Unfortunately, the gusher is no longer gushing. The pay phone outside the Safeway in Adelphi has quit spewing as much as $4 worth of change at every poor cluck who deposited a quarter in it.

But the moneyfest was fun while it lasted. And it was even more fun when Mary C. King, of Beltsville, called to report it.

The pay phone in question belongs to Atlantic Telco Inc. of Northwest Washington. Apparently, it hemorrhaged change for several hours one day in late August. When Mary heard about the early Christmas, she figured Atlantic Telco might want to know. So she called in a report.

The operator who took the call asked for the address where the phone was located. She told Mary that an address appears on the front of every Atlantic Telco pay phone.

But not on this one. Either the address had worn away, or it had been peeled away, or it had run off to Atlantic City with the money that the phone had been dishing out. Without that address from the face of the phone, said the operator, there was nothing she could do.

Mary offered the address of the Safeway instead, since it was the same as the address of the phone. The operator refused to accept it.

Mary offered the address of the shopping center in which the Safeway and the phone are located. The operator refused to accept it.

Mary offered the name of the town and the name of the state in which the phone is located. The operator refused to accept them. She said she could take the address from the face of the phone, period.

At this point, Mary gave up. She figured any organization that would stand so firmly on ceremony when it was losing dozens of dollars a minute was beyond her help.

Asked to comment, Jerry Scheer, the chief executive officer of Atlantic Telco, said his company would definitely rather make money than give it away. However, he said gushers of coins like the one in Adelphi "do happen, even though it's rare."

Apparently, Mary used a different phone to report the trouble. If she had used the gusherphone, the Atlantic Telco operator would never have had to ask for its location. She would have pushed one button on a machine at Telco headquarters, and the address of the gusherphone would have appeared on her computer, Jerry said.

Asked to explain why the Atlantic Telco operator didn't accept the address of the Safeway, or the address of the shopping center, Jerry said: "I don't have a real response to that."

But I do. The story proves that too many workers have become frightened, robotic rule-obeyers. They'd do much better to remain what humans have always been: creatures who listen, and who use their common sense.

This is the time of year when the C & O Canal is at its most beautiful. In 1990, it's also the time of year when some of the canal's best friends are about to get a beautiful offer.

Each summer, the C & O Association sponsors a walk along the canal to commemorate Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who was instrumental in helping to save the canal from becoming a highway.

Over the next month, a play called "Mountain" will be presented at Ford's Theatre. The show, which opens Oct. 1, is based on the life of Justice Douglas. To thank the C & O Association's walkers for keeping the Douglas spirit alive, Ford's would like to offer each of them a free ticket to the Oct. 7 performance of the show.

Ford's knows the names of all the walkers from 1989 and 1990. But it doesn't have addresses or phone numbers. So I've been asked to help.

If you took part in the annual C & O walk, either this year or last, please call Erin Dunn at 638-2380 to claim your ticket.

ISO has nothing to do with muscles. It's an abbreviation for In Search Of -- those classified ads through which boy and girl seek one another each month in Washingtonian Magazine.

Apparently, ISO has migrated to the roadways. Sue C. Bak, of Vienna, saw this vanity license plate three weeks ago in the parking lot of an Arlington restaurant:


Bob Talbert of the Detroit Free Press defines the difference between men and women this way:

Women will wear anything new no matter how uncomfortable. Men will wear anything comfortable no matter how old.

From Bernard L. Albert, as quoted in Humor Events magazine: Husbands are like fires. They go out when unattended.