I bow to no one in my inability to accomplish mechanical tasks. But changing a flat tire is one thing I can manage -- and now Paula Miller of Northeast can say the same, thanks to bittersweet experience.

One recent night, Paula was attending a function in Alexandria with her boy friend. When they left at about 10:30 p.m. to go home, her car had that tell-tale sag at one corner.

Paula's boy friend would have changed the flat, but he wasn't able to. He had a broken leg, and he was wrapped in a cast up to his knee. Plaster of paris is kind of tough on a guy's mobility.

So Paula prepared to give it a try, with her boy friend's verbal advice. Just as she was rolling up her sleeves, a police car drove by. The officer inside took a long look, but didn't stop.

Meanwhile, Paula couldn't get the hang of how to yank the screws loose, despite her boy friend's advice. A $20 cab ride was beginning to loom when a car pulled up and stopped. The driver: the policeman who had passed by before, now driving his own car.

He turned out to be Bill Bobbysink, an Alexandria law enforcement man, who had just gotten off duty and was on his way home. Bill changed the flat in about 60 seconds. Then he pointed out that Paula was asking for trouble if she planned to be out at night without knowing how to fix a flat. What if a bad guy rather than a good guy had come by?

Paula agreed, and she spent a couple of hours that weekend mastering the art of the lug wrench and the jack. She urges other women in the area to fill in that gap in their knowledge, if they haven't already. I second the motion.