I had heard the stories about cars that were parked in Washington and vanished moments later. But I had scoffed at them.

Sure, sometimes as I drove home after work I would see flashing blue lights, low on the horizon or down the distant avenues. I dismissed them as swamp gas.

But on a cold Friday afternoom inJanuary I became a believer. I innocently parked within 25 feet of an intersection while running some errands.

When I got back the car was gone.

I still feel dread when I recollect that moment: the invasion of the auto snatchers was a reality!

My first reaction was panic, but I was standing near Dupont Circle and nobody noticed.

I flagged a police car but the officers laughed at my story and told me to call the National Enquirer. I stalked away.

I found a telephone and called information, told the recording that there was nothing listed under "snatching, auto" in the yellow pages, and asked the operator what to do.

She connected me with a clandestine operation organized to assist victims of the invaders.

I was told to go to 451 Indiana Avenue NW, where the Central Violations Bureau had given them an office and some hall space.

When I arrived it was evident that mine was no isolated case. At least 50 other victims of the aliens were waiting for counseling on how to recover their beloved machines.

It was a surprisingly calm group, considering the circumstances, except for one man who became hysterical when told he would have a long wait because he did not know his tag number.

"I only know the first two digits -- it was a casual relationship" he yelled as they dragged him away.

When I finally got inside the office, I was told that, in exchange for$50, I could buy some information on where my car might be found. Nothing could be guaranteed, the clerk said, but many citizens had reported luck at that location.

I gladly paid the $50, a small price for such valuable information.

Two subways and a bus ride later, I found myself at the corner of Wisconsin and M in Georgetown.

I walked towards the waterfront, passing revelers out for a weekend of drinking and dancing in cruel contrast to my desperate mission.

At the bottom of the avenue I turned right, walking slowly into the dark shadows of the Whitehurst freeway, carefully stepping around shards of glass and twisted bits of metal which undoubtedly were remains of cars whose owners had been too late.

I crept stealthily along for several blocks until I could make out a lone figure guarding a fenced-in area. Obviously one of the aliens, he had taken the appearance of a human being in a guard's uniform.

My eyes darted over the slave pen within the fence. Suddenly my heart leapt up: there, apparently unharmed, was my car. I whispered for it to remain silent while I considered my options. I obviously could not succeed by force, so I decided to outwit the aliens.

I strode confidently up to the alien-guard at the gate and thrust at him a piece of paper I had received in exchange for my $50.

"These are my orders," I said in harsh tones. "I am to take the car the Earthlings call a Volare to be questioned about additional parking violations."

The alien-guard hesitated and I considered calling for help, but I was the only Earthling around. Overhead the sound of free cars could be heard hitting potholes on the freeway, but down here it was a battle of different civilizations.

Suddenly the alien-guard motioned me inside the gate and directed me to what I presumed was the alien's space vehicle, disguised cleverly as a small trailer. I entered and reiterated my act. The alien inside, also in human form, placed my piece of paper in a strange machine and allowed me to leave the craft.

I walked steadily over to my car, trying not to arouse suspicion. All appeared in order except for some strange hieroglyphics on the back window. It appeared to be the outline of a car with the letters T, O, and W, but I wasn't about to ask for a translation.

I climbed in and drove to the gate.

This was the last crucial step. Would they let me out or keep me prisoner, never again to see Laverne and Shirley? The alien-guard approached the car and I prepared to raim the gate if necessary.

He tapped on my window and I rolled it down an inch. "If you could back up a little," he said, "I'll be able to open the gate."

I let out a sigh of relief and followed his orders. Seconds later I was on K Street heading for the city lights as fast as my wheels would roll.

When I tried to tell this story to the media, no one seemed interested. Even Mort Sahl discounted my conspiracy theory.