May I make a suggestion?

The suggestion is that anything worth writing is worth writing legibly.

Old-fashioned penmanship may be a lost art, but it is a loss we can live with. Real old-fashioned penmanship included a lot or curlicues and flourishes that impeded understanding.

We don't need curlicues but we do need an awareness that one who wants to convey an idea from his mind to another person's must use sounds or symbols the other person will recognize. Most modern handwriting falls short of that requirement.

Almost everybody who takes the time and the pains can produce writing that is legible, even if it is not fancy. I receive many easily understandable letters from aged and infirm people. Aware that their hands shake, they have learned to adjust; they form their letters more carefully and write bigger.

Don't make the mistake of thinking you can't improve your handwriting. You can. With sufficient effort, everybody can. I hereby proclaim May 23 "Be Kind to Dumb Columnists Day," and urge you to participate. Write legibly today.


If you're wondering what triggered the preceding item, be advised that you have a choice of two explanations: it's either that (1) handwriting has been deteriorating steadily in recent years, or that (2) I get crankier with every passing day. Everybody is entitled to one vote except my wife, who has already expressed her opinion.

The finishing touch was a letter from a man who complained about the way the stupid postal service mishandles his letters. I could not decipher the complainant's name or address.


One doesn't need to be a handwriting expert to get one clear message from the mail that has been reaching me lately.

People are upset and confused about the gasoline situation, and they're going to remain upset until this threat to thier accustomed mobility is removed.

Example: Louis Johnson of Temple Hills writes, "All the stations I have been to in the past two weeks have had thier self-service lanes closed." My first reaction to his letter was that my reply should be, "Well, Louis, if you had to make your living by selling a limited allocation of gasoline, would you be anxious to sell it at cut rates?"

But the next letter changed my mind. It said, "If you print my name I will be fired. I have not seen it stated in the papers that gas stations attendants have been hard hit by the gas shortage, but we have been.

"The station I work for sells out its daily ration of gas in about five hours and that's all we get paid for, five hours. I have been working full time for this man for six years but I am still on an hourly basis and he is the one on an hourly basis and he is the one that is profiting from the shortage. He sells the same amount of gas in five hours that he used to sell all day and evening, but his bill for wages is just a fraction of what it used to be but his markup from wholesale to retail prices is the highest in history."

Mrs. C. C. Oberlander wrote, "I live in Oxon Hill, Md., and work in Clinton. There is no public transportation available. Obviously, public transportation is not adequate to meet everybody's needs, particularly in areas outside D.C."*tAnother letter, however, said: "I have no patience with people who say they simply must own and drive cars. Every section of this metropolitan area is served with excellent public transportation, and anybody who tells you that he just can't get along without a car is not telling the truth. I have used public transportation all my life."

I am afraid this man is suffering from what our family refers to as "the Uncle Eddie complex." Uncle Eddie didn't believe the Ohio River was unsafe for swimming. As a boy, he swam in the Ohio, and he never got sick. Thereafter, he ridiculed people who said the river was not suitable for swimming. As far as Uncle Eddie was concerned, something that hadn't happened to him just hadn't happened.

Those who think public transportation in this area is adequate for everybody's needs are obviously people who are themselves well served by mass transit but cannot visualize that others may not be. They cannot emphathize with those who live in other areas, work unusual hours, or need to travel from Oxon Hill to Clinton.

The only humorous note in today's mail says, "In all this talk about odd-even rationing plans, nobody has told holders of letter tags on what days they would be eligible to buy gas."

Oh, dear! Are things so bad that even bigshots who have special license tags are worrying? The situation may be worse than we thought.