Budget deficits? Gun control? Only one question truly lights up the night sky in Washington, D.C.:

How do you tell if a person you're eyeing is Mr. or Ms. Right?

Many singles I know approach each date as if they were the FBI, and the person they're considering as a dinner companion is a candidate for high federal office.

They ask which magazines the person reads. They interview childhood friends. They demand signed affidavits that prove the person will share the popcorn at the movies.

And as often as not, all the tests don't provide a surefire answer.

Levey has just ensured his place in history. He has developed a new litmus test. Better, he has come up with a woman (single) who swears it works.

The method can be used only by women, on men, I'm assured. It's called The Get a Look at the Back Seat of His Car Test.

If that back seat is pure and pristine, the guy might be worth a flyer, I'm told. If the back seat is a catastrophe of last month's newspapers, soda cans, fast food wrappers and junk mail, send the guy back to mother.

This came up because of a throwaway line that R. Levey, Former Single, used in a recent edition of his deathless online chat show on washingtonpost.com, "Levey Live: Speaking Freely."

Robert-Boy was beating up on sport utility vehicles, as usual. Meanwhile, he was praising station wagons to the sky. He said that one reason he loves the Levey family wagon is that he can toss junk into the way-back and not feel guilty. If you did that in an SUV, he said, the Yuppie Police might lead you away in handcuffs.

That led to a discussion of what kind of crud Levey (and others) tosses into the backs of wagons. One person said he or she once tossed a piece of pizza into Waybackland--and didn't reclaim it for six months. Levey admitted tossing a banana peel and "forgetting" to collect it. It was black by the time he did.

Anyway, my Litmus Woman long ago decided not to date any man whose car looks like a "rolling landfill," she said.

Recently, there was a guy who had possibilities, she revealed. He went back onto the shelf when she saw the back seat of his car. A spinnaker (a large triangular sail mounted on a long pole) consumed most of it.

Do any of the rest of you have tales of romances that wilted because of debris in the back seat? Let me know via the usual methods (mail: Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071, phone: 202-334-7276, fax: 202-334-5150, e-mail: leveyb@washpost.com). And if anyone mails me a black banana peel, I'll never share my popcorn with him in the movies again.

CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

Our annual fund-raising campaign is catching a gust of wind, thanks in no small part to the following recent group donors:

Strange Wayz, Frederick ($25 from this rock band).

Office of General Counsel, Public Health Division, Department of Health and Human Services ($25 in proceeds from an office baby pool).

Robert M. Fisher Memorial Foundation Inc., Northwest Washington ($300).

Central High School Class of 1934 ($25).

Capital Chapter, National Association of Retired Postal Inspectors ($200).

M-NCPPC Retirees Association ($100).

Wheaton Chowder and Marching Society ($100).

Tuesday Non-Smokers Bridge Group, Bowie ($85).

Harr Bible Class, College Park United Methodist Church ($100).

Le Femmes of Cabane 934 de Virginia ($50).

Knights of St. Johns, Ladies Auxiliary 03-10, Clinton ($100).

Forest Service Corporate Training and Development Staff, Department of Agriculture ($50).

U.S. Park Police H-1 Stables ($57.24).

PaineWebber Inc., Bethesda office ($300, with thanks to Robert F. Costello III).

American Striping, Lanham ($1,000).

Students, Preschool and Kindergarten Center, First Baptist Church of St. Charles, Waldorf ($310 from the annual bike-athon).

English and Humanities Division, Prince George's Community College, Largo ($1,945).

Office of Technical Assistance, Office of the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, Department of the Treasury (a whole bunch of foreign money, exact amount uncertain).

Employees of Blair Inc., Springfield ($215 in honor of president R. Scott Jackson).

Design Surfaces, Burke ($50).

The FHLBB Retiree Group ($65).

The Oldest Traveling Duplicate Bridge Club in the Army ($168, with thanks to that relentless fan of Children's, Rob Rufsvold).

Scott-Johnson-Collins Ladies Auxiliary 9619, Veterans of Foreign Wars ($50).

Girl Scout Troop 2064 ($1,000 found in the treasury when the troop disbanded).

Bowled and Beautiful Bowling League, Burke ($241).

Girls' Bridge Club of Northern Virginia ($80).

Ladies' Tuesday Night Bridge Club ($50).

Ladies' Tennis Group, Columbia Country Club, Chevy Chase ($40).

Mac's Sunday School Class, Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, McLean ($200).

Staas & Halsey, Northwest Washington ($100).

American Counseling Association, Alexandria ($195.09 via the Third Annual Cookie Day).

Good stuff! Much obliged to each and every one of you.

Our goal by Jan. 21: $650,000.

In hand as of Dec. 24: $263,529.14.

TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.

BY VISA OR MASTERCARD:

Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.