"So where you been, man?" inquired the bus driver, as I galumphed up the steps and deposited my three tarnished quarters and one battered nickel. "I thought sure you had hit the lottery and had bought yourself a big old silvery Mercedes-Benz."

I sat heavily in the seat directly behind him. "The day I hit the lottery, my friend, I won't be buying any Benz," I replied. "I'll buy this luxury rattletrap you drive."

The bussie chuckled. "The shock absorbers on the Benz would be in a whole lot better shape."

"No argument there," I said.

"Say, man, I've been meaning to ask you a question," the bussie blurted.

"So ask."

"Do you like sports?"

"No, man. Can't stand 'em. Hate 'em to death. That's why I sit behind you every single morning and study the baseball standings until my eyes are about to fall out of my head."

"I thought so. So let me ask you a question: Do you think it's right that girls are playing high school football?"

"Hmmmmm. I smell an anxious Dad behind that question."

"How did you figure that?"

"Because I'm an anxious Dad myself. Takes one to know one. So it must be your older daughter, right? The one who's a junior in high school out there near the family mansion in -- what is it? Upper Marlboro?"

"You got it. And I've got to tell you, man, I'm suffering. Here I've spent 16 years trying to teach her to be a sweet young lady, and just three weeks ago, she tells me, 'Daddy, I've decided to go out for the football team.' I almost choked!"

"Hey, my driving friend, you'd better get with the calendar. It's 1987. Women play football. Women run for high office. Women even drive buses -- and some of them drive a whole lot better than you do."

"You better lighten up, man. Eighty cents doesn't give you the right to slander me."

"No, but it gives me the right to ask you what in the world is wrong with your daughter playing football if she wants to?"

"Well, it's hard to explain. I guess I think it's just not very feminine. It's just not right. I mean, when we were kids, did any girls play football with us?"

"No, they didn't. And I always thought that showed they were smarter. I mean, I remember lying under a huge pileup, with six smelly guys all over me, with their shoulder pads sticking in my face, with my knee aching like all get-out, and I'm thinking, 'This is fun?' "

"Yeah, but it was, wasn't it? When I played, it was fun just because the ladies weren't welcome. It was men being men, you follow?"

"I follow. And I won't kid you. I liked a lot of that, too. The locker room was like no other place I've ever been. But a lot of it was a little silly, to tell you the truth. I mean, the 15th time some wise guy snaps your bare butt with a wet towel, it loses something."

"I'm glad you brought up the business about the locker room. That's part of the problem with my daughter. The people at the school said, 'Sure, honey, you come out for football if you want. But you'll have to dress in the girls' locker room.' Which is about a half a mile away from the practice field. That means my daughter is going to have to traipse half a mile to get undressed and get a shower."

"You're not saying you want her to get undressed in the boys' locker room, are you?"

"Of course not. But it's discrimination."

"Nonsense! It would be discrimination if they told her she couldn't play. But you can't expect a public school to build a girls' locker room right next to the football practice field just because one girl wants to come out for the team."

"I guess not," said the bussie, as he dodged a van near Dupont Circle. "But the other thing I'm worried about is the snickering I'm going to get around the neighborhood. One friend of mine is already on my case. He tells me, 'Hey, man, your daughter is going to have to eat better if she wants to play with the boys. If she eats enough, maybe she'll be as pretty as The Refrigerator.' "

"You say this guy is a friend of yours?"

"Well, he used to be," the bussie said. And he stared at the traffic that was clogging K Street, as far as the eye could see.

"Can I play another hunch?" I finally asked him.

"Sure, man. It's your 80 cents."

"Are you upset because you're afraid she'll be good at football? Like maybe real good? Like maybe better than you used to be?"

"Man," said the bussie, as he turned around to fix me full in the eye, "you ought to give up that silly column of yours and go become a shrink. You sure do read minds awful well."

"It comes," I said, "from years of having towels snapped against my bare butt." And I jumped off at 17th Street with a big wave.