Shortly after dinner last Oct. 30, Lillian Rose fell ill. Jessica Finley, a friend who lives in the same apartment house on Connecticut Avenue, made sure that Lillian was rushed to Sibley Hospital by ambulance. Then Jessica tried to notify Lillian's daughter, Arlene Gordon of Chevy Chase.

Therein hangs a tale that everyone with an elderly parent or young child will want to remember. Oct. 30 turned into a very difficult evening for Jessica Finley and Arlene Gordon -- and it didn't have to be as difficult as it was.

Jessica's first move was to call the Gordons' home. She learned that Arlene and her husband Samuel were attending a play at the Kennedy Center. But the Kennedy Center listing in the phone book does not indicate how to get an emergency message to a Kennedy Center patron.

It took Jessica the better part of an hour to worm her way through the switchboard, the security guard command post and several other offices. And when she finally reached the correct office, a Park Police command post, the officer who answered said he couldn't help until intermission because Jessica didn't know the Gordons' seat numbers.

Luckily, Jessica knew what Arlene looks like, and was able to supply a good description. Ushers discreetly combed the house and found Arlene just as intermission was beginning. But by the time the Gordons reached Sibley, Lillian Rose was dead.

Arlene Gordon does not in any way blame the Kennedy Center for her mother's death. Nor does she think her mother would still be alive if word of her hospitalization had reached the Gordons sooner.

But Arlene would like Levey readers to do two things (as would Levey himself):

Thing One: Clip and save the number for the Kennedy Center Park Police outpost. It's 254-3624.

Thing Two: Always leave seat numbers with a baby sitter or a family member when you go to the Kennedy Center (or to any theater). That's the only way the staff can find you right away. Otherwise, ushers will have to do their needle-in-haystack bit the way they did when they found the Gordons. Or ushers will have to page you during intermission. And what if there's no intermission?

Why won't the K.C. interrupt a performance with a public address announcement? It will, if the situation is serious enough. But according to Tiki Davies, director of media relations at the K.C., that judgment call is made by the house manager, after he is notified by the Park Police. And the house manager will interrupt a performance only if it's absolutely necessary.

Make it absolutely unnecessary. Leave your seat location with the baby sitter or with whoever's at home. That way, an usher can get the word where it needs to get as quickly and as quietly as possible.

Twelve days from today, Washington will celebrate Presidents' Day the way it seems to celebrate every national holiday -- with an orgy of sales and an orgy of shopping.

If the crowds are as thick as I expect them to be, supplies may begin to run low by the end of the day. At which time there may be a repeat of what happened to a reader of mine last Columbus Day at the Lord & Taylor store at Friendship Heights.

My reader found a dress she liked. But the only one in her size was being worn by a mannequin. My reader asked a saleswoman to sell it to her. The saleswoman refused because "those mannequins are very expensive."

My reader thought this was one of the more remarkable -- and incomprehensible -- excuses ever uttered in the heat of Columbus Day consumer combat. She asked me to check into whether there's a law against selling a dress that a mannequin is wearing.

There's no such law, Dear Reader, and according to a Lord & Taylor spokeswoman, there is no policy at that store against selling clothes right off a mannequin's back.

The spokeswoman said the saleswoman should have called the display department, which would have come and undressed the mannequin on the spot.

Why couldn't the saleswoman have done the undressing herself? Because the mannequin must literally be dismantled for a dress to be taken off it, and an expert should do the dismantling, because the mannequin is cumbersome and fragile.

I'm not sure I'd still be in a dress-buying mood after watching a workman unscrew a hand and pry loose a forearm, but perhaps I'm queasier than most. In any case, if you run into a similar song-and-dance from another saleslady on Presidents' Day, tell her she doesn't have a leg (or a hand, or a forearm) to stand on.

A security guard who works at Job Corps headquarters says it happened last week.

Man walks in and asks, "Is this the one remaining program of the War on Poverty?"

Security guard says it is.

"Good," says the man. "I've come to surrender."