Around Leveyland, we are very partial to happy 40th birthday stories, since most 40th birthdays (including the proprietor's) bring forth earthslides of moaning and waterfalls of self-pity.

But Rosemary Self's 40th birthday story will never bring forth anything negative, no matter how many times she retells it (and, sports fans, she will definitely retell it). Here's the way to turn 40 in style:

"Last Saturday, Sept. 26, there was a knock on my apartment door" in Burke, Rosemary writes.

"I looked through the peephole and saw a delivery man with a beautiful floral arrangement. Since my 40th birthday had been the day before, I excitedly opened the door, wondering who sent me flowers.

"You can imagine my utter disappointment when he said, 'Flowers for Leanne Thompson.'

"After I picked my chin up off the floor, I told him there was no Leanne Thompson at this address. I had the delivery man wait while I looked in my residents' directory for Leanne Thompson. I was unable to find a listing for her, so he left, with the flowers.

"About three hours later, there was another knock. I again looked through the peephole -- same flowers, but a different delivery person.

"I braced myself to repeat the story of no Leanne Thompson at this address, and opened the door. This new delivery person told me the florist had been unable to locate Leanne Thompson -- and since I had tried to help the first delivery man, the flowers were mine!

"I stood at the door in amazement. Before I could say much more than 'Thanks,' she was gone.

"I'd like to thank the florist for my birthday present, but have no idea which shop they came from.

"As for Leanne Thompson, I just hope the flowers weren't for her 40th birthday!"

All right, Levey. Take another swig of coffee. Steady your nerves. You really are about to tell the story of two D.C. government employes who went above and beyond the call.

The scene was Pickford Place NE, a block-long street about a mile from Union Station. The time was sometime over the summer. Sharon Isch had a sofa she had decided to get rid of. So she called the city and found out that the week of Sept. 6 was the next scheduled bulk trash pickup on Pickford.

On the first day of the appointed week, Sharon put the sofa out front. She even called the Department of Public Works to tell them that she'd done that.

"Nothing happened," says Sharon. "I called. They said they'd come. They didn't. I called. They said they'd come. They didn't."

By Oct. 5, Sharon's sofa was not only still sitting there, but it had attracted friends.

A seen-better-days TV set was atop one of the cushions. Next to that were a couple of dismantled bicycles, a tire, a lamp and a wheel. Across the street was a pile of new trash. Down the block was another.

Sharon was just about to give up. Then, one day, she bumped into John Mattingly and Theodore Williams.

They are bulk trash picker-uppers for the city, and they were doing their thing to a dead refrigerator a couple of blocks away. Sharon marched up to them and asked if they had the Pickford sofa (and cousins) on their list.

They said no. But without a flicker, they agreed to walk over right that second and have a look.

As soon as they saw what Pickford Place was becoming, the two men sprang into action. Gone in minutes was all the junk. No pleading. No begging. No papers to sign. No "I'll let the supervisor know about it." It was junk, it needed to go bye-bye and thanks to two guys who know their jobs and who do their jobs, bye-bye is where it went.

We won't rain on the parade by wondering why the city sets the week of Sept. 6 for a bulk trash pickup and then violates its own schedule by a full month. We will simply say that if we had more Johns and Theodores around, this little old river village would be a lot better off.

I told Don Juran of Rockville that I'd give him a few seconds to think about it. Wouldn't he like to attribute the joke to someone else? After all, why fall on one's own sword?

No, Don said, he had thought it up all by himself.

Fine, I said. At least the world would know where to air-express the blame.

The joke?

It seems that American Express, like so many businesses, is looking for new product lines. Company executives have recently decided to get into the manufacturing of shovels.

And what will the advertising slogan be?

American Express. Don't heave loam without it.