'An Arlington Reader" was almost An Arlington Loser-'n'-Weeper the other day. He was the intended victim of a pickpocket scam that's a new one on me, and was new on a few cops I ran it past. The centerpiece of the act is contact lenses.

It begins a few seconds after the "mark" has left a grocery store. The first scammist, who's standing by the grocery's front door, shouts out, "Sir, you've left something in the store!"

The mark starts to go back through the front door. Scammist One reenters just ahead of him. But just as the door swings open for the mark, Scammist One turns around suddenly and says, "I've just dropped my contact lens! Don't move!"

If you're any kind of a solid citizen, you heed his request. As you're standing there, watching the hands-and-knees hunt, Scammist One will grab hold of your shoe "so you don't step on the lens." Of course, during this manufactured confusion and distraction, Scammist Two approaches you from behind, apparently to enter the store but really to jostle you and lift your wallet.

The script played out perfectly the day my reader was the victim -- perfectly if you're Scammist One and Two, that is. Within five minutes, they had the wallet they'd been seeking.

However, the incident turned out well for my reader, too. Moments after he realized his wallet was gone, a passerby found it nearby and returned it. Nothing was missing. Apparently the scammists had gotten scared and had thrown it away.

Moral of the story: If your path into a public place is suddenly blocked by a stranger, regardless of the reason, check behind you for a second stranger. Your wallet will be eternally grateful.

Uh, oh. Levey is in trouble with teen-agers again.

First it was the whacks he took at teens with purple hair and staples through their noses. Hastily, Levey pointed out that he hadn't been referring to all teen-agers.

Then it was a dissertation on today's horrid rock and roll. Hastily, Levey had to balance the ledger by admitting that he had heard a little modern rock that wasn't all that awful.

This time, it's a string of adjectives.

Early this month, Levey described a group of 10th-grade honors students as follows:

"These weren't brainless, gum-popping, plugged-into-a-Walkman teen-agers . . . ."

Eric Johnson, a 14-year-old from Alexandria, didn't appreciate the wide net that I cast with that phrase. "Although you didn't say it," Eric writes, "you implied that that was the norm for teen-agers. I'd like to think differently.

"True, most of us enjoy gum and music, but we do have brains. So put this in your column, because I know you aren't a crotchety, pushy, rich journalist."

Me? Crotchety? Well, occasionally.

Me pushy? Occasionally.

Me rich? Well, let's put it this way:


Let's also put it this way: That piece of white cloth in my hand is a flag, teen-agers. I have nothing against you. I think some of you are actually quite wonderful. I hope you can all grow up to be crotchety, pushy and poverty-stricken. Believe me, as old age descends, the impulse to become all three gets irresistible.

Mention boys' clubs or girls' clubs, and sports inevitably springs to mind. Pastoral visions of basketballs bouncing, of happy kids swimming, of smiling tykes chucking baseballs. And that, most of us figure, is all there is to that.

We should all figure again. Boys' and girls' clubs have taken the lead in providing services, lessons, supplies and advice to kids who really need them. And nowhere has the lead been taken the way it has been in the Washington area.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington marked their 100th anniversary on Jan. 28. This organization now serves more than 6,000 kids spread throughout the metropolitan area. In what ways are the kids served? Try a few of these:

Career development programs. Vocational training. Educational assistance. Day care. Group home emergency shelters. Arson prevention. Food programs for indigent kids. Alternative service programs for offenders. And many more. To put it mildly, it's not just bouncing basketballs any more.

If you'd like to salute this very worthy nonprofit organization, and help it raise a little green stuff, April 16 is the date of BGCGW'S centennial celebration dinner. It'll be held at the Sheraton Washington Hotel, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Ticket information is available from P.O. Box 39063, Washington, D.C., 20016, or at 462-4438.

Forget hormones and cholesterol. Manny Marx of Silver Spring says women live longer than men because women have closets full of clothes they wouldn't be caught dead in.