Ann deMatteo is a businesswoman in Alexandria. Arthur F. Phinney is a businessman in Fairfax. They are among the 5,000 or so business-doers in Northern Virginia who rent from the post office the right to send and receive Business Reply Mail.

That right expires each Dec. 31, and must be renewed. Northern Virginia postal headquarters in Merrifield isn't required to notify BRM customers that their privileges are about to expire. But Merrifield does so anyway, as a courtesy. And there is never anything wrong with courtesy.

However, there is a whole lot wrong with the notices Merrifield sent out beginning in late December.

The word "postmaster" is twice spelled POSMASTER.

The word "calendar" is given as CALANDAR on three occasions.

"Official" shows up as OFFICAL.

"Business" appears as BUSNIESS.

"Privilege" has the distinct nonprivilege to be published as PRIVLEGE.

And "receive" forgot that it's I before E except after C. "Receive" appeared as RECIEVE.

"You supply the comment. Words fail me," writes Brother Phinney.

"I think that this is disgraceful!" writes Sister deMatteo.

I think it's disgraceful, too, Ann. In fact, the only glimmer of good news in this story is that Merrifield shares our view, even if officials there were somewhat slow in coming to that conclusion.

Sandra Stewart, public affairs officer at Merrifield, says the offending forms were ordered last July from a private printing company. However, the job wasn't finished until December, right on the doorstep of the deadline for mailing the forms to customers.

The offending forms were extremely similar to another set of forms, Sandra says. The first set of forms was proof-read, and turned out to be fine. The offending set of forms was not proof-read because postal folk assumed that the printer had done the second part of the job as well as he had done the first.

Unfounded assumption! Just hours before the BRM forms were to go out, horrified postal officials noticed all the CALANDARs and PRIVLEGEs. But it was so close to renewal time that officials decided to send out the forms anyway.

Why make yourself look like an untutored dodo? "Otherwise someone would write to Bob Levey saying they didn't get the form till January and their fee would have run out and wasn't that silly," explained Sandra.

I have news for you, Sandra. I'm on intimate terms with Bob Levey. I'll bet he would have said better-late-and-right than timely-and-wrong. So what if some BRM privileges expired because of late reminders? A business-owner has only to fork over sufficient bucks, and his privileges return to life, magically and instantaneously.

At least this yarn ends well. All offending BRM forms have now been destroyed by Northern Virginia postal officials, thanks to a letter sent out by Merrifield. Meanwhile, we can only hope that Northern Virginia POSMASTERs run their BUSNIESSes more grammatically in the future.

Too late in the year for a snow story? Not for this one, from Marion Holland of Chevy Chase.

"The new neighbor moved here from the coldest, flattest part of the Upper Midwest. When he heard that in case of snow, his little daughter's school might be closed, he was outraged.

"Where he came from, schools stayed open in two feet of snow, and he was paying taxes to keep that school open, and anybody that tried to close it would be sorry. He was going to take his daughter to school every single day, and somebody had better be there to let her in.

"So there was the usual wet two-inch snow in the night, and the early morning announcement that the schools in the county were closed.

"The neighbor ate breakfast, ordered his wife to get the little girl ready for school and went down to the built-in garage in the basement. He opened the garage doors, started the engine and warmed it up -- and couldn't get the car up the slope to the street."

Also from Chevy Chase, this morsel of irony, courtesy of Tracy Truman.

Tracy was standing on a curb near her home when a car sped right through a red light. Nothing too unusual about that these days, alas.

But there was plenty unusual about the tags aboard the car. They read: OBEY

What's public relations? Bob Orben says it's when you call a crisis a problem, a problem a challenge, a challenge an opportunity and an opportunity an achievement.