Quick takes . . . .

Putting callers on hold isn't the only thing wrong with the District's 911 system . . . . Some of the troops who answer the phone could use a whole lot of help, too. As in maybe a dose or two of common sense . . . . A caller tells of playing softball down on the Mall in the late afternoon of May 29 when all of a sudden, two vehicles collide on a nearby road . . . . The two occupants of one vehicle take off like outfielders in pursuit of a sinking line drive . . . . My caller and four or five fellow softballers chase them on foot across hill and dale, through the rush hour crowds at Federal Triangle and north on 13th Street. Just then, my caller decides it would be a bright idea to call 911 and get some police help. So he does, on a pay phone . . . . Voice on other end of line asks my man for his name and the tag number of the car the fleeing folks were driving . . . . "Don't you understand?" he shrieks. "You can get all that later! They are running north on 13th Street RIGHT NOW!" . . . . "Okay, thanks for the information," says The Voice of 911, and speedily hangs up . . . . Didn't ask for a description, didn't ask for my man's location, didn't do anything but go by the book like a robot and hang up as quickly as possible . . . . Yes, they caught the two guys, and charged them with crashing a stolen car. But they were pinched only because they happened to sprint past a police car . . . . You can ill afford to squander the good will of citizens, 911 personnel. Yet that's what you did May 29, and what you do every time you're unwilling to distinguish between a guy calling with a lost cat and a guy calling with an unfolding emergency . . . .

Sage advice for the late 1980s from Bob Brannen of Arlington . . . . Bob says any time he gets a bill for less than $20, he pays it immediately, before it has a chance to go up . . . .

Mildred Brown of Northwest thought I'd be amused by it, and I was . . . . Mildred is a native of Centreville, S.D., and a friend out there sent her a copy of "Instructions to Teachers, Dakota Territory, September, 1872." Among them: "Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed" . . . . "Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents a pool or public hall, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason for suspecting his worth, intentions, integrity and honesty" . . . . And get a load of this one, teachers union members: "The teacher who performs his labors faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay providing the board of education approves" . . . .

When are they going to clean up the cheater/parkers at the Kennedy Center? Mildred Elfman of Hyattsville is only one of several readers to point out that, before every performance, limousines of The Great and Powerful park in (and stay parked in) all the handicapped spaces. Does anybody tell them to move? Dream on . . . . Does anybody give them a ticket? Dream further . . . .

Wish I'd seen it . . . . J.B. Hancock of Northwest was coming south on Rock Creek Parkway when she fell in behind a car marked DRIVER'S EDUCATION . . . . It's not a bad idea to give these learners a wide berth, so J.B. did. Soon, however, they came to the Blagden Avenue turnoff. DRIVER'S EDUCATION pulled into the left turn lane. J.B. started to go past on the right. But just then, DRIVER'S EDUCATION started to swerve into her path . . . . Instinctively, she beeped. And to her amazement, the person sitting in the instructor's seat (odds are he was the instructor in the flesh) shot J.B. a finger signal whose meaning is both universal and unmistakable . . . .

Hisses and thorns to whoever was stalking the woods a couple of Saturdays ago near the field off Gude Drive in Rockville where kids fly model airplanes . . . . Fourteen-year-old Marc Popovich of Gaithersburg was piloting the model he'd spent the whole winter building, reports his mom, Elizabeth . . . . Unfortunately, someone else's radio was tuned to the same frequency, which sent Airship Popovich into a deep, spinning dive. It crashed into the woods on the far side of the hill . . . . Immediately, Marc and a friend hustled to the scene. But oddly, they found nothing. And then they found out why . . . . A couple of onlookers told Marc that a man had waded into the bushes, found the downed plane, discovered that it wasn't too badly damaged, picked it up, put it in the trunk of his car and scooted away . . . . Elizabeth says she hopes the thief "reads this and gets a huge case of the 'guilts' " . . . . I'd prefer a huge case of the give-backs. If the G-Bs strike you, Mr. Thief, my number is 334-7276 . . . .

Jaycor, a Vienna company, is trying to give away a Western Union teletype machine, complete with 12 rolls of paper tape and eight rolls of paper . . . . Call Sue Wright at 847-4000, extension 3512, if you're a taker . . . .