Outrage grows under every rock here in the land of the free and the home of the suspicious. So it's no surprise to hear that a reader of mine from Chevy Chase has developed a case of outrage over the post office.
But his beef isn't slow mail, rude clerks or any of the usual stuff. He's ticked off about a radio.
It plays WGMS constantly in the lobby of the Bethesda post office. The radio itself isn't visible, but a speaker is. Audible, too. Very much so. And that doesn't sit well with my man.
"By law, one must use the post offices to send and receive mail," he writes. "You can't go elsewhere. You have to stand and listen to commercials for underwear, cars and so forth."
The letter stops short of demanding a congressional investigation. But in single-spaced fury, it demands to know who authorized this horror, who paid for it, whose rights may have been violated and why postal officials thought customers in line at Bethesda need musical soothing.
I'm not without sympathy for my reader. Piped-in music of any kind is often enough to set my teeth on edge. Why can't I wait for a plane, or a dentist, or a 22-cent stamp, without somebody trying to pacify me with violins? It's an intrusion. It's a pain.
But it isn't a scandal, at least not in Bethesda. According to Edward C. Wratten, a postal official who oversees the Bethesda station, the WGMS-dispenser was purchased with money from the employes' welfare fund, and installed by them.
As for the notion that music is an unwelcome guest, Wratten said that WGMS is a mellow way around that problem.
"WGMS has quiet music, and it is not very loud," Wratten said. "I don't like the noisy stuff, and if I thought it was the least bit offensive, I would take the amplifiers out." In several years of operation, he added, there has been only one complaint -- from the same guy who wrote to me.
Think of it this way, gentle reader. At least you don't have to stand there and listen to heavy metal rock or those vroom-vroom ads for Dirtball Speedway. If any of that ever wafted through the lobby of the Bethesda P.O., you'd be second in line behind a comrade in outrage. Me.