An Undelivered Flag Won't Wave Proudly

THE information used to intercept scuds at Tel Aviv was transmitted by satellite to a receiving station in Australia, thence conveyed to the District of Columbia for analysis and processing, and eventually deployed in the Middle East. This has UPS beaten, and may seem improbable to certain old-timers who have been dozing, but those of us who have been alert on the civilian front know all about such things and are not amazed. I imagine the Pentagon got the general idea from buying a few items by mail ord er. Right now, I am waiting for a new flag that has been promised me variously from a number of places more or less like Australia. My need for a flag has nothing to do with the burst of patriotic enthusiasm that arose with the unpleasantness in Kuwait. All at once everybody else wanted to fly flags, but my daily display of Old Glory has been a long custom. I have a 40-foot staff, and a chest of assorted banners that let me vary the variety.

I have, to start, a handsome 7-by-9 foot flag that flew briefly over the Capitol and was forwarded by Senator Cohen for our annual centennial observance and patriotic breakfast on the Fourth of July. It flies only then. But I have a 3-by-5 that I run up on ordinary days, and I have the Bennington banner, the John Paul Jones snake flag, the pine tree flag of Bunker Hill, and several others of that stripe. I have foreign flags, and honor Bastille Day, Victoria Day, and Orangeman's Day. I have the flag of the Papal States, but do not break that one out on Orangeman's Day.

I don't know why, but I have the official flag of the town of Swampscott, Mass. I have the flag of Israel with its star of David. Then I have the state and provincial flags, so when our friends come down from Canada, I can salute Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and even New Brunswick. Did you know Nova Scotia is the only Canadian Province to have its own royal flag? On the Ides of March, I like to run up our state o' Maine flag with its bull moose all by itself, but otherwise the Stars and Stripes appear on top.

BY-AND-BY a flag frays and tatters and needs to be retired solemnly and replaced. It has been my custom, when that moment arrives, to step into a Sears Roebuck store, flash my credit card, and get a new 3-by-5 polyester flag which wears well and doesn't fade too soon. So without reference to the Kuwait affair, and because it was time for a new flag, I stepped into the Sears place where a beautiful young lady looked up at me and said, "Good morning - may I help you?"

I have a ready answer for that, and it always amuses the young ladies. I say, "Yes, I need all the help I can get!" Then I told her I had in mind to buy a flag. The 3-by-5 polyester. She said, "No problem!"

That's the funniest remark I've heard since Irma Baker, at the Grange supper, asked Guzzle Grant if he'd care for a second piece of pie.

The "no problem" has been a problem for long months, and today I got a card from Columbus, Ohio, saying my order is appreciated and the merchandise will be forwarded before the 14th of March, 1991. (Today, as I write, is April 10.)

As the impulses are received in Australia, flags are bought in Indianapolis. The gracious young lady who wanted to help me said everything was arranged to suit my convenience; and if I would step to that telephone (pointing), I would be made happy in mere seconds. She assured me there would be no charge. This gave me pause - why should the possibility of a "charge" come into the conversation? A charge to buy goods - and a flag at that? I said, "Why would I telephone when I'm right here?"

Things went into a consumer decline after that. It seems the gracious young lady didn't really know why, but she explained that she merely worked there and had been told to direct customers to the telephone. She pointed again. I thus became acquainted with another gracious young lady who told me she was in Indianapolis and the weather was delightful there. In Maine we were having a drizzle. She took my order, I gave my credit card number, and she said there would be no problem; I might expect my "mercha ndise" in a week to 10 days.

Ever since then I've been getting post cards from Columbus (Ohio, that is) saying my flag will come six weeks ago.

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