By the time you read this, David Carlisle Morrison of Silver Spring will have joined the Navy and started seeing the world. But for quite a while, the only thing David was seeing was red. The reason: the Navy's mossbound rules.

David is a 21-year-old English major at the University of Maryland who decided a few weeks ago to leave school and sign up with the Navy Reserves. He went to see a recruiter, took the entrance exam, passed it and sat back to await instructions.

What he got instead was an apologetic phone call. His recruiter had somehow forgotten to enter David's middle name onto a form before David took the test.

"Can't you just fill it in now?" asked David.

"Sorry. Can't," said the recruiter.

"Well, how about if I retake the test?"

"Sorry. Can't."

"Well, what happens now?"

What happens now, said the recruiter, is that David has to start all over.

His application to join the Navy was "invalidated" the minute his middle name wasn't on the test form. And by Navy rules -- rotten, ridiculous, but right there in black and white -- any time an application is invalidated, for whatever reason, it can't be reinstituted for six months.

Well, nobody ever said military regs made sense. But nobody ever said a guy like David had to take them lying down, either.

And he didn't. He was on the horn to his congressman (Mike Barnes) and one of his senators (Paul Sarbanes) that day. Three days later, he called me back to say that the politicos had straightened this silly mess out, and that he'd be reporting for induction the next day.

David's post mortem on the whole episode is food for thought for Washingtonians. "I grew up here," he noted, "so it was automatic for me to call my congressman. I just wonder what would have happened if I'd grown up in Idaho or someplace. I'd probably still be waiting." Sad to contemplate, but probably true.