Questions and answers:
From Bill McGuire of Southwest: "I was riding a Number 70 bus the other day. My bus passed another one coming in the opposite direction. The two drivers waved to each other in the strangest way. If you or I waved, we'd turn our palm away from ourselves. These guys kept their palms turned the other way, and each one jerked his wrist toward himself, so that it looked as if they were saying, 'Come here.' Can you shed any light on this?"
Only a few kilowatts, Bill. I, too, have noticed bus drivers giving each other this "D.C. Hello." But I asked several drivers about it in recent weeks, and none knows where it got started, or whether it means anything other than hello. "It's a little like one of those high fives," said the pilot of a 36 that I caught on Wisconsin Avenue the other day. "Means the same as a low five, a high six and everything in between: hello. It's just a way to be different, I think." I think so, too.
From Anne Townley Graney of Chevy Chase: "My daughter, husband and I were helping out the Mondale campaign by tacking up posters, distributing fliers and fact sheets . . . .The posters were torn down (and) the fliers removed or ripped up. It never occurred to me to remove, deface or destroy the opposition's advertising. It seems to me the equivalent of punching someone in the mouth. What gives? Are there rules-laws-ordinances governing these matters?"
There are rules-laws-ordinances governing these matters in every jurisdiction hereabouts, Anne. They all say it's illegal to do what was done to your Mondale material. However, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the cops to send the perpetrators up the river. "I haven't made an arrest for this for years," said a sergeant on the desk at D.C.'s 3rd District. "Never even heard of an arrest for this, even though I know the law is on the books," said a counterpart in Fairfax County. I agree that this practice is about as dirty as dirty pool gets. But remember what JFK said about how unfair life is. Goes double for politics.
From Ellen Aaron of Arlington: "Berke Breathed and Bloom County have done it again. No sooner had I written my last letter to you in which I complained about the use of the word 'damn' than Breathed used the other provisionally acceptable (on television, that is) four-letter word, 'hell.' I object to that one, too . . . .Of course, I may be way off base. Do you think I have a point, or am I overreacting to what are, after all, two very mild expletives by today's conversational standards?"
I'm not mortally offended by either word, Ellen -- as long as they're uttered in a friendly, aw-shucks way. But I object if:
a) Either word is used as a bludgeon (as in, "Go to hell, Levey.").
b) A stranger uses the words to imply an intimacy that isn't there (as in, "Hi, Bob, you don't know me, but how the hell are ya?")
c) The user seems to know only four words and "damn" and "hell" comprise half of them.
But in general, I think "damn" and "hell" have lost 99 and 44/100ths percent of their impurity. Most people have long ago left them in the lurch for smuttier pastures. I wouldn't single out one author of one comic strip when you can hear far worse just about anywhere you go.
From Lawrence Bladen of Springfield: "Why is there no marquee on the D.C. Convention Center?"
As usual, Lawrence, the answer is an acute shortage of bucks. Alan Grip, assistant general manager of the convention center, says the necessary $150,000 is in the budget for the current fiscal year. As a result, says Grip, "I am more optimistic than ever that the work will be completed this year." Until it is, you'll have to figure out what's doing inside by studying the banners that exhibitors hang out front.