This old globe continues to take one step back for every two steps forward . . . .There I was, getting my car inspected for emissions, ruminating while I waited that the '55 Chevy I owned in college would have flunked the second it pulled into the driveway. "Ain't clean air wunnaful?" I say to the dashboard . . . .Finally, I reach the testing island, take the test and discover that a 1982 Buick can flunk, too . . . ."What do I do now?" I inquire of the bored individual who hands me back my registration . . . ."That's your problem," Individual says . . . .Hey, even in The Bad Old Days of pollution, there was courtesy . . . .

But perhaps I speak too soon (at least about our fellow line-sitters) . . . .Same place. Late November. Jeanne Mosbaek of Chevy Chase awaits inspection. And awaits. For a solid hour . . . .Only when she reaches the testing island does she realize she has next to no cash with her -- and there's a sign big as life that says the fee is $9, cash only . . . .Expecting the cold shoulder, Jeanne jumps out and asks the driver of the car behind hers if she'll cash a $9 check. Without hesitating, Helene Guriano does . . . .Maybe you could teach the inspectors some manners, Helene . . . .Somebody sure taught you . . . .

How to get The Little Darlings to shut up in a school bus? . . . .A Fairfax County driver who pleads for anonymity has this effective suggestion . . . .She threatens to take all quarters away from all kids, innocent as well as guilty, if silence doesn't break out immediately . . . .Without quarters, it's hard to play video games . . . .Hit 'em where it hurts, I always say . . . .

How about the gang at the Capital Centre? . . . .Two weeks ago, all the employes and concessionaires (including the Bullets and Capitals players) kicked in more than $15,000 to help underprivileged families . . . .The money bought gifts, clothes and food, which were distributed to more than 350 families from Washington, Prince George's County and Baltimore . . . .

Other side of the business coin . . . .Newton Jackson of Northwest buys six Christmas cards from a Dupont Circle stationery store . . . .Gets home, puts them aside, discovers two weeks later that he forgot to take six envelopes from the rack . . . .Calls store, tells tale, gets heartfelt assurance that he can come and get six envelopes any time he likes . . . .Newton shows up half an hour later. But he's taking the day off from work, and "I didn't exactly look like something out of a magazine. I had on a jogging suit that didn't match and some beat-up shoes. Maybe I had shaved. Probably I hadn't" . . . .You guessed it: even though he had a receipt, the clerk (same one he had spoken to on the phone) refused to hand over the envelopes . . . .Insult to injury: She said to a fellow clerk, in Newton's presence, "This is why I don't like this kind of customer" . . . .Makes you wonder whether "caveat emptor" translates to: "Buyer, be sure to wear a three-piece suit" . . . .

Congrats to the Eastern High School Marching Band, which will strut its stuff in the inaugural parade . . . .Confidential to Jimmy of Lanham: I have reported the bus driver to the brass. No, he is not allowed to use snuff while he's driving . . . .Thanks to Mike Arledge of Takoma Park for this great Maryland tag: ROOMY (aboard a VW, of course) . . . .And this bon mot of the season from Jim McAllister of Northwest. He defines a truly understanding husband as one who asks his wife if she has anything to say to him before he turns on the football game. . . .