A man who wants to be anonymous phoned. He said he would like to report a terrible waste of water by the federal government.

"It is in the Interior Building at 18th and C Sts. NW," he said, "on the sixth floor, near the center of the main corridor, between the 3d and 4th wings, in a closet used by the maintenance staff. There is a faucet that has been running continuously for the past six months at a rate of about 35 gallons an hour. I have complained to GSA. Others have complained. GSA has promised to fix it several times, but they never have."

Calls of this kind come in with distressing frequency. I used to rush out to check on them, and they always checked out. Then I'd call the agency in charge, and what followed was always the same. First they'd tell my facts must be wrong. Then they'd investigate and tell me yes, they did find a small leak, but they replaced a washer and everything is all right now. Then people housed in the building would report that workmen did come in and look at the problem but nothing had been done to fix it, and the water was still running.

And finally the building manager would concede that the water was indeed still running but there was a good reason why he couldn't fix it just yet.

What ticked me off most was a faucet at The Washington Post that permitted hot water - not just water, but hot water - to dribble out at a lively clip. I went through the same routine with that faucet as with a dozen in government building. First they told me it couldn't be as I described it, then they told me they had fixed it, and then they told me why it couldn't be fixed just yet.

I feel like taking a baseball bat to somebody when I encounter frustrations of this kind, but that would be bad for my image, wouldn't it? I'm supposed to be an understanding old man with infinite patience. Bah! Humbug!