FEW VISITORS to the Hyatt Regency Hotel...


FEW VISITORS to the Hyatt Regency Hotel could have been fooled by the signs of a trade meeting on the third floor, of which "VA Statistical Seminar" was paramount.

Other signs said "Communications," in front of a door behind which, indeed, lurked batteries of communications equipment.

The entire hotel area was patrolled by police and well-dressed people with apparent hearing aids in one ear. Dan Quayle was in town. This was his backup.

A few writers and editors from this corner went to quiz the vice president, who had been invited to The Sun building. "You have no idea," said a government spokesman on deepest background, pointing to the elaborate security details, "how much you saved the taxpayers by agreeing to come here."

The lunch of the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs, also at the Hyatt, went off almost flawlessly. The flaw was the failure of coffee to be delivered, at least to most tables. "Somewhere back there," said one member "are 300 coffee pots going for naught."

The hit of the day's show, beside the man himself, was the band from Calvert Hall. These 17 high school musicians would have done any military band at a White House soiree proud.

Early lunch-goers were treated to the Glenn Miller repertory. The vice president was introduced to ruffles and flourishes. He exited to Sousa that brought lumps to many a throat.

"The Calvert Hall band," said one foreign affairs expert, "could get anyone elected president."

* * *"AMAZING!" said the 7th-grader. "Did you know that in all the years up to 1650 the population only got up to half a billion?

"And just since then we've got up to 3.9 billion people."

Amazing, all right -- especially since the count is a little short; there are now about 5.3 billion people in the world.

Where did that 3.9 billion figure come from?

The 7th-grader stood her ground.

"It's right here in the book," she said with determination.

Sure enough, it was. Her social studies textbook is the same age she is, 12, but she's the fresher of the two.

As the 7th-grader continued her homework, a question of French grammar arose. Let's check the textbook.

"We're not allowed to bring it home. There aren't enough French texts for everyone."

Another story of inadequate inner-city schools?

Not at all; these events took place in one of Baltimore County's leafier suburbs, the kind of neighborhood upscale families move into for the good schools.

What's this about fat in the school budget?


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