WASHINGTON. — Washington -- Say ''Hi'' to Madge and Donald. They don't know each other yet, but they will, since this is a love story. As New Yorkers they experience all the tensions of urban life and, like everyone else in their age and income bracket, they feel they aren't Realizing Their Inner Potential.
Madge decided that her problem was that she was too self-effacing. So she bought a self-help book: Dr. G. Alvaro de la Blanc's best-seller ''Blow Your Own Horn: A Guide to Self-Assertiveness.'' She had a soft little voice: Dr. de la Blanc taught her to speak resonantly from her diaphragm. He exhorted her to be a Triple-A Person: Aggressive, Assertive and Annoying. This book worked so well that she mustered the courage to tell off her boss, who had treated her like a piece of furniture.
While job hunting, she began reading Dr. Wolf Krauthammer's ''Howl for Happiness.'' Dr. Krauthammer taught that the birth trauma has made us all neurotic and that we must be reborn. Madge followed Dr. Krauthammer's exercises, lying naked on a blanket and screaming at the top of her lungs (the ''Primal Howl''). This enabled her to get in touch with her true feelings of outrage at leaving a nice cozy womb. After a few days her neighbors called the police.
After finding a new apartment, she decided to improve her human-relations skills and purchased the latest best seller by Dr. Leo Bruschetta, Ph.D. M.B.A., P.C., ''Loving Everybody,'' which taught her that life was like Mama's spaghetti sauce -- ''a littla this, a littla that'' -- and that if the world could only be like a big, warm, loving Italian family there would be no more wars. But when she went hunting for a job in her specialty, personnel, nobody would hire her because they thought she was too nice.
So she purchased Dr. Erwin Kreplach's ''You're No. 1! You're No. 1!'', which was Number 5 on the New York Times best-seller list that week. Dr. Kreplach taught her that feeling sorry for other people was actually egotism. Giving a homeless person a quarter, for example, was playing God with their lives. As Dr. Kreplach wrote, ''Who are we to say whether they should live or die?'' This philosophy made her comfortable with the idea of firing people. How did she know that somebody shouldn't be out on the streets? Who was she -- God?
Such sentiments made it easy to get a job in personnel. Madge was immediately hired by a large, downsizing corporation to fire 200 people. She succeeded so well that her job was eliminated.
Madge spent a lot of time feeling sorry for herself. She went on junk-food binges and gained 25 pounds. She began to feel unhappy with her self-image until she read Robert Sorghum's ''All I Want to Be Is What I Was in Kindergarten,'' which said that there is a fat child in all of us crying to get out, so go for it.
She felt good about herself again, but then she read in Jane Body's ''Cholesterol Countdown'' that with her cholesterol count she had a life expectancy of 35.6 years. She immediately went out and bought all the latest diet books: ''The Carrot Diet,'' ''The Baguette and Perrier Diet,'' ''The Westchester County Diet'' and ''The Bangladesh Diet.''
Meanwhile, Donald was spinning his wheels in a junior executive slot at a large corporation. At the age of 28 he looked in his mirror and saw a failure staring back at him.
So he bought Mike Cordova's best-selling ''Power! Success! Money! How to Get Them!! How to Flaunt Them!!!'' Under Mr. Cordova's tutelage, Donald learned where to buy designer power suits wholesale and how to fire your best friend and where to take power vacations. He memorized the rules on ''How to Maneuver Your Way to the Top.''
But just as his scheme to elevate himself to a second vice presidency was about to bear fruit, his chief rival cut him out, using a technique he'd learned in Mr. Cordova's later book, ''Cutting Out the Other guy: A Guide to Corporate Infighting.''
Donald resigned. Having inherited some money, he determined to go into business for himself and chose real estate. He read ''Winning Through Bullying'' by Rob Ringworm; ''Buying Country Property Could Be the Smartest Investment You Ever Made'' by David Harum; and ''The Art of Bankruptcy'' by Donald Slump. But the bottom fell out of the real-estate market, and he lost a bundle.
To recoup, he went into the stock market, reading ''How to Make a Fortune in Junk Bonds'' by Michael Milkit and the ''Art of Leveraging'' by Ivan Trump. But the junk-bond market collapsed and Donald was indicted in an S&L scandal. He spent six months in a federal prison applying ''Different Strokes: How to Play Killer Tennis'' by Vita Gastritis.
Spiritually awakened by his 100 hours of community service, Donald became interested in the teachings of Swami Randjipur Assam, whose book ''Horizontal Meditation (HM)'' had persuaded thousands of over-stressed American business executives to live in bed and chant their personal mantras, 2,700 times, while taking deep breaths.