Nicole Short's article "Columbo Jr. and the Great Metro Chips Caper" [Style, Aug. 16] will encourage a minority of Metro riders to continue munching away on snacks and (like Ms. Short) "entire meals" on trains and in stations -- violating a rule designed to keep Metro clean and vermin-free. Residents and visitors alike regularly comment on how much cleaner and more pleasant our Metro system is than many other cities' subways. A critical reason for this is the respect most Metro riders pay to the no-food, no-drink policy.

The article's tone is breezy, sarcastic and smug -- disrespectful not only to the law but also to the Metro officer who encountered Ms. Short's selfish behavior. But the article can be thanked for one thing: the author's ridicule of her $10 fine reminds us that that is an absurdly light penalty that needs to be changed. How about $100 and a weekend of cleaning a Metro station?

NORMAN FICHTHORN

McLean

In "Columbo Jr. and the Great Metro Chips Caper," Nicole Short:

Admits no shame for breaking a long-standing Metro rule prohibiting eating on trains.

Admits that she has habitually broken this rule.

Proudly relates how she was disrespectful to authority (she acknowledges being sarcastic to the Metro official who was doing his job appropriately to fine her for behaving inappropriately).

Whines about facing public humiliation (a consequence she should have considered before misbehaving).

Gives no sign of understanding that Metro rules and other rules of behavior in society exist for a good reason (to maintain "civility" -- a concept Ms. Short does not appear to grasp).

Shows no remorse for her uncivil behavior.

Ends her article with a taunt that she may not pay her fine.

What's the big deal about eating on the Metro? Part of the response is to introduce another foreign concept to people who behave as Ms. Short: It's the principle. To keep the Metro clean and free of unpleasant odors and trash and vermin that feed on garbage left behind by passengers, most Metro riders obey the no-eating rule. It's a wonder that this obviously beneficial "no-brainer" rule is lost on Ms. Short.

Here's another concept for her to consider: If you break the law, you should stop whining, act responsibly and pay your fine. In other words: Shut up, grow up and pay up.

GEORGE E. CHARTIER

Arlington