Why is our subway so wonderful and New York's so awful? Many of us would say it's a question of cleanliness (we've got it; they don't), noise (they've got far more of it), reliability (New York has little or none) and violent crime (they've got it, and they're welcome to it).

But I'd add another consideration: beggars and salesmen who rove from car to car.

A few months ago, I could have written that New York's got 'em and we don't. But according to several Orange Line regulars, candy salesmen are walking through trains each weekday afternoon.

Like their New York counterparts, these folks aren't bashful. They get right up in your face and ask if you want to buy a $1 slab of chocolate. There's an implied threat that's hard to miss, or overlook.

And there's no mention of a charitable destination for the buck. Many times, kids sell the same chocolate slabs on downtown streets and in suburban shopping centers for the benefit of churches or youth groups. But the Metro slabs are apparently for the benefit of the seller, period.

Metro's Beverly Silverberg confirmed that her office has received a few complaints about candy sellers. She said Metro police are on the lookout for them, especially between Rosslyn and Vienna, where they seem to do most of their roving.

Beverly reminded riders that selling anything aboard Metro trains is illegal, regardless of who the seller is or what he's selling. Beverly urged riders to call the driver of the train via the intercom that's in each car if riders notice any selling. The driver can radio ahead for a police officer to meet the train at the next stop.

Now, certainly, candy sales aren't up there with rape and robbery in terms of seriousness. But if you give these people an inch, you'll suddenly be wondering why they took a mile. So call the driver if you see a candyman. The transit tranquility you save may be your own.

It's "probably apocryphal," notes Syd Kasper, of Silver Spring. But I enjoyed his tale anyway. It's an oldie-but-goodie about Garfinckel's, the soon-to-be-a-memory D.C. department store.

It seems an elderly couple entered the downtown store one morning and asked to see Mr. Garfinckel. The receptionist told them Mr. G. was a very busy man, and they'd have to wait.

Finally, just before closing time, they were ushered into the great man's inner office. "Well, what is it?" demanded Mr. G.

"Mr. Garfinckel, how much would you want for your store?" asked the old man.

Taken slightly aback, Mr. Garfinckel blurted: "Ten million dollars, take it or leave it."

The old man whispered briefly to the old woman. Then he asked if they could take a look around the store. Mr. G. told them to be his guest.

The couple returned after about a half-hour. Mr. Garfinckel asked if they were still interested in buying the store.

"No," said the old man.

"Why not?" asked Mr. G.

"Because there's no room to live in the back," the old man said.

Thanks to Lawrence Hayes for spotting what the D.C. highway folks should have spotted (and edited) long ago.

On the D.C. side of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge is a bright orange sign. In its entirety, it reads:



Especially welcome was the $20 from Ed Bowen, of Laurel. His contribution was part of a much larger sum that almost flew the coop.

While returning from a Las Vegas vacation where he had won $500 playing the slots, Ed accidentally left his wallet beside a pay phone in the Pittsburgh airport as he changed planes. The wallet contained about $1,000 in cash. Ed was in the process of freaking out when he was paged by USAir. A fellow phoner had found Ed's wallet and had turned it in, contents undisturbed.

"I have been called Easy Ed and Fast Eddie," Ed says. "But in this case, it's Charmed Eddie."

I'm glad the wallet found you again, Charmed Eddie. And I'm extra glad that you saw fit to help our 1,100 underprivileged local kids who hope to go to camp this summer. Luck may begin in Vegas. But as Ed knows, charity begins at home.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp, and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.

In hand as of July 11: $161,014.74.

Our goal (as of Aug. 10): $275,000.