A few days ago, I had a public tantrum in this space about the light brown uniforms worn by the Montgomery County police.
I pointed out that every other police department in the Washington area gets to wear glorious blue, or spiffy black with gold trim, or something equally commanding. "But Montgomery's Finest must sport uniforms the color of uncooked Wheatena," I wrote.
I spent the next couple of days avoiding the troops in the Washington Post mailroom. After all, how was I going to explain 247 boxes of Wheatena, each sent COD, each in a box with a return address that read "Montgomery County Police?"
But mercifully, nothing of the sort happened. No unlovely phone calls, either. The planet just kept on turning.
Finally, a letter from Chief Bernard D. Crooke arrived. It's one for the ages:
"Dear Mr. Levey:
"Recently, I was reading The Washington Post in an attempt to keep abreast of our changing world . . . .
"I finished Section A and the Metro section, and was left with some feelings of hope and some of fear for our world. I went to the Sports section and really became depressed -- Maryland had lost again and 'Lefty' was still holding with 499 career victories .
"I finished my morning coffee, patted my family pet on her head (dogs have a therapeutic value on human emotions) and immediately felt better as I dressed for work. I put on my uniform and admired its crispness and the sparkling brass and gold accessories in the uniform. I felt younger and taller. I was ready for the day.
"Shortly after arriving at the office, I was shown your article describing our uniforms as dull as dishwater -- the color of uncooked Wheatena. I was shocked. I had been told by many of our finest citizens that our officers were so attractive and sexy because of their uniforms and mustaches.
"I was again depressed. My dog was home and I couldn't pat her head, so I ordered my planning director to my office and received no satisfaction concerning the history of our uniforms. I canceled a luncheon engagement and felt old and short.
"After stopping all other projects in headquarters, I was advised during my emergency staff meeting in the afternoon that it would cost over $300,000 to replace our uniforms. Of course, this did not include Christian Dior's consulting fee. I decided our citizens could handle the tax increase and I would start in the morning.
"On the way home, I stopped for pipe tobacco -- I started smoking again during the day. As I left the drug store, I was confronted by a wink and a smile. I don't even have a mustache!
"Bob, you almost cost the citizens of Montgomery County a tax increase. But a wink and a smile saved a lot of money, and I prefer her opinion over yours.
"Sincerely, Bernard D. Crooke, chief of police"
Chief, I am many things, but crazy isn't one of them.
Wheatena is a serious matter. But when a woman winks at a man, it's the most serious matter in the whole world.
Put it this way: How many winks does a columnist get in the course of a day because women admire his rolled-up sleeves and his yanked-down, gravy-stained tie?
Or put it this way: I'm jealous!
So, Chief, as the politicians are forever doing, I'm reassessing my position. I'm never going to love that Montgomery shade of brown. But if Montgomery's ladies love the way you look in it, I can only say . . . .
You got any spares you aren't using, in a storeroom someplace? Like maybe with a 16 1/2 neck and a 38 waist?