The readers ask, the columnist answers:

From Bill Breckenridge of Cleveland Park: "I've heard steaming language in my day. But a woman on the Red Line the other day used language I haven't heard since the Marine Corps. She was wearing a dress without a collar. The label in the back was flipped up. It was morning rush hour, and some Yuppie with a briefcase who obviously didn't know her reached over and tucked it down into her dress, without asking or saying anything. She let this guy have it full blast, about how he was a male chauvinist so-and-so and her body belonged to her, etc. The guy was obviously just trying to help. You think she was within her rights?"

I might not have cranked the scream machine all the way up, Bill, but heck, yes, the woman was within her rights. How would you like it if you felt a strange hand reaching down your back on a crowded train, whether for a helpful purpose or not? Couldn't Mr. Yup simply have told the woman that her label was showing, and let her tuck it in herself?

From Aaron Engel of Bowie: "I went to the Everly Brothers concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion on July 16. I hate smoking passionately. I paid a lot of money to sit under the roof, not on the lawn, so I could hear and see better, and so I could avoid smoking, which is supposed to be illegal under the roof. But throughout the show, people were smoking near me -- and it wasn't tobacco. It spoiled the evening. Anything I could have done?"

Call an usher, and loudly! According to Alison Peters, assistant director of advertising and promotion at the Post Pavilion, any usher who receives a complaint about smoking will immediately ask the smoker to extinguish his cigarette. If the cigarette contains a forbidden substance, the usher can and will call the cops, says Peters. "Quite simply, it marijuana smoking is illegal," Peters says. As for tobacco, Peters says an announcement is made before every performance making it clear that smoking under the roof is forbidden.

From "Bashful Barrister": "I went into a bank to apply for a car loan. An officer, who was very pretty, was filling out the application form as I sat at her desk. She asked how much money I make. When I told her, she put down the form, looked me right in the eye and said, 'You do-o-o-o?' What do you think of this woman's professionalism?"

About as much as you do, B.B. And I think just as much of the way she tried to snag a male of the species. I've got nothing against dropping a hint to a man that you'd like to have him invite you to dinner. Nor do I have anything against dropping it as obviously as this woman did. But I have a lot against bank employes who try to use information about a customer to their personal advantage. I hope you won't give her the pleasure, either of signing the loan application or of painting the town in your company.

From "Furious in Fairfax": "I'm a single parent, and I went for a job interview last week down near Springfield Mall. The man asked me whether I had children. I said, 'Yes, I have a 3 1/2-year-old boy.' Then he said, 'What are you going to do about the days your child gets sick?' Isn't it illegal for him to ask me that?"

Lawyers tell me there's nothing illegal about the words themselves, F.F. But to the extent that he was discriminating against you as a single parent and as a woman, he broke every equal employment law in the book. Get a lawyer and sock it to this guy. Or get the county government to do the socking for you. The county Human Rights Commission's phone is 691-2953.

From "Charlie" in Springfield: "I saw a Fairfax County police cruiser run a yellow light on Keene Mill Road the other night. He didn't have his emergency lights on or anything, so he couldn't have been going to a triple ax murder. Why can he do that if I can't? And can I complain about it?"

Just because he wasn't flashing and dashing doesn't mean he wasn't in a legitimate hurry, Charlie. But to answer your question: Cops are not immune from traffic laws. If he wasn't heading to an emergency, he was breaking the law, same as you or me.

As for complaining, be my guest. But don't expect much in the way of results. It's your word against the cop's, and in a judgment situation like this, you know which way most police officials are going to lean.