The caller said he reads my column all the time, and did I have a minute? I said I always have a minute for loyal guys like him.
Funny I should have used the word "loyal." My caller wanted to tell me about two intelligence workers who forgot in a very public way what loyalty means.
The scene was a well-known and always-crowded restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. My caller was having dinner with a date. At the next table, two other couples were doing the same.
My caller told me that he works "in the intelligence field." He didn't say where. He wouldn't say what he does exactly.
But he did say that he knows a security breach when he hears one, and from the next table, in this crowded Alexandria restaurant, right out in the open, he heard lots of them.
The two men at the next table chatted about the top secret work they were doing, complete with full names and other specific details. They gossiped quite loudly about fellow employes and which of them were security risks. They gossiped about other employes who were about to retire and join Beltway Banditries, and they discussed how these employes, too, were security risks.
Finally, my caller could take no more. He interrupted and told the two men that they were the security risks. He told them that it might have been the Russians at the next table instead of an American guy and his date. He told them that they should be ashamed of themselves.
The two men got very quiet very quickly. One of them asked for the check. He paid it promptly, and the two couples left.
Were the two men drunk, or well on the way? "Not noticeably," my caller reported. "They were four middle-aged people having drinks and dinner. They weren't being rowdy."
Did the two men say straight out that they worked for the CIA or the National Security Agency? No, they didn't. Then couldn't they have been Beltway Bandits or Capitol Hill staffers, not intelligence professionals bound by professional codes of silence?
"They could have been," my caller acknowledged. "But wherever they work, they were talking about classified matters in public."
It would serve no purpose to heap scorn on the heads of those two men. They know better than anyone that they crossed the line. Perhaps they'll recognize themselves in this story -- and perhaps they'll draw the obvious lesson.
I was waiting in line at my downtown bank for a crack at the instant cash machine. I was a distant seventh from the screen. The woman who was sixth said under her breath that if the unprintable multisyllables in front of us didn't hurry up, her toes were going to freeze.
I just glared at her, refusing to take the conversational bait. This woman looked as if she had eaten crushed glass for breakfast. She looked as if she tortures parakeets for fun. Why pretend to be in a listening mood? I wasn't exactly dying to hear a multisyllabic lecture on the multisyllabic shortcomings of the multisyllabic human race.
Just then, the street person who frequents that corner came ambling by.
Sometimes, when he has had a lot to drink, which is most of the time, he offers political monologues at the top of his lungs. Most of us cash machine regulars are used to him. Anyone who isn't used to him usually stares at the sidewalk and ignores the guy.
But the frozen-toed lady announced to me that the street person was "invading my space." You could see her debating with herself whether to tell the guy to knock it off. After about 90 seconds, she jumped in with both feet.
" . . . .And you know what those rotten Republicans did? They took my Social Security and they . . . ."
" . . . .told me I wasn't worth nothin' but $114 a month, even though I was a veteran from Korea, even though I called my . . . ."
" . . . .Congressman, but he wasn't no damn help. Asked me for my address, which I don't have one of. Asked me a whole lot of questions and . . . ."
The man stopped in mid-Congressman. He glared at the woman the way a poetry professor glares when a sophomore interrupts his lecture about Keats.
"Lady," he said, "you can tell about your rotten Congressman when I'm finished tellin' about mine."
The woman stared at the street person in total shock. Proving that silence is sometimes more multisyllabic than anything else.
John Parkinson of Laurel says a computer engineer who lives on his street was having back trouble. He consulted a doctor. Diagnosis:
A floppy disc.
For ages, Moe Harmon has been helping people who run afoul of dishonest D.C. cab drivers. Now, indirectly, Moe has helped some small people who have run afoul of ill health.
Moe is a rate supervisor for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission. In plainer English, that means that Moe fields complaints from people who think they've been mistreated by a D.C. cabbie. Then he tries to mediate the situation and arrive at a fair resolution.
There are many ways to approach this job, but Moe's is a credit to the city. He is fair, thorough, even-tempered and (fasten your seat belts) prompt. If there's a better guy in Bureaucracyland . . . . Forget it, Levey. There isn't.
Moe proved the truth of my words last month when he negotiated a settlement to the Donna Comarow affair in less than two days.
Donna had hopped a cab at National Airport and had asked to be taken to her home in Bethesda. When she arrived, the cabbie demanded $25. Donna thought that was high by about 100 percent. An ugly scene followed, featuring Donna in tears. To escape, Donna decided to pay.
But after talking it over with her husband Murray, Donna decided to fight back. A couple of phone calls, and the case landed in the lap of Moe Harmon.
Moe figured the proper fare at $13.30. He got in touch with the driver, delivered a stern lecture and obtained a full refund for Donna. It was mailed to her along with a written apology from the cabbie.
Nice, huh? Here's nicer:
The Comarows have donated the entire $25 to my annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital, in honor of Moe Harmon.
I can't think of a better way to honor a better guy.
If you haven't been reading my Saturday summaries of how the Children's campaign is doing, you've missed some big numbers.
As of Jan. 2, we had more than $267,000 in the till. That put us nearly $100,000 ahead of last year's campaign at the same time -- and last year's campaign broke all records.
But the last two weeks of a campaign always tell the tale -- and today, we enter the last two weeks of the 1987-'88 drive. If you haven't contributed to help sick kids yet, this is my chance to nudge you in the ribs, and your chance to take the hint.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.