DEAR BEVERLY,

I wish you'd stop asking me about "Star Wars," Nicaragua and the latest front-line news about our frozen TV-dinners war with the United States. I've spent the last while in a D.C. hospital having what is called major but humdrum surgery, and "wife of's" mind has become fixed upon herself. (Not that my doctor's actual work was humdrum; Baron Spitte assured me he had the Golden Hands.)

By now you realize I'm going to bore you with hospital stories. What else does a convalescent have to brood about? Everyone says tha medical science has made a lot of progress since we had our babies, but as far as I'm concerned, the nursing profession has taken one giant step backward, especially for paranoid patients like me.

Beverly, where have all the uniforms gone? A doped-up post-operative whiner needs the reassurance of nurses in formal attire. I mean caps, white stockings, even flying capes and a graduate medal pinned to a crisp authoritative uniform. Look, I'd even settle for a mere two stripes on the nonexistent cap, which used to denote two years of training.

This new dress-as-you-please nurse can really be confusing. Let me give you an example.

The day after my operation as I lay fetus-like against the side bar on my bed, a girl wearing a plaid shirt and corduroy trousers walked in and announced, "Let's have a look at that incision."

Beverly, she seemed pretty suspicious, and I said, cannily, "I thought people who worked downstairs in the canteen weren't supposed to inspect incisions."

She ignored me, thinking it was the morphia talking, and had her way.

I concluded that this must be how the head honcho nurses dressed. When another girl similarly garbed came into my room an hour later I decided to take her into my confidence.

"I think I'm going to be sick."

She jumped back to the doorway and said, "Honey, I don't do anything here except collect the Jell-o the patients never eat," and then disappeared, leaving my Jell-o.

Well, you understand my confusion. A paranoid patient needs to be able to tell the difference between those who offer painkillers and those who occasionally empty the waste basket. I'm old-fashioned, Beverly, and believe the Middle Ages had some good ideas we ought to copy now.

In those days, you knew precisely who you were dealing with. The king always wore his crown, the peasant his smock, the fishmongers and goldsmiths wore the distinguishing Guild livery, and tailors wore their tailoring caps, or whatever.

Now, wouldn't life be simpler if everyone in Washington wore something that told you what they did? Lobbyists could wear knee breeches, like courtiers. Present Mr. Secretaries might choose a nice lightweight polyester robe of office to differentiate themselves from former Mr. Secretaries. And of course, the media definitely need identification. I think Lionel Portant would be pleased to wear a medallion in the shape of a word-procgling from a ribbon around his neck. Republican and Democratic congressmen could wear cotton donkey and elephant hats, respectively. The senators would need hats with ampler ears, befitting their status. Mr. Ambassador, of course, would have to go back to donning the cocked hat with plume, but just to make sure he's not mistaken for an ambassador from another country, maybe he should wear a hockey helmet under the plume.

Anyhow, Beverly, back to the hospital. Things became better when I got out of bed and I learned to hang around the nurses' station. I never could get the knack of disentangling the IV tube patients shuffle around with, and someone at the station would usually unwind me, sometimes the secretary.

Baron Spitte, always the gentleman, sent me yellow roses, but one of the girls (R.N.? nursing assistant? Jell-o collector?) told me the hospital had no vases. It was Golden Hands who couldn't stand the sight of the wilting flowers and carefully arranged them in a clean urine receptacle.

Beverly, aside from Golden Hands the only persons in the hospital who were a cinch to identify were the Golden Hands-To-Be. Here are their characteristics:

1.They come in pairs.

2.They wear white coats, sort of protective covering, I guess, to make them look older.

3.They lack the authoritative manner of the Jell-o collector and, in fact, are the only persons on the ward who look more nervous than the patients.

4.Only one of them talks. "Hello, I'm Dr. Green and this is Dr. Blue. We'd like to do a little palpitating."

I realized, Beverly, this was the sole time during my stay in the hospital that I had any bargaining chips. I was pretty sure that the speechless one wasn't really a doctor.

"If you two are going to cause me any more pain, there are some things you must do first," I said. "Get me my ice water, which has been sitting on that bureau out of my reach for many hours."

Dr. Green, the older one, nodded to the speechless "Dr." Blue. "Get her some fresh stuff from the ice water room."

"When you're out there," I added, "bring me some towels, a fresh nightgown, and while we're waiting, Dr. Green here can straighten out the lumps on my bed."

Beverly, they did everthing I asked. I was wondering if they'd go as far as giving me a massage. (Massages have gone the same way as the nurses uniforms.) But I refrained from asking. As the song says, about poker and life: "You have to know when to play them . . ."

Your best friend,

Sondra