All right, class, try this out: what sounds like a street peddlers' convention, acts like an assembly line and calls itself a deliberative body?
The answer -- and surely you got it -- is the House of Representatives thrashing toward a recess just a month before a general election.
That is the House this week, dealing with 33 separate bills, and the House last week, dealing with 22 more, under a mass-production technique called "suspension of the rules."
It is a biennial ritual on Capitol Hill. In its rush to wrap to pending business and get home to tend to electoral self-preservation, the House is likely to throw its rule book out the window.
That is, it suspends the rules.
Rules-suspension makes it possible to act swiftly, bypassing normal procedures, on a measure if (a) it is not controversial and (b) it involves less than $100 million. Debate time is limited to 20 minutes on each side, pro and con, and passage requires a two-thirds majority.
The rules were tightened after the 95th Congress two years ago ended with a flurry of highly controversial measures whose sponsors tried to slip them through via the suspension calendar
Acting on requests from committee chairmen this week, Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neil Jr. (D-Mass.) scheduled 33 bills for the suspension calendar. By late yesterday, about half had been passed.
Some -- promoting gasohol competition, chartering the National Ski Patrol and the Gold Star Wives -- obviously are not controversial, are not costly and can zip to easy passage.
That is not true of others on the calendar, however, as the House is asked to consider weighty issues under rules that prohibit amendments and prevent the customary back-and-forth of discussion and debate.
Last week, for example, the House approved innocuous-sounding amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Critics say the changes would undermine the public's protection from toxic impurities.
Nationally, there has been a furor in recent months over contaminated drinking water. But under the suspension rules, the issue got a cursory pat and was sent to the Senate.
This week, industries and cities (which don't like the costs) and the Environmental Protection Agency (which fears even more undermining if the issue lingers) stampeded the Senate in an unsuccessful effort to pass the amendments.
The House this week is dealing with other issues that have generated intense debate but will be dispatched via suspension of the rules.
For example, an extension of patent-type protection to new varieties of six vegetables would, in the view of some critics, open the way for major corporation to take control of seed suplies and limit competition.
Rep. Eligio de la Garza (D-Tex.), who shepherded the "technical amendments, " as he calls them, through the Agriculture Committee in two markup sessions that totaled less than half an hour, assured O'Neill that the legislation was not controversial.
Reps. Richard Nolan (D-Minn.) and Jim Weaver (D-Ore.) say the plant-patent issue is so important that it should not be on the suspension calendar. Other members have raised more questions; consumer and emvironmental groups have sprung into action to thwart the bill.
"The speaker schedules these things on the basis of requests from chairmen," said Gary Hymel, an aide to O'Neill. "Just because someone says it is controversial is not enough to keep it off the calender. If it is controversial, it may be defeated or withdrawn from the calendar by its sponsors."
The House did in fact reject one such suspension-calendar bill yesterday. Amendments to the law regulating transport of hazardous materials were defeated on a roll call vote.
But other equally weighty issues with considerable long-range impact on the public breezed through to passage after appearing on O'Neill's suspension calendar.
One, for example, would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from considering, in license renewal cases, any other mass media ownership interests of the applicant -- a move that some say would intensify media concentration.
Similar measures awaited final action.
One, with multimillion-dollar potential, would allow universities, nonprofit research institutions and small businesses to collect royalties from patents obtained as a resut of federally funded research.
Another would require the government to pay the fees of attorneys for small businesses involved in litigation against Uncle Sam. It is called the Equal Access to Justice Act.
And then you have the suspension items a legislator loves to vote for, especially just before he returns to face constituents.
A resolution that passed yesterday by a vote of 403 to 0 expressed the hope of the House that Polish workers will be able to continue their union organizing campaign in peace.
Nothing controversial about hoping.