If some guy walked up to me and asked to borrow $50, I would have one reaction. It wouldn't be favorable.

But David Wilson of Alexandria more than made up for suspicious, once-burned-twice-wise creatures like me. Over the summer, David gave $50 to a total stranger who needed to get his car out of the clutches of the D.C. police.

David did it even though the man was a terrible credit risk. The man's home was in Taiwan, more than 10,000 miles away. But just as the man promised, he repaid the $50 in full as soon as he got home to Taiwan.

The story starts with Lee Chien-Chang getting "totally lost" in downtown Washington. "I parked in front of a building, locked the {rental} car and went inside to ask for directions," he writes. "To my horror, when I returned, the car was missing."

Losing a car was bad enough. But losing the designs, proposals and papers he had collected during a month of business travel throughout the United States was far worse. "Irreplaceable" was the way Lee described the materials.

He walked the streets for hours, thinking the car might turn up. It didn't. Finally, he reported the theft to the police. They told him that the car had been towed to a nearby impoundment lot.

Lee took a cab there. After paying the fare, "I had almost nothing." Lee tried to explain to the desk officer that he had money back at his hotel to cover the $50 fine, but no way to get there. That explanation met with about as much sympathy as you might expect.

Enter David Wilson, who was helping his fiance pay booting fines. He overheard Lee's predicament.

"He had no money, no ID, didn't even know how to get back to where he was staying to get more money and no means to get there," David explained. "It seemed to me that this guy was in real trouble. I felt a great sense of compassion for him."

So David offered the astonished Taiwanese businessman $50. Further astonishment: David gave Lee a ride back to his hotel.

"Everyone thought I was stupid," David says. "But I'm in foreign countries occasionally and sort of put myself in his place."

"I regret to admit that an American in Taiwan would have similar problems, as fear of strangers has become a universal rule," Lee wrote. "I feel the best way I can show my profound thanks for his act of genuine kindness is to share his good spirit with others through your column."

I'd call David's spirit about as good as good gets.

George P. Mueller of Northwest stalked out of a liquor store not long ago for what seemed to be a good reason. But the store had a point -- and I share the story because too many of us are too quick to assume that the person behind the counter is a brainless muddlehead.

The incident took place at the checkout counter of Calvert-Woodley Liquor. George had collected about $40 worth of wine and food. As he put that armful down beside the cash register, he announced that he would also like a case of gin.

The checkout clerk said she couldn't sell George a case of gin.

George said he didn't understand.

Another clerk, apparently with more authority than the first, stepped into the conversation and explained that George would have to leave his place in line, find a salesman, order the gin, obtain from the salesman a slip saying he had done so, return to the checkout line and check out.

"I thought about his system for about five seconds and left, telling the authority person on my way out that I would find a store that treated its customers better," George writes.

Now, I agree that it would be nice to be able to order a case of gin from the checkout clerk. In many liquor stores, it's easy. You just ask for it, and someone goes and gets it.

But Calvert-Woodley doesn't do things that way for the customer's protection.

What they're protecting against is theft. "If it weren't for the system we have, unpaid cases would slip out on a busy Friday afternoon," said manager Rick Huddelson. The way Calvert-Woodley works it, you ask a salesman for a case of gin. He gets it and brings it to the cashier. After he has done that, he hands you a slip, which you then present to the cashier. Net loss of time: Usually about 30 seconds.

Remember that every case of gin that's stolen makes the case of gin you later try to buy that much more expensive. So it wasn't insensitivity that George encountered. It was a business trying to get a handle on the most inflationary problem of them all.

Jim McKenzie of Bethesda, a retiree himself, tells of a recently retired friend who called up to complain.

"Ever since I retired, my wife puts me on a pedestal," the man said.

"What's wrong with that?" said Jim. "More wives should do that."

"But mine put me on a pedestal," said Jim's caller, "because she wanted me to paint the ceiling."