Yates is black. And in case you need an accurate translation of what really happened, here it is: The resident manager took one look at the color of Jo Lynn's skin and decided that he would try to bluff her out of renting in his building.
Jo Lynn has since rented another apartment in another nearby building, without incident. But her case is a jarring reminder that housing discrimination is still very much with us in Washington.
Nor is it just discrimination against blacks, or against single women. Gays, Hispanics and unmarried couples tell me they regularly encounter exactly the same treatment, despite laws that supposedly protect them from it.
How to strike back? Maudine R. Cooper, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, says her office welcomes complaints at 727-3100, and will investigate them by using "testers" -- staffers who pose as prospective buyers or renters. If the tester gets a different story from the one the complainant got, court is the next stop.
I'm no lawyer and no rabble-rouser, but I urge any reader who has been discriminated against a la Yates to file a complaint without delay.
That's exactly what the bigoted resident managers and landlords of this world are hoping you won't do. They'll keep right on lying and breaking the law unless we drag them into the 20th century by the scruffs of their necks.
Your District government at work:
A D.C. attorney took his mother to a doctor's appointment. The only vacant nearby parking space was illegal, but the attorney figured it was better to take a chance and be on time for Mom's appointment than to park legally eight blocks away.
Appointment over, Mom and Son were pulling away from the curb when Son noticed a Familiar Pink Slip flying out from under his wiper blade and down the street. He hadn't noticed the slip before.
But why chase it? Son was sure that a phone call to the proper District office would give him the information he needed to pay it, and to keep his motoring record unblemished.
No such luck. Here's what he was told:
The information on the blown-away ticket wouldn't show up in the Department of Transportation computer for three weeks.
However, if Son didn't pay the ticket within 15 days, the fine would double.
Unfair? Crazy? Catch-22-ish to beat the band? Indeed it was all of those, said the D.C. government clerk. But there was nothing she or anyone else could do about it.
Doug Gibson of Hyattsville had some out-of-town visitors, and they developed a craving late one Sunday night to see the Lincoln Memorial.
So Doug drove them downtown. And started looking for a legal place to park. And kept on looking for a legal place to park. And got disheartened and discombobulated by the incredible mishmash of traffic lanes around Honest Abe's marble perch.
Finally, Doug found himself near the front steps of the Memorial. The only parking spaces there were labeled handicapped-only. However, it was 11:15 on a cold Sunday night, and almost no one was around. Doug figured if there was ever a time to break the law but do no harm, this was it.
Sure enough, when the merry memorialists returned to the car 10 minutes later, Doug had been zinged with a $50 ticket.
In one way, I feel no sympathy for him. The law is the law, even late on Sunday nights.
But the much bigger and better question is why there's no nonhandicapped parking anywhere near this popular tourist attraction. The closest public spaces that are legal around the clock are at 21st Street and Constitution Avenue NW, three long, long blocks away. Can't the Park Service do better?