How many times has it happened? The subway is loading in the station. You sprint for all you're worth to try to catch it. Just as you draw abreast of the operator's window, he shuts the doors.

"Hey, couldn't you see me?" you ask, between huffs and puffs.

"Got a schedule to keep," the operator replies, as if you're some bothersome mosquito. And off he goes. And there you stand, wasting the next 10 minutes of your young life.

What this town needs is less of that sort of guy and more of Hezekiah Briscoe.

Beverly A. Calvert of Arlington got the first-class Briscoe treatment one recent Sunday night. She had just boarded the first car of a Blue Line train at Foggy Bottom. The train took a few lurches toward Virginia, then stopped.

"As I wondered why we were stopping," Beverly writes, "the driver emerged from his cubicle and said, 'Young lady?'

" . . . .I replied, 'Me?,' wondering what I possibly could have done to stop a Metrorail train. He asked if I had just gotten on the train and I said, 'Yes.' He then asked if I had left my keys on the bench, and I experienced the terrible realization that I might have.

"I got off the train to look, and not only had I left my keys on the bench, but also my Farecard with $13-15 on it.

"I hurried back onto the car and all I could say was, 'Wow!' Everyone in my car was equally as stunned as I. And no one appeared angry over the delay.

"The young man sitting behind me said, 'Unbelievable!' I said, 'What impressed me almost as much was the fact that he referred to me as Young Lady (I'm 45!).' "

Hezekiah Briscoe has been that sort of guy throughout his nine years as a Metrorail operator, and for 12 previous years as a Metrobus driver. In 1980, he won a certificate for outstanding performance. The same year, he won another certificate for perfect attendance.

"He keeps people well-informed on the train about station stops, and he knows how to troubleshoot when there's a malfunction," said Joseph E. Taylor, superintendent of the New Carrollton and West Falls Church yards and Briscoe's boss.

You'll forgive me, Brother Taylor, but I'd say Brother Briscoe knows how to do something else pretty well, too: Treat passengers like human beings. Here's hoping that he keeps doing it -- and that he wins all the certificates in creation for the favor he did Beverly Calvert.

Steve Poulos couldn't have been more humble. "They're my customers," he told me. "You do these things for your customers."

Maybe you do, Steve. But I can't believe many people in your situation would have.

The situation was this: Rain. Lots of rain. And out into that rain went Pepper Garrus of Arlington and her friend, Alice Mansfield of Northwest. They had just finished eating dinner at Floriana's, an Italian restaurant in Tenleytown that Steve manages.

Pepper tried to start the car. Nothing. She tried some more. More nothing.

So both women aquaplaned their way back into the restaurant to call the AAA from a pay phone. That worked out somewhat less than marvelously. The AAA operator said they always get busy when it rains, so no truck could come out to administer a jump start for at least two hours.

Pepper said she'd find some other way to solve the problem, and she hung up. But Steve had overheard.

He didn't ask if he could help. He announced that he was helping.

Into the kitchen went Steve. Out of the kitchen with Steve came George Molina, the cook.

Out into the rain went Steve and George. George hopped into his car and arranged it so that its snout could reach the snout of Pepper's car. George had jumper cables in the trunk, and he attached them. Vroooom!

Best part of the story: Steve and George did this at the height of the dinner hour, when Floriana's was packed. And neither of them would accept a tip.

You tell me how many other restaurant folk would have gone to such lengths -- even when their restaurant was empty.

George Parsons says he saw it during the football strike -- on a sweatshirt being worn by a Lady Of The Evening at the corner of 14th and K:


Herm Albright says he remembers when a dime was a week's allowance. Now it's an emergency screwdriver.