Sharing Mr. Carter's recently expressed concerns about lagging economic productivity, I've resolved to try to boost my own. But it's hard to find time.

The subject was on my mind when I stopped off at the post office and was informed that the little package I had so stoutly bound would have to be done over if I wanted to sent it registered mail, though it was eligible for regular handling.

While pondering the inscrutability of the postal regulations, I overheard a clerk telling a customer that he couldn't rent a post-office box unless he had a permanent address.

"But the reason I need the box is because I don't have a permanent address," the man explained.

"When you get a permanent address," the clerk politely explained, you can get the box.

"But then I won't need it..."

Hurrying off to arrive on time for a doctor's appointment, I was finally admitted to the healer's presence about an hour late, which, from my own experience and inquiries, is routine in a lot of office-based medicine.A waiting patient who asked about his turn was told by the appointment secretary that "it's a very busy morning." The reason for that jammed waiting room, as well as most others, is that, in self-defense against no-shows, appointments are routinely overbooked to assure an uninterrupted flow of patients, or, as they are known in other lines of work, customers.

Anyway, the medical delay necessitated a telephone call to an unfamiliar number, thus providing the telephone company with another opportuntiy to advise me that "The number you want may be in your directory...." As a matter of fact, it is in my directory, but my directory was not in the phone booth from which I was making the inquiry; nor was any other directory.

The number sought was that of a branch of the District of Columbia's Department of Transportation. When dialed, it set off a recorded announcement: "The number you have reached... has been changed...." A call to the new number set off another recording -- later, out of curiosity, clocked at two minutes and 20 seconds -- jammed full of an extraordinary amount of information about various activities within the Department of Transportation, except for the information that was sought. A call to the main switchboard was still unanswered after about 25 rings.

The mention of one of these episodes to a friend touched off a wondrously complicated tale about an enduring controversy with a credit-card company concerning a bill for which she was not responsible. Through no direct logical connection, this, in turn, reminded me of the repairman who upon disassembling the washing machine, said he was going off to get a part -- and then never returned.

In any case, the productivity lag is a serious problem and it's good to know that the administration has assigned a lot of scholarly specialists to figure out its causes.