This week's confidential inventory confirmed at least one of the worst suspicions: Washington is enduring, with no relief in sight, a very severe shortage of answers. In this town, that condition can be very serious.

Questions, by contrast, abound; questions about the president-elect's Cabinet choices, questions about the president-elect himself. Veteran Washington hands, who cheerfully point out that every transition overproduces questions, fail to comfort the local residents. Those who do care about this city -- which was founded, it will be remembered, upon a belief in balances as well as in checks -- cannot ignore indefinitely this imbalance of questions and answers.

If you are bereft of answers but not of concern, there is only one honorable course: pare the disparity by unloading the expendable questions. Consider:

Is there now, or has there ever been, an automobile dealership -- anywhere in the New World -- without its very own "award-winning" service department? And who are the people who actually grant the awards to these "award-winning" service departments and to their "highly trained professionals"?

All the advertisements for all the new cars, foreign and domestic, contain basically the same escape clause in discussing mileage: "Your mileage may differ," the ad agency advises, "depending on speed, distance and weather." That seems reasonable enough. But the next line devastates any credibility that may have been established: "Actual highway mileage will be lower."

Was it sophisticated market research, too esoteric for the layman, that revealed that first lying about the car's mileage and then immediately confessing to that lie somehow combined to build consumer confidence?

If the British had remained Roman Catholics, which church would the Irish have joined?

Has anyone else who dines semiregularly in America's restaurants noticed the waiters? Does it not seem that a growing and disproportionate share of them must be members of the Hapsburg royal family who are just keeping themselves bored until they receive official notice of their inevitable restoration to the throne?

Also, isn't it nice that the Hapsburg family of waiters has dispersed into the provinces? Wasn't it only a few years ago that they could be seen only in New York? But isn't it true that The Royal Sneer can now be found in such unexpected places as Green Bay, Wis., and Greenville, S.C.? f

Does anyone think the National Conservative Political Action Committee is insincere? How else could anyone explain NCPAC's putting Sen. Edward Kennedy at the top of its 1982 hit list of senators to be defeated? Does anyone think NCPAC genuinely believes it can help defeat Kennedy in Massachusetts? Or does it simply believe that having Kennedy on its hit list will turn on the right-wing money machine in its direct-mail efforts? Is there a chance that NCPAC and its ideologically kindred souls will run against Kennedy for as long as the Democrats ran against Herbert Hoover?

Why do so many recipes, in so many cookbooks, tell so many cooks to "beat egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry." Has anyone ever seen -- let alone beaten -- a dry egg white?

Isn't it time George Gallup and Lou Harris came up with new demographic categories for their polls? Isn't it true that "white collar" doesn't tell you much? Nor, for that matter, does "some college." What about listing voters as "anti-preservative, all natural, pro-herbal, who favor outlawing North Carolina cigarettes and legalizing South American ones"? Isn't that a lot more descriptive than the category "managerial-professional"?

Maybe some of this will remedy the anser shortage. Now, if everyone would help, we might be able to lick this thing.

But, finally, one question with one answer:

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one psychiatrist. But the light bulb has to really want to change.