Questions and answers . . . .

Dear Bob: I consider myself a man of the world, but I have never seen anything like the ladies of the evening in Washington, D.C.

I was walking down 14th Street one night, on my way to the subway, when a woman in hot pants came up to me and asked if I was interested in her. I told her I wasn't.

That should have ended the discussion, but she was far from finished. She followed me down the street, asking all sorts of questions about what I like and how I like it. I kept telling her I wasn't interested, but this lady wasn't taking no for an answer.

Finally, at the corner of K Street, she jumped in front of me and started to rub up against my chest. I had to cross the street to get away from her.

Isn't there anything that can be done about this incredible aggressiveness? RUBBED WRONG

Please understand that I'm not condoning the world's oldest profession, R.W. But you do have to feel something (pun intended) for the lady you encountered.

Here she is, trying to make a living, in hot pants, on a less-than-balmy night. I'd want to rub up against you, too, if I were as cold as I suspect she was.

Now for a more serious answer: Call the police.

I realize that they might not treat your complaint with the same gravity as a double homicide. But if you took it upon yourself to remove this aggressive woman from your path, or her person from your person, she might file an assault rap against you. You need that like a hole in the head.

Let the cops handle it, to the extent that they can or will.

Dear Bob: I shop in a very busy Giant Food store in Bethesda. Many of the customers are mothers and children. Many of the children behave about as well as the monkeys in the zoo.

Bob, I have seen kids throw tantrums you wouldn't believe when their mothers refuse to buy them the "correct" ice cream. I have seen kids go limp like antiwar protesters when their mothers suggest a hair spray that isn't "cool." I have seen Mom push Junior down the soup aisle in the cart, and Junior reaches out and knocks cans off the shelf just for kicks.

Don't tell me to talk to the manager. I have talked to managers until I'm blue in the face. They all say they'll do something about it, but they never do, because they're obviously afraid to lose a customer to Safeway. Meanwhile, the customer they're about to lose to Safeway is me.


Just one comment, G.S.H. Instead of talking to the manager, have you tried talking to the Mom?

The next time you see Junior acting monkeyesque, cruise up to the mother and say, as sweetly as you can: "Listen, I know this might be difficult, but could you please try to keep your child under control? This is a public place."

I realize that her reaction could be anything under the sun. Probably a few Moms will get their dander up. Fine. They were lost causes anyway. But I'll bet that most Moms will use you (constructively) as a teaching tool. They'll say, "See, honey, this lady doesn't like your behavior any better than I do." And maybe, just maybe, the behavior will cease.

Dear Bob: I run a newspaper stand in a busy downtown Metro station. I'm not trying to give you a sob story, but my family and I have to struggle for everything we get. We don't expect to be rich. We just expect a little courtesy.

So why do so many people give me $20 bills? They buy a 25-cent copy of The Washington Post with a $20 bill. They give me a $20 bill for a candy bar, even for a pack of gum. And then they get mad when I ask if they have anything smaller. Plus they get mad when they ask for change without buying something, and I tell them no.

One day some guy said it was my obligation as a businesswoman to have lots of change on hand. I told him my only obligation as a businesswoman was to make a living. He wasn't too happy.

But neither am I. Do I look like a bank? I don't think I do. So why do people insist on treating me like a bank? NO MORE TWENTIES

One reason people treat you like a bank, N.M.T., is that the lines in your place are shorter than the lines in the bank.

But the main reason is that people are trying to make you feel guilty. They are threatening you at the same time that they are paying you. They hold out a $20 bill for a 25-cent sale and their eyes say: "If you give me a hard time, I'll buy the paper somewhere else."

Maybe you should invite a few repeat offenders to do exactly that.

I realize that 25-cent paper buyers sometimes turn into $10 book buyers and $15 cologne buyers, too. But you know who the worst of the bad apples are. If you lose them, I suspect it's not much of a loss.