If you're thinking of beating new car prices by buying a used car from a private individual, you'll want to pay careful attention to Dick Rael's story. Its moral: you may be buying more than four wheels, two headlights and an engine.

Dick bought a used car from an acquaintance on Oct. 2. He left it parked in front of his home in Northwest for a couple of days because he didn't have the chance to get D.C. tags right away.

In the meantime, the car sat by the curb, bearing the old owner's Maryland tags. Apparently, an observant operative from the city happened by and lowered the boom, because when Dick checked the car on the morning of Oct. 5, it had been booted.

Turns out the old owner had accumulated five parking tickets between 1978 and 1980. She had never paid them, and she told Dick when he called to inquire that she had never been aware of them. She sometimes let friends borrow the car in that period, she said. They must have gotten the tickets and ignored them.

Dick called the city and learned that it would take $130 to free up his left front wheel. Was he really liable if he hadn't owned the car at the time? Sorry, but yes, the city said. They issue boots to plates, not individuals, the voice on the phone explained. If Dick now owned the car that bore the plates, he also owned the trouble that came with them.

Dick fought the telephone ruling through the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication. His $130 tab was reduced to $25 by a hearing examiner, and there's a chance that that fee will be waived on further appeal.

In the meantime, however, Dick suggests that used-car buyers check with area jurisdictions for outstanding tickets before signing a purchase agreement -- or a check. The aggravation and expense you save may be your own.

Hope has always sprung eternal, but if you use the mail, it has now flowered. You can fight back against junk mail. Here's how:

Write to the Mail Preference Service, Direct Mail Marketing Association, 6 East 43rd Street, New York, N.Y., 10017. The association is a private company, to which 2,800 mass mailers belong. All you have to do is write and ask to have your name removed from the lists of companies that belong to DMM, and according to director Donna Sweeney, it'll be done.

The service is free. Sweeney says DMM processes between 30,000 and 40,000 requests a year. DMM can even help you if for some reason you want to receive more junk mail, not less.

Of course, the system isn't foolproof. If a company doesn't belong to DMM, you'll still receive its impassioned pleas for funds, or its breathless announcements of newly minted better mousetraps. But Sweeney says a reduction in most unwanted mail can be achieved in a very short time.

Marge Hyer, a religion reporter for The Post, had a less than heavenly experience the other day. When she got on the D-2 bus to come to work, the driver was wearing a set of those Walkman earphones. Wore them all the way downtown, too, Marge reports.

Al Long, public relations director for Metro, pronounced himself "horrified" at Marge's news. Bus drivers may not wear Walkmen, or any relative close or distant, while doing their jobs, Long says.

Nor would it make a difference if the contraption were turned off, Long said. "If he was wearing it," said Long, "we have to assume it was on." If any other bus rider sees a similar music-fest underway while a bus is, too, Long urges you to report it. 'Tis a firing offense, he says.

Another classic headline, this one contributed by Tom Coll of Northwest, who was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base way back when.

One day, an enlisted man broke out of the stockade. The Washington papers were pretty bored by the story until the police told them that the escapee had recently had all of his teeth removed.

The Times-Herald couldn't resist. Its page-one headline was: THTOCKADE THEEKS TOOTHLESS THOLDIER