You won't find it in the dictionary, but the word is "grak." Definition: a sudden rush of "Oh, noooooo" to the brain. Latest victim: Cynthia Stamps of Arlington.

A couple of Mondays ago, Cynthia was riding the Metro downtown to work. It was her husband's birthday, and she was mulling what to buy him when she bumped into a friend. They were in mid-conversation when the train pulled into Farragut West, and Cynthia sprinted for the exit.


She had left her purse on the train, containing all her valuables and identification. That'd be bad enough on any day. But how was she going to shop for hubby's birthday on her lunch hour, as planned?

First stop: kiosk attendant Christopher Scripp. "He called all over the place for me," Cynthia recalls. In minutes, Metro headquarters had radioed to Robert L. Shellhouse, the driver of Cynthia's train, to alert him to the situation.

But Shellhouse could hardly stop a rush-hour subway train to search through all the cars for a purse. It looked dismal for the forces of recovery.

But luck was with Cynthia. She had been riding in the first car. Within seconds, a fellow passenger noticed the purse sitting on the floor.

Who was the closest Metro employe to whom he could turn it over? Shellhouse, of course. A knock on the door of the driver's cab, a reach with the right hand and the deed was done.

Cynthia was so pleased by the turn of events that she rode all the way out to New Carrollton, where she retrieved the purse from Shellhouse in person. And that lunch hour, she shopped for hubby as if there had never been any doubt.