The hardest thing about being a Kennedy, some people say, is the total lack of privacy. When you're a Kennedy, some people say, you can't go anywhere or do anything without everybody knowing about it.

Not true - or how would they have mislaid the most prominent Kennedy of them all?That's right: Senator Edward Kennedy himself. Famous name, famous job, famous face, and large, too - you'd think that if anybody in the clan is noticeable at all times, Teddy's the one. But on Easter Sunday in Palm Beach, they just plain lost him - and in his family's own house!

At least, that's the way it sets up for now. Seems the Palm Beach police were looking for Teddy on Easter afternoon to ask him some questions about his now-notorious night-on-the-town with son Patrick and nephew Willie Smith, and its aftermath.

Two members of the Palm Beach police force arrived at the Kennedy house about 1:30 p.m. that Sunday and asked to speak to Teddy. They didn't get Teddy. They got William Barry, a former FBI agent and longtime Kennedy friend. According to the police, Barry told them that Teddy was "out at the moment."

Boy, was he wrong! It turns out Teddy was right inside at the very moment the police were standing at the door looking for him.

But it gets even worse. Barry had told the police he would contact Teddy and have him call in about an hour. When no call came, the police called back. This time they didn't get Teddy or Barry. They got a housekeeper, who told them that "Mr. Barry had taken Senator Kennedy and William Smith to the airport for a 3 p.m. flight."

Wrong again! Teddy didn't leave town until Monday. What a gaffe! If anybody ought to know where the head of the house is - aside from former FBI agents, that is - it's a housekeeper. But it didn't happen, and so Teddy went back to Washington unquestioned and stayed unquestioned for nearly a week.

So what have we got here? Exactly: a breakdown in communications.

People just aren't giving other people the information they need to do their jobs properly, let alone to answer inquiries from visiting police officers. If only Teddy could remember to say "I'm going out now!" each time he leaves and "I'm home!" whenever he gets back, the whole thing could have been avoided.

Not that the police are blameless either, mind you. Teddy has admitted that he knew from William Barry the police wanted to talk to him - something to do with nephew Willie.

But, Teddy says, "Certainly the word `rape' was not used or I would have remembered that." So naturally Teddy didn't try to call them back. It was, he says, a "semantic misunderstanding."

Of course it was - and just the kind of thing we're talking about. Say the secret word and the senator will come down. Say anything else and you're out of luck.