Periodically, we publish good new ideas in this space, to the accompaniment of brisk cheers. Today, we publish word of an idea that ought to go back to sleep.
Woodward & Lothrop is advertising something called The Revenger. It's a machine about the size of a tape deck. It costs $19.95. To use it, you flick a switch, and out comes the noise of a hand grenade blowing up or of a machine gun rapid-firing.
"Don't get mad, get even, with The Revenger," the ad copy gushes. "Perfect for dashboard, home and office."
Perfect? Has Woodies traveled the Beltway lately? If you played the sound of a machine gun out there, where it's every man for himself, you might attract return fire -- and it might not be on tape.
Nor is this a sure bet at home. Yes, it'll bring down the house the first time you use it. But if you keep trotting it out (and for $19.95, you'll want to), what message will you be sending? That you really are contemplating a grenade assault over the question of which TV program to watch?
The one place The Revenger might pay for itself is the office -- if it's the right kind of office. Gallows humor keeps many offices afloat. In an office where there is a sense of humor, The Revenger might be a brightener. Of course, in an office where humor moved to Montana years ago, or never existed, The Revenger would lay an egg.
Sure, it's just a novelty device, and no harm is meant, either by Woodies or by anyone who buys it. But I can't help thinking about a young boy who buys a cap pistol, and who doesn't mean any harm by that, either. In these jumpy days, someone with a real gun might shoot first and think about the harmlessness later.
In case you missed it -- and I'm sure you did, since it was buried in oceans of teeny type -- I'd like to reprint part of a death notice.
Death notices are not normally a good source of smiles. But I am still grinning over the Feb. 28 notice concerning the death of William H. Weidowke of Bethesda.
Mr. Weidowke died Feb. 22 at the age of 80. His death notice began with the usual: career, survivors, funeral arrangements. But at the very end, it said:
"May he rest in peace and find a good bridge game."
If I can go that way -- and if I can find the same good bridge game that Brother Weidowke has already cut into -- I'll be a happy fellow, indeed.
Have you done your tax return yet? This is the week when, at last, more than half of us can answer that question in the affirmative.
Why don't more of us file sooner? The IRS seems to scratch its bureaucratic head about that one every year -- and to blame us.
Out come more ads urging us to file early, and warning us about delayed refunds if we file late. But more than half the returns still are filed in the last six weeks before April 15.
David S. Burnett of Alexandria may have the explanation. It isn't laziness. It isn't the time it takes to figure out the instructions. It's the delay in receiving W-2 forms.
"I would file Jan. 1 or as soon as I could -- if I had my W-2's," David writes. "Unfortunately, the company I work for (and many others) don't mail W-2's until their deadline (Feb. 1). So we don't get them until Feb. 15.
"I wish the IRS would put a little pressure on employers to mail W-2's earlier."
To be fair about it, David, I'm sure that many employers are doing the best they can. They are snowed by other kinds of paperwork, and they get W-2's out as soon as possible.
However, I'm equally sure that there are plenty of employers who look at the IRS regulations, see the Feb. 1 deadline, and never even consider getting the forms out a second earlier.
To those employers, a gentle elbow in the ribs. The show can't start until you guys do. Next year, won't you try for Jan. 15, for a change?
Speaking of elbows in the ribs, let's apply another, to the Virginia Department of Highways. Their spelling skills are about a quart low.
A regular reader in Reston says he is distressed daily by a new sign near the westbound Dulles Toll Road toll plaza. It reads:
MAXIUM SPEED 10 MPH.
"I wince each time I pass this eyesore," my reader writes.
I agree that the M-lessness is bad news, my Restonian friend. Still, maybe you should count your blessings.
In the early 1980s, as you entered the District via New York Avenue, you saw a sign that read: WELCOME TO WASHINTON.
It took the District two years to find a G. And this was the name of the city, not something that began life in Latin.