Two years and one week may seem like a long time, but not when the result is so calorifyingly gratifying.

That last phrase may be a mouthful, but so are Girl Scout cookies. You and I may not want or need the extra pounds that the cookies cause. But what about the needy and homeless?

I posed that question in my column of March 16, 1998, after Bea Olsen, a reader in Bethesda, lit up the landscape with a great idea.

She was (and is) a great fan of Girl Scout cookies. She buys a couple of boxes for herself during selling season each year. But she wanted to know why she couldn't buy extra boxes at the time of her purchase and designate them for a homeless shelter, here or elsewhere.

I asked Girl Scout officialdom. The answer was that it would require too large a bureaucracy.

Individual scouts could always deliver cookies to the homeless, but they would have to do the delivering on their own. Some scouts were doing so, but not many, officials said.

Meanwhile, to run a national cookie effort on behalf of the homeless would be akin to running the Pentagon, Girl Scout officials told me.

Cookie sales are administered in 319 districts across the country, officials said. If a customer in California wanted to earmark a box of cookies for a homeless shelter in Connecticut, it would just be too cumbersome to make it happen.

So all Levey could do was sigh and say, "Some day." Now, fortunately, "some day" is here.

Leslie Gilliam, a public relations operative for the Girl Scouts, informs me that this year, for the first time, Girl Scouts are running a program they call "Gift of Caring." As scouts sell cookies, they ask customers to buy an additional box or two for needy people in the community. Once the selling season is done, scouts pick up the "charity cookies" they've sold and distribute them.

Isn't that terrific? Of course, the answer will be no unless cookie-niks like you and me open our wallets a little wider than usual. Please bear in mind that this year's cookie- selling season ends March 31, just eight days from today.

By the way, I agree with a number of readers who french-fried me back in 1998 for implying that cookies are the proper food to give the needy (or anyone else). No question, gang, that there's no substitute for three balanced meals a day.

Still, Girl Scout cookies are a lot better than going hungry, and they put smiles on faces in ways that oatmeal and spinach just can't. Many thanks to Girl Scout leaders for making cookie donation possible.

John O'Master, of Beltsville, is one of my most observant readers. But even he couldn't believe his eyes.

John was riding the Metro into town to have lunch with his daughter. At one stop, a man got on "with a beautiful, big, Lab guide dog." The dog guided the man to a vacant seat facing John.

Obviously, the man was blind. But that didn't prevent him from removing a magazine from his backpack. John was startled to see that it bore a "familiar bunny logo."

Yes, sports fans, the man proceeded to read the current issue of Playboy in Braille.

A proper sort, John was a bit worried that the blind man might try to "read" Playboy's always-revealing pictures in public. The man "ran his fingers across the bumps on the totally blank pages," John reports. Whether he was reading an article or ogling a curvaceous cutie, John couldn't tell.

A little research reveals that the Braille Playboy does not offer breasts or buttocks. It restricts itself to words.

The Braille version of Hugh Hefner's signature mag is not published by Playboy Enterprises. It's published by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a division of the Library of Congress.

NLS has published a Braille Playboy since 1970. Frank Cylke, the director, said the publication has 500 regular readers.

NLS publishes 40 other magazines in Braille, including National Geographic, Boys' Life, Atlantic Monthly, Ladies' Home Journal, Ebony, Consumer Reports, U.S. News and World Report and Rolling Stone, Frank said. The agency distributed 24 million books and magazines last year, making it the largest such service for the blind in the world, Frank said.

Spending public money for saucy reading has long irritated conservative politicians. In 1985, funding for the Braille Playboy was cut off by Rep. Chalmers Wylie (R-Ohio). He argued that spending $103,000 in taxpayers' money for a magazine that was "seen" by fewer than 1,000 people was irresponsible.

The decision was appealed to U.S. District Court here in Washington. Judge Thomas Hogan overruled the decision of Congress on First Amendment grounds. Funding for the Braille Playboy has not been disturbed since.

By the way, John and readers, NLS also provides "talking book" editions of Playboy. I've read a few pieces in Playboy over the years. I guarantee you that hearing them read aloud would spice up any Metro trip, any day.