Question: What do fantasies about stunning blondes, motel rooms and erotic acrobatics have to do with mine safety?
Answer: Nothing, unless it is a safety training course offered in April by federal bureaucrats in Oregon.
There's a footnote to that answer, offered by Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.): "Absurd, insulting and an abuse of government responsibility," he told the Senate last week.
Actually, the question about blondes and fantasies was mild. The multiple-choice quiz was used by an instructor at a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) training course got raunchier as it went on.
MSHA called it a little "social icebreaker," but it then went on to deal with rhetorical glaciers - flatulence, nausea, sexual promiscuity and scatology in general.
The test was not too risque for reprinting in the Congressional Record ("We weren't) sure if they would print it," a Wallop aide said), but it won't pass muster for a family newspaper.
Wallop came upon the MSHA quiz through a constituent who sent an employe to the agency's safety training course at Albany, Ore., expecting him to be taught techniques for complying with the federal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1977.
Wallop - rancher, politician, ex-GI, English major - has been around a bit and presumably he has heard it all. But upon reading this quiz he turned six shades of red before hitting the roof.
Wallop dashed off to protest to Labor Secretary Ray Marshall, demanding a public apology and "immediate action."
He heard back last week, not from Marshall, but from Robert B. Lagather, assistant secretary for mine health and safety.
Lagather agreed the quiz was "intolerable" and that an apology was in order, and he said that disciplinary action had been started against the training instructor at Albany.
An MSHA spokesman said yesterday that Lagather had proposed a 30-day suspension, but that the employe, under Civil Service rules, would have a right of reply before the decision could become final.
Who is the daring instructor? MSHA isn't saying, citing the Privacy Act.
Lagather stressed that the quiz was not a part of the curriculum at Albany, where company employes are schooled in safety training techniques that can be passed on to hard rock and sand and gravel miners.
He protested that the quiz was used only as "a tension reliever" during the three-day training session - without the knowledge, of course, of MSHA headquarters in Washington.
That didn't cut it for Wallop.
"If this is the judgment, attitude and caliber of those in authority at MSHA," Wallop said, "it is mine to make some drastic changes."
"There is little anyone can say about this filth and this kind of insult to the American workingman."
Wallop, who said he was too embarassed to read the test in front of an audience, asked that it be printed in the Congressional Record, where it appeared last Wednesday, on Page S7011.
You wondered, no doubt, about the fantasy of the blonde, etc., etc. That sample, somewhat edited went this way:
A stunning blonde strolls into a restaurant, attracting the attention of two diners. One makes it clear what he would do if . . .
The girl turns out to be the other diner's daugther. What do you do?
"Situation adaptability," as the instructor called it, provided three possible answers: (A) You ask her hand in marriage; (B) Pretend you've forgotten how to speak English; (C) Repeat the conversation to the daughter and hope for the best.