The bank folks have struck back.

In the interest of equal time, I hereby publish the heart of a letter signed by "The tellers and managers of a Northern Virginia savings and loan." They further identify themselves as "approximately 25 employes who were not overly pleased with your comments (about the interrogation a bank teller gave me when I tried to cash a $50 check)."

"Modern technology is wonderful," the S & L people write. "Imagine a machine that with a mere access code and an account number will allow you to cash a check in a matter of minutes. . . .

"Tellers, on the other hand, are only human beings. Unlike their technological contemporaries, they are fraught with limitations and procedures to follow. . . .

"I am sure you are among the many consumers who appreciate the fact that your bank is insured by the FDIC or the FSLIC. Do you think that these agencies grant insurance protection to banks who willingly dispense money upon presentation of any check?

"You were annoyed when the teller asked you to endorse your check and flippant when the teller checked your balance. . . Would you prefer that upon presentation of the check the teller simply hand over $50 from your account without taking any precautions?. . . "

During the incident about which I wrote earlier, I told the teller who was giving me a tough time that if I were out to burn her bank, I'd do it for a lot more than $50. In fact, I told her, I'd do it on a big enough scale that I could spend the rest of my life in Venezuela.

"It is a fact that most check fraud involves checks of small amounts like $50," my bank readers say. "Fifty dollars may not be much money for some people -- you can't spend the rest of your life in Venezuela with it -- but it takes most of us a day and a half to earn $50. What would your attitude be if a teller dispensed $50 from your account without taking any precautions?"

My attitude would be the same as yours, bank folks -- but only if the check were being presented by someone other than me, and weren't made out to "Cash," as the one in my earlier column was.

Sure, I want my money protected if a thief or con man is the one at the teller's window. But in the story I told, the person at the teller's window was me. That was easy to verify with one step -- checking my signature, which was on file -- rather than the three steps the teller took.

Of course I shouldn't get $50 if my account doesn't contain it. But why not trust me to know my balance?

If I'm not good for the $50, you already have a way to penalize me, bank folks. It's called a rubber check fee.

Why subject me to unnecessary delays when there's already a system that protects both your coffers and mine?

Thanks (I think) to Connie Ward of Fairfax, who spotted another silly soul out there who thinks you drive a car with good intentions.

"Driving on Braddock Road this morning," Connie writes, "I looked in my rear-view mirror and there was a young woman driving the car behind me, with head tilted so she could see herself, applying mascara.

"Next time I looked she was patting her face with, I presume, foundation.

"Then the powder brush, and by the time we reached Ravensworth, she was brushing her hair.

"She veered off the road once or twice, and as I was turning in at the shopping center, I was terrified that she would run into me. But I was fortunate.

"The last I saw, she was brushing away, heading for the Beltway."

Bronx cheer to you, Silly Soul. Get up five minutes earlier and none of it would be necessary.

On Arlington Road in Bethesda, two doctors have hung out shingles, one atop the other. They read:


Annabel Oates of Chevy Chase wonders if the Steinbergs specialize in that common Washington affliction, foot-in-mouth disease.