A good effort, but nowhere near good enough.

Our 1999 Send a Kid to Camp fund-raising campaign closed with a rush, but it still finished far short of our goal, and far short of last year's record total. Here are the final figures:

Our goal: $550,000.

Final total: $434,046.06.

That bottom line is about $102,000 less than the $536,449.64 we raised a year ago. As a result, we will have sent 882 children to camp by the end of the summer. We had been hoping to send 1,000 or more.

Why such an off year? Perhaps other camp fund-raising drives have stolen some of our thunder and some of our bucks. Perhaps people had too many of their own expenses to cover. Perhaps potential donors decided to favor other causes.

Regardless, we shouldn't curl up and mope. Any time you raise close to half a million dollars, you have raised a mountain of money. To all who helped build that mountain, my sincere thanks. And to all readers and would-be campers, a vow to do better a year from now.

A minor correction to my column of July 29, about vanity plates and the way the state of Maryland decides which are in bounds and which are out.

I wrote that five "civilians" rule on each application. Not so. The jury of five consists of employees of the Motor Vehicle Administration. Sorry for the error.

Rose Marie Nelson had not called for nearly 11 years. But as soon as she said "August 8, 1988," I remembered -- and I knew what was coming.

As Rose Marie noted, 8/8/88 was the first time the date had been four of the same digit since 7/7/77. She pointed out that 9/9/99 was right around the corner, and she wanted to know if Levey would get behind "the same deal."

A little research, and my memory was refreshed.

In my column of 8/8/88, I offered to publish the names of anyone who turned 8 or 88 that day. With a bow in Rose Marie's direction, I extend the same offer to anyone who turns 9 or 99 on Sept. 9, 1999.

By the way, Rose Marie has a friend with a 9/9/99 birthday. She's Joyce Nickelson, of Sterling. But Joyce is far beyond 9 and still well short of 99.

If you're one or the other, please call me at 202-334-7276 or e-mail me at leveyb@washpost.com. I'll wish you a happy-and-healthy right here among the comics.

By the way, in my 8/8/88 column, I trotted out an idea that was good then and has only gotten better with age. It was suggested by Betty Leggett, of Silver Spring. As I wrote on that long-ago Monday . . .

"Betty thinks that anyone born on this date should always be allowed to use 8 as a magic number.

"For example, if an 8/8/88 arrival wants eight ice cream cones sometime later in life, Betty thinks all eight cones should be free. If an 8/8/88 baby buys a lottery ticket years from now, and needs an 8 to strike it rich, Betty believes that person should be allowed to trot out an 8 as a `wild card.' "

No, it didn't take hold. In fact, I'm not aware of any 8/8/88er who has ever gotten a blessed thing because of his or her birthday, except for ugly ties and horrendous perfume.

But can't we try again on 9/9/99? I say that 9 should be a lifelong wild card for people born on that day. Any merchants agree?

They are three mistakes, and a purist would sing the blues over them. But Mort Rumberg, of Alexandria, finds the third one charming, and I do, too.

First, the mistakes that are just-plain- wretched.

In a video rental store in Southwest Washington, on the door to the XXX-rated room, a sign says: No One Under the Age of 18 Admitted -- Strickly Enforced.

Then, painted in block letters on the pavement of a parking space near the King Street Metro station in Alexandria, a notice reads: COMPACKED CARS ONLY.

But the third's the charm.

Mort was checking a book out of the Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library in downtown Washington. He asked the clerk why she passes the spine of each book across an electronic sensor.

"It delarms it," the clerk replied.

As Mort points out, the clerk unquestionably fractured standard English. But just as unquestionably, she got across what she meant to get across.

Phil McCall, of Chevy Chase, says the average American high school student receives only 6.5 hours of sex education during his or her senior year.

All 6.5 hours take place on prom night, Phil says.