In our end of town, L Street NW is one-way east.

Until the evening rush hour is over, parking is prohibited, and for good reason. There is a heavy left-turn movement into 15th Street. Moving vehicles must use L s/treet's left lane.

However, it came to pass during the evening rush hour of the final day of February that a driver parked in that left lane of L Street, about 100 feet short of the 15th Street intersection. On the side of the offending vehicle was the legend "U.S. Government Interagency Motor Pool." The number of its license tag was G51 2776.

After the driver parked and walked away, another car pulled up behind G51 2776. The driver of the second car looked up at a sign that said parking is prohibited until after 6:30. Then he looked at the government car ahead, shrugged and turned off his motor. As he, too, walked away, Act 1 ended.

Now the curtain rises for Act 2, which takes place a few minutes later, The Long Arm of the Law has arrived on the scene. Traffic is tied into knots because cars keep coming up behind those two parded vehicles without realizilng they are parked. Then the trapped drivers must fight their way into the adjoining lane of traffic and must pass the two parked cars before they can make their left turns.

A $25 ticket is written for the privately owned car, a "TOW" sticker is pasted on its rear window, and a tow truck is summoned. It will cost the owner a total of $75 to get his car back.

The audience awaits the climax: It is now time for The Law to turn its attention to the government car that initiated the problem.

The Law turns toward the government car and is looking at it with obvious disapproval as the curtain descends on Act 2.

Unfortunately, the curtain does not rise again.

There ain't Act 3.

And there ain't no justice.

No ticket was written for the government car. No "TOW" sticker was placed on its rear window. There is nothing more to report except that the sovereign can do no wrong -- but you already knew that, didn't you?


Part of Wednesday's column dealt with drivers who shovel out their cars after a snowfall and return toi find "their" spaces usurped by others.

I discussed neighborhoods where parking is scarce and nobody can ever be sure where he will park next. And I also mentioned "less sparsely settle areas," where people can usually park in front of their own homes.

Reg Beard phoned to inquire, "What does 'less sparsely settled' mean?" It means several things, Reg. Basically, it means I am getting senile. It also means that wneh I changed "less densely" to "sparsely," I forgot to delete the "less." It also means that on each of the approximately 40 revisions of the piece that followed, I missed the error. It also means that two editors who read the piece "behind me" didn't catch it, either. And it also means that lots of readers missed it, too, because you were the only one who called. Nice eye, pal.

Bitter coincidence: Gold's Law teaches that anybody who writes about the mistakes of others will himself make at least one foolish mistake.

So when I wrote yesterday's column abouit errors, I put a couple of lines into it to show awareness of my own fallibility. I noted that readers had not caught me in any goofs recently, so for once I could writer an error column that didn't include any of my own.

But that version of the piece was several lines too long. The reference to my own goofs was one of the things that had to be edited out.

Ah, how I wish I had eliminated something else instead! Something like my name and picture.


Jean Gilbert wants to know why sino is the combining form for chinese that ils used in phrases like "Sino-Vietnamese war."

I didn't know, so I looked in several dictionaries. All indicated the word came to us from Latin, through French; and some said it came from Latin and Greek, through French.

The Latin word is given as Sinae .


Gene Brown tells aboit the woman who was very nervous about going on her first airplane flight.

An airplane executive reassured her. "Look at it this way," he suggested. "If it wasn't safe, would we let you use a credit card?"