The new edition of the Congressional Directory has just thudded onto my desk. As usual, this indispensable guidebook is full of information about the 535 officeholders on Capitol Hill. And as usual, most of the officeholders are full of themselves.
Never before have so many honorary degrees, man-of-the-year awards and other notations of nonmodesty found their way between two covers.
The number of distinguished service certificates in this year's book is stupendous. The number of centennial medals is phenomenal. The military and educational honors are enough to make you go glassy in the eyes.
If anyone thinks that Washington has turned bashful in mid-1985, I've got 1,196 pages in front of me that say he's dead wrong.
However, if some things in Dear Old D.C. change slowly, some don't change at all.
For the 11th year in a row, the longest entry in the Congressional Directory belongs to Florida Rep. Claude Pepper.
And for the 11th year in a row, the shortest belongs to Wisconsin Sen. William Proxmire.
Pepper tips the scales in the new CD at 94 lines, or 1,050 words, or 1 1/2 single-spaced pages, of biographical material.
In and among that earthslide of type, you learn that Pepper delivered the Marfleet Lectures at the University of Toronto in 1942.
He won the Volunteers of America Ballington and Maud Booth Award in 1978.
And how could I forget? He's also an honorary director of the Bob Hope Village for Air Force Enlisted Widows.
Takes your breath away, doesn't it?
Firmly at the other end of the spectrum is Proxmire. His entry consumes three words.
They are: "William Proxmire, Wisconsin."
Proxmire is the only member of Congress not to list his party affiliation in the CD. He is the only one not to list his home town. And he is the only one not to publish the date on which he was first elected to Congress.
Of course, the entries of both men are entirely in character. Proxmire is, after all, Capitol Hill's resident Mr. Quirky. He jogs because he thinks it often gets you where you're going faster than a taxi. He grew hair where there used to be scalp because he got sick of people asking him about being bald. And he is famous for dispensing Golden Fleece wastefulness awards to everyone and his uncle.
Pepper, meanwhile, is the oldest representative, and one of the most celebrated. He has spent 37 of his 84 years in the Senate or House, and he is known as an inveterate honors-collector.
"He just opened the Mildred and Claude Pepper Library down in Tallahassee," said his press secretary, Rochelle Jones. "It has 700,000 items in it. That probably takes him through about high school."
As for Proxmire, he credits a former Senate colleague for his spartan approach to CD listings.
"I've done this ever since Richard Russell did it," said Proxmire. "We disagreed about many things, but not about this. His listing said, 'Richard Russell, Winder, Ga.' That was all. I thought, 'Well, that makes sense.'
"Nobody really has complained very much about it," said Proxmire. "It's rarely used for anything other than introducing you, or figuring out how much of an honorarium you should get at a speech. I just feel that this is enough. If anybody wants anything more, they can call Arlene Branca," an administrative assistant in his office.
If you're a bettor, don't invest the rent on the chances of Pepper or Proxmire staying on top -- or on bottom -- of the Words-in-Listing race.
Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (just call him the WIS Radio-TV 1968 South Carolinian of the Year) is a strong second in the 1985-86 Ego Trippers Derby. Thurmond fills up 75 lines, and 1 1/4 pages, in this year's directory.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Alexander of Arkansas (hey, hey, hey -- he's the 1982 National Rural Water Association Man of the Year) is coming up fast with 35 lines (half a page).
On the humility side of the aisle, Rep. Jim Weaver of Oregon has limited himself to two lines, and Rep. Bill Hefner of North Carolina has managed to tell all in six.
So the Hill is divided, as always, between two extremes. That's it for today, folks. This is Bob Levey, typist, reporting.
Wait a minute. Better make that:
Robert Frank Levey, Cynic, of Washington, D.C., congenial columnist and collector of cryptic colloquialisms, Honorary High Poohbah of the Root Beer Consumers Society of Central Maryland, born in a log cabin in Manhattan on June 2 . . . .