WASHINGTON, as everyone who does not live in the city or its Maryland and Virginia environs knows, is not a real place at all, but rather an idea -- and a bad one at that: the locus of all the crime, corruption and overbearing governmental and journalistic arrogance in the Western World. And (as everyone who does not live in Washington also knows) this place, which is not a place, is inhabited by -- what else? -- people who are not people, but rather mainly things: the bureaucracy, the media and so forth. How disconcerting, then, that Ronald Reagan should come to town and treat us locals as if we were people. Is the man mad? It's enough to make a person feel like one.

We don't want to go Little-Annie-Rooney over this ("Gloryosky, Zero, I just feel wimwammy all over!"). The earth hasn't moved. But something has happened. A president-elect has come to town and gone out of his way to be receptive, civil. He has indicated his awareness that he and his government are coming to a real place -- a community -- and he has made an effort to meet people like the mayor and local business, arts and sports leaders. Mr. Reagan's arrival thus lacked some of the Atilla & Friends impact to which we on the Potomac have gotten accustomed every four years. Never mind that he ran against Washington and that Washington voted against him, he has made some very curteous and magnanimous gestures to the inhabitants of this place.

Now here comes the surprise: we are not going to take the occasion to trot out the District's political/governmental wish list. Not a word about regularizing the federal payment, and not even a feeble, rueful attempt to open an argument on the merits of the D.C. voting rights amendment. That (you may be sure) will come later, complete with nagging and other assorted expressions of exasperation, outrage and despair. For now we merely note that you do not have to be slavering oir sycophantic to observe that Ronald Reagan has behaved with special sensitivity and class in his first post-election visit to this town, and that among the most agreeable things he has done is to recognize the reality and life of the community he will live in.