What with all the ink and air time devoted to AIDS lately, this almost had to happen. Now it has.

A reader in Leonardtown, Md., turned on his phone answering machine one recent afternoon while he was away from his office. When he returned, he found the following message:

"This is Dr. Jones calling. Your tests are positive and we must start treatment immediately. In other words, it must be nipped in the bud. Call me at 201-741-1932."

My reader knew that he probably didn't have AIDS, poison ivy, or any other ailment that needed nipping in any bud. But he called the number, which is in northern New Jersey, just to be sure. It was out of service.

In other words, the whole thing was a prank. My reader suspected as much even before he dialed New Jersey, since the "message voice" was "too glib; almost a tongue-in-cheek tone of voice where the person is almost breaking up with making such a 'joke.' "

That spells "teen-ager" to me, in bold-face capitals.

You can just imagine a bunch of teens sitting around after school, with nothing to do (except homework). Suddenly, one of them says, "Hey, I've got a great idea! Let's embarrass the daylights out of some poor guy whose number we'll look up in the phone book. Maybe his wife will accuse him of having an affair! Maybe she'll throw a rolling pin at him! What fun!"

Try homework, kiddos. It's a lot more fun.

As Pat Myers of Northwest says, "Usually, this is the kind of thing you think of two hours afterwards." But she was Patty on the Spot at Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street NW when a fellow driver decided to get rude.

There was Pat, behind the wheel. Her daughters, ages 9 and 13 at the time, were in the car with her. Fellow Driver did something aggressive and dangerous, so Pat gave him a toot of the horn. He replied with a popular gesture involving one of his middle fingers.

At the next red light, Pat won her spurs for all time. She pulled up beside the finger-signaller, rolled down her window and said:

"Excuse me, but my two daughters here don't understand that signal you just made. Would you mind explaining it to them?"

Fellow Driver turned pink.

Then he turned red.

Then he turned tail.

"I have never seen a man more embarrassed," says Pat.

I would never have seen a Mom more embarrassed if the man had taken Pat up on her offer. Still, it was a bluff that was likely to succeed -- and which deserved to. Hats off!

They don't sell wedding rings at Jerry's Sub Shop in Tyson's Corner. But Jean Waylonis, a Jerry's employe, found a marital band under one of the booths on Nov. 19, at about 3:30 p.m.

She'd like to return it to its rightful owner. If you're she, call Jean at 356-7550.

If you're a conwoman, don't bother. The ring has a distinctive design feature that only its owner can describe. If you can't, the only reason to call Jean at Jerry's is for a bologna and tomato with everything.

Let's leave the editorial writing to those of us in the Fourth Estate, huh, guys?

Unfortunately, a D.C. police officer couldn't resist. He was giving a $75 ticket to Marvene Horowitz of Northwest one recent evening -- and well he should have, since Marvene had just run a red light at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW.

But the officer wasn't content to fill out the appropriate blanks and boxes. He apparently scrawled a rather ugly seven-letter word across the face of the ticket before handing it over.

Being an inhibited sort, I can't reproduce the word here. Let's just say that it's anatomical in nature, and that Marvene and her boyfriend, Marty Westerman of Northeast, were greatly upset when they noticed it. They demanded an apology from the officer.

He refused, claiming that Marvene had written the word herself to "set him up." Marty and Marvene denied it, pointing out that they didn't have a pen between them.

Then the cop claimed that someone must have written the word on the ticket before it was issued to him.

Dimly possible, I suppose.

About as possible as Tuesday coming before Monday.

Marvene took the ticket before a D.C. Traffic Adjudication magistrate, and asked him to reduce her fine in light of The Word. He refused, without saying why.

So Marty and Marvene are still waiting for an apology, and/or an explanation. The least the police department can do is to offer them one.

Bill O'Toole has solved a problem in my house -- and, I hope, in yours.

He points out that most people develop holes in only one sock of a pair. They will often throw out the "hole-y" member of the duo. And then, because they don't know what to do with the "surviving" sock, they'll throw it out, too.

Bill works with agencies that aid the homeless. He says any sock -- one with holes or the remaining sock of a pair -- will be welcomed by these needy folks. Rather than throwing such socks out, why not give them to people they'll genuinely help?

We do have our blind spots around here, and Ronald C. Semone of Northwest has discovered one of the most persistent.

He thumbed through the entire Nov. 11 edition of this newspaper, after which he wrote:

"In today's Washington Post, 62 different advertisements highlighted sales in honor of the holiday.

"29 called it Veteran's Day.

"18 called it Veterans Day.

"15 called in Veterans' Day."

Only the latter is correct according to Washington Post style, although the middle version would be acceptable in many quarters. Alas, as you can see, nearly half the votes went to the one version that isn't acceptable anywhere.

We will do better for Christma's and Ne'w Ye'ars, Ronald, I assure you. CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

It's three weeks till Christmas (yes, doubting Thomases and Thomasinas, I really can spell it right!). Many of you, I'm sure, are beginning to plan one of the most enjoyable holiday rituals of all: caroling in your neighborhood.

Why not pass the hat for Children's as you go? It will give your listeners a way to thank you and to help sick kids, all with one contribution.

Many of you have already noticed that this column is a lot larger than usual, so that I can give fuller coverage to the Children's campaign. Many of you have also noticed the reason for the extra space: Luann and Mark Trail have taken a vacation.

If you're a fan of either comic strip, we're sorry that your favorite has had to "push." But both strips will return in late January, at the conclusion of the hospital drive.


Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.