This being one of the busier driving days of the year, I offer one of the more unlikely driving stories of the year. The unwitting costar was Pat Munroe of Potomac.
Pat's car was stolen one night in midsummer from right in front of his house. When he discovered the theft the next morning, Pat immediately called the Montgomery County police. Officer Paul Malone came to take the report. In the process, the officer offered a prediction, born of many car thefts: A teen-ager had stolen the car and would abandon it when it ran out of gas.
Pat conjured up worse. He figured that since his car was new, it was on its way to a "chop shop," to be dismembered into resellable spare parts.
There was no word for almost 24 hours. But at1 a.m. that night, Pat's phone rang. The caller did not identify himself. But he gave his age as 18. And he said this:
"I was at a party yesterday near your house, and had too much to drink. I took your car and drove it home but remember very little about the trip. I am overcome with shame. I will never do a thing like that again."
The caller gave Pat the exact location of the car (he said it was parked in Wheaton). He said it was locked, and the keys (which Pat had left in the ignition -- tsk, tsk, tsk) were under the right front tire.
The next morning, Pat called Officer Malone. The two men went to the Wheaton address right away. Sure enough . . . .
Footnote: Before he concluded his conversation with the thief, Pat suggested that in the future, the young man get rides home from parties with sober drivers. The second-thoughts thief readily agreed.
Who said conscience and contrition had gone the way of apple brown betty?
A second unlikely car story, this one from the seething cauldron called downtown Washington:
"On Thursday, at noon, I was crossing G Street near the Old Executive Office Building on my way to Crown Books," writes Pamela Gates Siciliano of Rockville.
"I noticed a 'Government' limo about to turn onto G as I crossed. I assumed it would pause to let me cross, but it didn't." Pamela stopped quickly to avoid being hit, and muttered a few choice phrases under her breath.
"I continued on my way up G, and suddenly heard a voice say, 'Excuse me, but I believe I owe you an apology.' "
No, it wasn't the driver. It was his passenger -- a "rather dapper-looking man with a yellow tie and horn-rimmed glasses."
Now, it's very dangerous to judge a book by its cover, especially in this town. But to my mind, a yellow tie in Washington, D.C., is a sign of true male confidence. Which in turn is a sign of high station in the D.C. power structure. Which in turn may well have meant that Pamela's apologetic pal was a ranking chieftain in the realm of Reagan.
Anyway, Yellow-Tie went on to say that he had spoken to his driver about the incident. Pamela was "speechless with shock." But she finally thanked Yellow-Tie. And he walked down the street, got back in his waiting limo and zipped off.
Pamela says she regrets not telling Yellow-Tie how thoroughly he restored her faith in human nature. She asks if I could tell him for her.
Gladly, Pamela. I may not share the guy's taste in neckwear. But I salute his sense of what's right.
One thing you aren't about to catch me doing is waiting up all night in line to buy tickets to a concert. If the concert-giver is so great, I'd rather hear him at home, with speakers at either end of the family room and a glass of Something Mellow in my hand.
Obviously, I must not be a teen-ager any more. Many in that age group think it's a real groove to camp out in an all-night line for tickets to this week's deathless rock band. I'd call it more of an open invitation to every flu germ in creation.
In any case, beside the Hecht's in Columbia Mall one morning this summer, 300 kids were in line, having waited all night for the box office to open so they could buy tickets to a concert by U-2. Without realizing it, the kids produced one of the best yarns of the year.
Nancy Sias of Columbia was parked near the waiting teen-agers. As she was getting into her car, a "very proper, mid-fifties lady" pulled up in a station wagon, rolled down a window and said:
"Say, can you tell me what that line's for?"
"U-2 concert tickets," Nancy replied.
"Oh, thank heavens," said the woman. "I don't have to worry about the sale towels!"
Thank you, Jim Moyer of Rockville, for spotting (and reporting) the sign in front of the Downtown Baptist Church in Alexandria. It said:
"YOU THINK IT'S HOT HERE?"