Well I'm sorry you and George have decided that Mr. Ambassador and "wife of" never have any real fun in Washington.

It's not quite true that we give parties only for ulterior motives, like promoting light armored vehicles from Ontario. Admit it, Beverly, our life has to be more serious than yours, given the importance of Powertown.

Nevertheless, Powerful Jobs must do something for fun in their idle hours, so I decided to pick Popsie Tribble's brains. I rang her at 5 in the afternoon, knowing she would just be back from a champagne tea to which I was not invited. (Karl Lagerfeld was making a personal appearance).

"Do you have fun, Popsie," I asked, "in your idle hours?"

"An effective Washington socialite has no idle hours," Popsie said reprovingly. "Especially me, remember my Puritan heritage. What with my yoga lady in the morning and the lunches at the F Street Club I give for the 'wives of' whose husbands might be useful to Dexter, I barely have the strength to attend the gala charity balls at night. You know I never stay for the dancing."

"But," I said, "wife of Thistle Jr. from State told me she and Melvin found boat parties on the Potomac very relaxing."

"I was invited to one just last week," Popsie replied. "The host was ticked off because I was wearing Charles Jourdan pumps instead of some footwear called topsiders. We had to wait an hour for Congressman Otterbach before we could set sail, or whatever boats do when they move. My Dexter had to leave for Bangkok the next morning at 6. Very irritating. All the Powerful Jobs on the boat (the guest list, at least, was satisfactory) agreed that a Congressman should never keep a Roving Ambassador like Dexter waiting. It was a real breach of status. We got even with Otterbach by taking the best seats on the deck and making him sit downstairs where there's no air-conditioning."

"Was the view on the deck nice?"

"Well, we went by that sewage plant on the Potomac. It's the first time I've had a close look at it in 30 years."

"Anyhow," I said, "with all those powerful jobs on board, the conversation must have been fascinating."

"There was no conversation because of the noise," Popsie replied.

"What noise?"

"The noise from the planes taking off and landing at National Airport."

"I suppose," Popsie added, "boats can be fun for those who like being in a Winnebago on water. But not for Popsie Tribble."

Popsie continued, "If you really want to know what people do in their idle time, why don't you ask Baron Spitte, the dusty diplomat? He's got plenty of it."

Although it was siesta time in the Baron's residence, he graciously received me in his paisley dressing gown which he keeps handy in case of the unexpected afternoon caller.

"Your friend Beverly," the Baron agreed, "has put her finger on something. There is no such thing as simple fun in Washington. Fun must be purposeful. Take tennis, for instance. When Melvin Thistle from State plays tennis with Senator Pod (who's trying to block his new appointment) Thistle Jr. marks down his tennis errors in a little book. And then he studies it in his idle time."

"Does that improve his game?" I asked.

"I think it improves Pod's game. He's never going to let Thistle's appointment pass through the Senate."

"What does Sonny Goldstone, the Gilded Bachelor and Social Asset, do in his idle time?" I wanted to know.

"Sonny jogs. Right after he finishes his crab cakes at the Jockey Club. His chauffeur follows him slowly down the Mall and, when he finishes his 40 minutes, Sonny changes clothes in the limousine while talking about mergers on his new cellular phone."

"Do you think my friend Beverly is right when she says our dinners always have ulterior motives?"

"What can we poor ambassadors do?" the Baron said. "Powerful Jobs don't like coming to embassy parties for mere conviviality. Remember my rule about entertainment. You must know it by now."

"Which rule is that?"

"Never have dancing unless the party is in honor of a charity. Powerful Jobs will forgive the fact that a band might strike up after dinner if the phrase 'Charity Ball' is tacked on to the invitation. The phrase prevents your guests from appearing frivolous if their names gets in the papers. Washingtonians will only dance for a worthy cause."

The Baron continued wistfully:

"Once I forgot myself and gave a dinner dance for no reason at all. The few people who accepted bolted down their food and left as soon as the band began to play. The only guests on the floor dancing to the five-piece orchestra were a Used-To-Be-Close-to a forgotten candidate and a former Mr. Secretary from the Truman administration. Of course, they were with their third wives."

I wondered if the Baron did anything just for fun. He smiled when I asked him.

"I believe in solitary pleasures. Having fun with others in Powertown involves too much stress."

The Baron walked me around his Tapestry Room, where he gave that disastrous musicale for the media I wrote you about.

"You see those rugs hanging on the walls? I hooked them all myself."

Well Beverly, it wasn't a totally wasted conversation, because he's promised me one for Christmas.

Your best friend,