ANSWERED AT LEAST 80 phone calls today, most with request for free tickets. It's amusing how many of the callers can't quite get up the nerve to ask for tickets to "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Instead they wonder if we have anything for "that" show at Warner Theater. A quick look in the ticket box shows slim pickings, but for a Monday that's not unusual.
Between phone calls, I look over my speech for delivery before the Arlington Rotary. Talking about the needs of the all-volunteer military and ways the USO helps usually evokes good audience response. I wonder if all the talk about resumption of the draft will be reflected in the questions I am asked. At least once a week, some well-meaning person tells me that what the USO really needs to gain support is another war.
Before leaving the office, I check with the young Marine corporal on leave who appealed to us for help when his luggage got lost on the way home from Okinawa. It was good to hear we had been able to cut through the red tape and reunite him and his duffel bags after a five-day delay.
My good spirits last only till I arrive home to find a Vepco bill $13 higher than the previous month. Knowing full well my epitaph will read, "Before she left, she turned off the lights," I look for the inevitable explanation for such a big monthly jump. But of course, another fuel adjustment increase. Will January never end! Tuesday
I began to plan the March issue of the USO newspaper called UPDATE. Searching through piles of press releases and old clippings, I decide March won't be such a bad month after all. The Cherry Blossom Festival, Ringling Brothers Circus, St. Patrick's Day parade and Linda Ronstadt all in the same month give me a lot of copy for this newspaper dedicated to the principle that an assignment to Washington may be expensive but, if you know where to look for it, there's a lot of things to see and do which won't crush an E4's budget. The biggest complaint I hear from servicemen and women stationed here is how difficult it is to survive financially.
Along those same lines, I answered a call from the wife of a sailor stationed in Norfolk. She lives in northern Virginia and was in what she called a "desperate financial mess." Could the USO lend her some money, she wondered. I explained that we don't have the funds but referred her to Navy Relief and tried to reassure her that they would help.
As I sink into my Metro bus seat, I try to second-guess the weatherman who seems to be hinting at snow tomorrow. Knowing full well one day of everyone being at home "snowbound" could lead to fights over the last slices of bread and the two remaining Twinkies, I promise to emergency-shop tomorrow. Wednesday
Before driving Dennis to the 6:56 bus I speed-read The Post, knowing I'll have to give it up to my commuting husband. Reading the less than great reviews of "Clothes for a Summer Hotel" at the Kennedy Center, I wonder how Geraldine Page could ever be anything but marvelous on stage. But then again, when have the critics and I ever agreed? One thing's for certain, the combination of a stormy forecast and bad reviews almost certainly means my phone will ring today with donations of tickets for Tennessee Williams' latest effort.
Before leaving for the office, I begin what my family likes to call my Supermom routine. Into the car at 8, at Super Giant by 8:05. Rushing down the aisles, I look like the winner of a supermarket sweepstakes. Into the basket go nonperishables which will keep the kids from each other's throats if snow does arrive tomorrow. We may run out of milk but our supply of junk food would make Ralph Nader blanch. On the bus by 8:27, I settle down for the trip up Shirley Highway with the latest copy of Washingtonian and read all about Marvin and Jeanne Mandel.
The phone is already ringing off the hook when I arrive and sure enough, the ticket donations have begun. Orchestra seats to "Clothes" are given away to grateful servicemen and women as fast as they come in. Now if only it would snow the day of the All-Star Game so we could send some of those sports-hungry young GIs to Capital Centre. I know how disappointed they are when I have to tell them there is no way we're going to have any free tickets.
I try to reach my friend Hymie Perlo at Capital Centre to thank him for his assistance the week before. An Army sergeant stationed at Fort Myer had called to ask me for six tickets to the Bullets game because his daughter was a member of the youth club team putting on a pre-show exhibition. Naturally, an E7 cannot afford the price of admission, so he turned to the USO in hopes of a miracle. Using my best hearts-and-flowers approach, I asked Hymie for help and he came up with the tickets. It's no wonder his office is filled with appreciation certificates from community groups.
Before I leave the office, the latest in a long line of teenagers walks up our stairs in hopes of signing up for the military. We steer him to the recruiters on Pennsylvania Avenue. I can't help but wonder whether it was all the furor over Iran and Afghanistan which motivated him or the frustration of another inner-city kid unable to find a job. Maybe a little bit of both. Thursday
I escape having to drive the junior high school car pool since the weatherman's forecast for snow does come true. By 9 a.m. it becomes clear that closing schools in Fairfax County was a bit premature.
Even an inch of snow means a good ticket day and by noon we have been given tickets to almost everything except "that" show at the Warner and the Larry Bird show at the Capital Centre. Predictably, I answer many calls asking for Celtics tickets but I offer little hope since the game is sold out.
Everyone must be feeling the post-Christmas budget pinch. Several young enlisted men call hoping we may know of some Saturday moving jobs where they can earn extra money. Although job referral is one of the USO's new outreach programs, I know of nothing this weekend to offer them.
I place a call to my friends at Ford's Theater to express my concern about newspaper articles indicating a funding problem. Thanks to Ford's generosity, many thousands of Washington area servicemen and women and their families have had an opportunity to experience great theatrical performances. For most, it is their first "live" theater and a memorable opportunity.
At 4:40, as I am clearing off my desk, a messenger bounds up the stairs with four choice seats to the Bullets/Celtics game. Some lucky soldier, sailor or airman will get a chance to see Larry Bird blow the Bullets off the court tonight, thanks to the generosity of an airlines executive who is one of our best contributors.
We see "West Side Story" at the Kennedy Center. Before the curtain rises I look around and notice the White House Box sits empty. I wonder whom to approach in the Carter administration to suggest the USO be called when no one is using the presidential box. No one can accuse me of not coming up with new ideas! Friday
Before going home at noon with a sudden case of the flu, I talk with someone from the Washington Ballet who offers 50 matinee tickets to the USO for Saturday. She seems pleased when I tell her that many enlisted personnel enjoy dance and will welcome the tickets for Lisner Auditorium. As it turns out, we distribute the tickets almost evenly between enlisted persons and officers.
What some people do not realize is that officers assigned to the Washington area also find themselves in an economic squeeze and welcome the opportunity for tickets from the USO as much as enlisted personnel.
Several visiting Coast Guardsmen who are in town for the weekend come by our office. After receiving brochures, maps and advice on places to visit, they ask for hotel information. We tell them about the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen's Club on L Street for $7 a night. Saturday
My family assures me they can do the shopping and I should stay in bed till fully recovered. Reluctantly I hand over the checkbook and a shopping list. Two hours later they return, having gone $14 over budget but proud of their accomplishment. Somehow it seems tacky to point out they forgot to buy bread. aDennis and our 16-year-old Lisa spend the afternoon in the driveway going over the fine points of making the car move out of park, for she is now the proud owner of a learner's permit -- God help us. Sunday
I rejoin the ranks of the living, vowing to serve up a gourmet feast to my family immersed in the NBA All-Star game on TV. My pride in the veal marsala and fettucini is tempered somewhat when my 12-year-old wonders if she can have Rice Krispies instead.
At night I watch the Bob Hope special covering his traveling USO shows. I know it's corny but I feel a sense of pride knowing I work for an organization responsible for bringing such happiness to others. Maybe it was being raised a service brat, but for whatever reason, I look forward to Monday. How many of my friends can say that?