He's a Northerner and a white, both of which may be irrelevant. He's also a friend, which isn't. We were talking about gas shortages the other day. The tone was the same as in the last 37 gas discussions you've been part of -- wistful resignation -- until my friend said:

"You know, what really galls me about this is that I've got to go without gas just so a bunch of unprintable unrepeatables can get to the race track every day.

My friend didn't really say "unprintable." What he said is a familiar adverb that has two syllables. If you're still stumped, ask any 8-year-old.

What he really said instead of "unrepeatable" was an old favorite I thought had gone to pasture -- the six-letter word used to describe/demean black people.

How, we've all heard the Arabs who produce gasoline called everything under the hot Middle Easter sun.

We've heard James Schlesinger cursed to the skies by people who've never met him and never will. And even though he has left office, Schlesinger is still setting the standard for needlessly tasteless bumper stickers. Surely you've seen the one around town that reads: "Out of Gas? My (rhymes with gas). Fire Schlesinger."

But the vituperation aimed at Arabs and Schlesinger is at least understandable. They have shown their mugs on the six o'clock news.Anyone who has publicly admitted having anything to do with the gasoline situation is going to be publicly hated for it. It's called human nature.

My friend's remarks, sadly, may be human nature, too. Or are they? I decided to check.

I went to a station on Connecticut Avenue and asked the first five motorists who pulled up the self-service pump whether they thought any one race in Washington was using more gas than it should.

Gabrielle Rochambeau, of France and Northwest Washington, white: "I don't see how. Whenever I'm on the Beltway, it's white drivers who are going over the speed limit."

Barry Levin, Rockville, white: I've never thought about it. Maybe black kids rev the motor a little more when they're stopped at red lights. But I don't see how race has anything to do with it."

Leo Jackson, Northwest Washington, black: "That's the silliest question I ever heard."

Florence Jackson, Northwest Washington, Leo's wife, black: "No, no, wait a minute, mister. Just write it down that black people never had any money anyway, so they were never buying gas, anyway."

Roger Rogers, Langley Park, white: "I don't know, but I do know that it's the foreign cars that was causing all them gas lines. . . . The best way I can say it is: You never seem to see black people driving Volkswagens."

Frank Masterson, Erie, Pa., white: "Whites use much more. Whites are the ones who are all frightened cause they can't get to the beach. Anybody who's trying to blame this gas crisis on blacks doesn't know what he's talking about."

Amen. But I'm afraid that some people out there are thinking about it. And some are talking about it.

At last, here comes District Line mail call, the feature that veteran readers know and love. Sorry that it's been absent for a couple of days. It's just that Bill Gold, the usual perpetrator of this column, gets more mail in half a week than anyone else gets in half a year. Takes a while to sort it.

The Strange Bedfellows Award of This or Any Other Month goes to a scientific team at the Institute of Molecular Cytogenetics in Lund, Sweden.

According to a press release sent along by Larry L. Booda, an Arlington science editor, researchers there have "succeeded in fusing human with carrot cells."


But read on: Scientists have also succeeded in merging human cells with daisy cells. "This worked even better than with the carrot," says the press release.

That's all it offers by way of explanation. Which come to think of it, may be just as well. . .

Timely question from Frank Forrester of McLean: Who decided that weeds are bad and lawns are good?

They're both green -- why, he asks don't we stop driving ourselves nuts trying to keep the one out of the other?

And why does Forrester want to know who made the weeds/grass decision? "I like to have a particular target for hatred," he explains. How about it, historians?. . .

Surely you know how Bill Bold is always catching the grammatical tumbles of others.

Extend your arms straight in front of you.It's time to catch him.

In a column the other day, Bill mentioned our crosstown rival, the Star. "We're not afraid to mention their name," he wrote.

Of course, as S.J. Pritchett of Annandale points out, the Star is singular, so its pronoun should have been, too.

That Gold Serves them right.