A morsel of this, a spoonful of that . . .

* Teachers cannot bend on standards. The mother of a Reston third-grader called me to complain about the C-plus that her daughter had gotten on a writing assignment. I suggested that the mother discuss the poor grade with the teacher.

When she did, the teacher said the child had misspelled four words in the space of three paragraphs, which accounted for most of the C-plus. But because the mother had taken a morning off work to meet with her, the teacher ootched the child's grade up to a B.

What did the teacher accomplish by this, except to mark herself as the softest touch of 2002? And what did the mother accomplish by complaining, except to mark herself as the biggest grade-grubber of 2002?

Children need to spell correctly. They need to look words up. They need to take responsibility if they don't bother. They need to concentrate on learning and not just on grades. Neither adult helped this child achieve any of this.

* Inferiority complex in College Park? Walk west from the College Park Metro station, toward the University of Maryland, and you'll pass streets named for several Ivy League schools. Why such reverence for eight private institutions of higher learning when an excellent public institution is so close by?

College Park's streets should be named for deans, presidents and professors at Terrapin State U., not for high-reputation schools in other states. Besides, the average SAT score of an entering Maryland freshman has crept within spitting distance of the average scores at the Ivies.

Be proud, College Parkers. If you buy into old notions of academic superstardom, you sell your hometown school short.

* Ice and napkins: Why do so many restaurants stint on both?

At a recent lunch in beautiful downtown Arlington, my glass of water had exactly one ice cube in it. It was gone before the appetizers were. And although my lunch was exceptionally saucy, I was given exactly one napkin. It was a soggy mess after three wipes.

Asking for more of each made me a happy camper. But I would have been happier if I hadn't had to hassle an already stressed-out waitress. I suspect she would have been happier, too.

* Parking lot parking sins: In a big lot near a big grocery store in Rockville, I noticed a Toyota Sequoia parked half in one space and half in the space immediately beside it.

No, I don't think this was an SUV owner's ego surging over the banks. I think it was a driver who doesn't know how to enter a parking space in a shopping center lot.

You can't slice the corner, gang. You have to park the way a plane parks at a jetway. Approach the space at a rigid 90-degree angle. When you are at the mouth of the space, then and only then can you "turn and land."

By the way, this advice applies to pilots of ordinary motor vehicles, too. I single out SUV drivers only when they deserve it -- which, alas, is far too often.

* Come-ons that look like checks: Gotten one in the mail lately? It peeks out of an envelope via a very official-looking filmy window. Your pulse pounds because you think that Long Lost Uncle Charlie's lawyer has finally liquidated the old bird's estate, and Charlie loved you lots after all.

But the "check" turns out to be a phony discount for a service you don't need, or for a time-share in which you wouldn't be caught dead. Trouble is, the "check" looks very real. It's guaranteed to mislead a senior citizen, or anyone with poor vision.

Before you say that there oughta be a law, there is one. Fake checks have to bear language that says they are not negotiable or redeemable for cash.

But that warning always appears in type the size of a gnat. The damage to a senior citizen's sense of self-esteem can be the size of an elephant.

Witness what happened out in Leisure World in Silver Spring not long ago.

A woman who lives there wanted to give her private-duty nurse a holiday bonus. She got a phony check in the mail, for $25.

She doesn't have a checking account, and she was short on cash. This looked like a great shortcut. So the woman endorsed the back of the phony check and handed it over to the nurse, with a great show of affection.

The nurse called me to ask what to do. She couldn't deposit the "check" in her savings account, or cash it at the corner store. Should she ask the elderly benefactor for a replacement?

I advised her to let it ride. But if phony checks went the way of the buffalo, I wouldn't have had to counsel disappointment.

* Sexism and hoops: Her daughter is 15 and a varsity basketball player at a Northern Virginia public high school. When the daughter drops by the all-male pickup playground game, she is routinely chosen last, even though she is routinely taller and better than half the boys, according to the mother.

What should the daughter do about this?

Get reinforcements, I advised. Bring an entire female team along with her, get "winners" and proceed to spank the boys' rear ends.

The playground hoops scene is about respect. Winning is how you obtain some. This 15-year-old can't change an achingly male piece of culture all by herself. But five females who can rebound and shoot can change a great deal.

To contact Bob Levey:

By mail: Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.

By phone: 202-334-7276

By fax: 202-334-5150

By e-mail: leveyb@washpost.com.